Affirmation: My Journey

affirmation

When I was little, school was easy and prizes came easily. My prizes brought me little joy, especially after my mother asked why I didn’t win them all, which was her way of spurring me on to greater heights. I lined my prizes and waited for my father’s praise. When he finally gave it, my life assumed colour and the monochrome of my existence ceased to be.

I think about it now, and wonder if it wasn’t crippling to let my enjoyment of life hang on someone’s approval. I was a child, I didn’t know better. You would think I’ve been cured, after all these years, but I’m not. I am not yet a black belt at life; I have only learnt to do life better.

Am I the only one with this disease?

Years ago, I met a young man at the behest of a mutual friend. He had written a story they both thought was good enough to submit for a competition. I was to look it over, you know, give some pointers.

From the start, sloppy errors that MS Word could have fixed littered his story. I read every line of the first six pages, displeasure turning the corners of my mouth down. In my review, I mentioned that he had a strong story to tell, but I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

He responded with accusations that stung, as if my review had attacked his person, not his work.

I should have sensed his vulnerability in the conversation we had at our first and only meeting, underneath the Chicago Bulls baseball cap he wore and his bravado words. When he placed the manuscript in my hands, I should have seen his heart. I should not have dismissed the way his hand shook so that a few sheets went sailing in the wind, as superstition.

He was not unlike the men in my life; men, who like a 5,000-piece puzzle, take weeks to unravel. Men with broad shoulders that absorb the weight of my fears and the problems of our world, and yet . . .

Anyway, if he wanted validation as a writer, why did he say, “Be brutal in your feedback, I want to get better.” His girlfriend was supposed to hold his hand and whatever else needed holding not me!

Nevertheless, the need to prove my niceness to a stranger ate my sleep. I replied and gave him concrete examples of what he could have written better, including how and why. Although he baited me to read the entire manuscript, saying that, the errors were only in the pages I had read, I declined for I was not that hungry.

That experience cost me a friend and a potential one. Seldom have I received a request for feedback that was not encroached upon by the need for affirmation. I hear it often in the defence people give in response to feedback.

Wise men pause when a woman asks, “How do I look?” Bombarded by images of beauty in the media that thrive on the insecurity that the media put there in the first place, she is asking for validation, not the whole truth. Happy is the man who gives it. Even my son knows that his answer to this question can mean the difference between his favourite take-out pizza and frozen pizza popped in the oven.

I used to dream of meeting someone special who anticipated my needs so I would not need to be weak and speak them. I now know people do not spend all day gazing at crystal balls to decipher what you need. Growth means that I untangle my web of feelings and answer these questions honestly.

Timi what do you need?

Who can give it to you?

Where is it safe to get it from?

Last week, I had a shitty day and if I am honest, I had set myself up to fail. I went to the one with whom I feel safe and recounted the day. Then I said, “Just for tonight, tell me I’m beautiful, tell me I’m smart. In the morning, you can tell me I’m full of crap.”

I am further along on my journey than when I began.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

Image: http://pixabay.com/en/people-boy-thinking-child-28792

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64 thoughts on “Affirmation: My Journey

  1. Take it from a reputed thick skin/stoic, everybody wants commendation. Nobody loves being ostracized, ignored, put down, shown their flaws etc.

    Today’s generation makes seeking approval a bad thing (very curious, considering that it is the wimpiest generation in the history of wimpiness in the history of mankind), but it is a very normal, very natural thing for human beings. The reason, you see, is that we are we, metaphorically speaking, do not have eyes in the back of our head and we have a natural revulsion toward everything that is not good. We naturally yearn to be good, so we try. Every failure carries a little bit of frustration with it. So we don’t want to be told about failure, we want to be told anything that keeps us trying. To stop trying is to die, and we know it (that’s why this generation is trying so hard to turn standards upside down).

    It’s not a bad thing at all although it is a frightening thing because if you look in the wrong places for approval, your legs can be cut from under you. It’s not the easiesr thing in the world to recover from that.

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    1. We need some approval to thrive. But as you said, we’ve got to be careful where we go to get it. I like to think that if we are honest about our needs, maybe we can be deliberate and discerning about where and how to fulfill them. Then our legs won’t be cut off from under us 🙂

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  2. I have found it really difficult getting into a routine with my little girl, she doesn’t sleep through the night, will only be rocked to sleep, won’t eat her solids and the list goes on….
    So I desperately seek affirmation from my husband that I’m doing a GREAT job especially when I’m struggling 😀
    But like the chocolate lover who has a secret stash, when I crave that affirmation, I go to my TV where I have recorded an advert for baby milk, it shows different women having a “hard time” with their babies, at the end of the advert the voice over says “….and take it from us mums, you’re doing a great job” I play this over and over to my hearts content sometimes I listen with my eyes closed..lol 😀

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    1. Take it from me Afi, you are doing a great job!

      I admire your openness about your need for affirmation. Being a mum caring full time for a baby can be challenging sometimes, and others can be quick to judge your parenting skills. We all need that “secret stash” of validation. I have a bunch of letters I saved over the years. Sometimes when I’m down in the dumps, I read them to remind myself how wonderful I am and could be.

      *Rewind*
      Take it from me Afi, you are doing a great job! 🙂

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  3. Beneath every human skin lies a non-anatomical layer itching for some sort of commendation – even if a tad of it. However, though the satisfaction of that desire offers some warmth and security, genuine growth scarcely comes in the garb of influenced, stereotypical compliments or ever-predictable and harmless remarks.

    Truth is, in recent years, expressions of affirmation directed to me have always sounded like incomplete statements, leaving me anticipating at least some “but……”?

    I know how good I am (not), so I’d rather be told how much better I can become.

    So, Timi, on my puerile piece of prose that I project will someday make it to your desk, do go all hard, will you?

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    1. Interesting perspective: “I know how good I am (not), so I’d rather be told how much better I can become.” The mindset of someone who wants to improve. In retrospect, I’m grateful for those people who were “hard” on me; critiquing my work and insisting on excellence. I am where I am today because of them. But praise doesn’t hurt along the way 🙂

      Lol@ puerile piece of prose! Bunmi, so nice to have you here again.

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  4. Hello Timi…

    It was a long time before I discovered blogging and even when I did, I wasn’t prepared because I was scared of how people would see my writing. Even till date, no one might know but sometimes, I feel there are dozens of bloggers who write better than I do with solid words to validate their writing. Apostrophe, commas, and the big grammars and words in the right places.

    So i dig you big time about the Validation part.

    Healthy and constructive criticism is good and as a writer, you just have to filter the one that will be useful to you and throw the rest away. I don’t know if you read Michael Hyatt’s blog(a popular blogger that gives blogging tips). There was a post that went on to explain the 3 types of commenter/people you don’t need in your life.

    A critic will read your work, be it first page, and praise you FIRST. We are humans so we should learn to be sensitive to people’s feelings and then go on to state where and where you noticed pot-holes or you feel this shouldn’t work or oddities you notice.

    I would appreciate this if my friend will do this in the BEST way possible.

    Imagine making a morally bankrupt character your protagonist or your protagonist is someone who refuses to live in reality or has her way at other people’s expense. You need to let people feel your character because when they read, they invest their emotion into it.

    A hater will just hate it and bring you down with your comments even if it’s good. When you try looking for something constructive in their statement, you’re left with a question mark.

    This topic is a long something and all I can wrap it up with is there’s just something about affirmation that encourages you. That makes you go on even when there are thousands of people like you with the same talent.

    Something that makes you feel you’re not just wasting your time.

    And HOPE that it could bring the good out of someone out there.

    ‘Nice post” 🙂

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    1. I feel you and we writers can be sensitive souls. There’ll always be someone better or different, but we have to remain confident in our gift and continue developing it. @feedback, having a thick skin helps because everyone isn’t going to roll out the red carpet or cuddle before critiquing.

      I think you are brave for venturing into blogging despite your insecurities. I’m not always sure how my writing would be received either. I realize that my writing doesn’t appeal to everyone. How could it in a world of 6 billion people? I work hard on each post, and I’m satisfied that I did my best.

      Keep doing your thing, you are making a difference out there and I attest to that. 🙂

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  5. The thing about this is…

    Oh. Where do I start?

    My opinion is this – the exact measure with which you take people’s praises is the same measure with which you’ll handle their disses.

    That’s a lesson I learnt early enough in my literary career – and while praise/affirmation is good, I know enough to know the same people who affirm you today can kill you tomorrow.

    It was done to Jesus. Who the hell am I?

    And that’s not to say all disses are from haters. I’ve learnt and I’m still learning to filter – take the advice, use it, trash the hate-talk.

    And more importantly, I am learning how to separate people from their mistakes. Critique the work, not the creator. We all are in positions of responsibility – and a careless word from us can just smash a dream.

    Having said all that, you, mami are a gem. A rare something-special and unique.

    Look, just so you know – you’re not going anywhere o.

    Thank you for you.

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    1. Seun, this life! One moment you’re celebrated, the next, you’re castigated. I’m encouraged by the realistic way you deal with both. Careless words and smashed dreams; may I have the presence of mind to temper my strengths with sensitivity in reviewing the work of others.

      @Gem, thank you. I like to think that I shine 🙂

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  6. From your writings, I can tell you’re pretty confident as you should be. Does take away the ocassional need for positive affirmation- “you’re pretty” “you’re doing a great job”

    Not to be confused with asking for constructive criticism and From your writings, I can tell you’re pretty confident as you should be. Does take away the ocassional need for positive affirmation- “you’re pretty” “you’re doing a great job”

    Not to be confused with asking for constructive criticism and going boohoo when the feedback pokes holes. boohoo when the feedback pokes holes.

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    1. Yes, as difficult as it can sometimes be to separate the two, sometimes it helps if we do. I tend to manage expectations and mentally adjust for feedback better this way.

      @confidence, Titiomooba, ah you are too kind 🙂 Thanks!

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  7. I believe discovering who we truly are should give us adequate security that will help us handle criticisms and “unaffirmations”. Before now, I would do stuffs and hope that some seniors, colleagues and folks around will accept me. Now, I understand who I am. I try to keep company of people who appreciate me and when I meet someone who does not accept me, I look for the truth in such comments, apply them and move on. I’m still working on this matter. I’m glad I read this. Thanks Timi!

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    1. Look for truth in criticism, apply it, and move on. Three easy steps, when you know who you are. I hope more people learn this early in life. I’ll remember this in the days to come. Thanks.

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  8. Oh my…!

    I haven’t read a piece like this in a long while. A piece that speaks to my heart, that strikes at a struggle experienced since childhood, and that validates my acceptance that in the end, doing what you love is enough validation.

    This kind of article tempts me to search my history box for experiences and lay them bare. But I will pass–maybe write an inspired article. Everyone needs to know that internalizing validation is something essential for living rich lives.

    Thanks Livelytwist, for a breezy ride through one of life’s great themes.

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    1. It’s so good to know that we are not alone, that’s the beauty of sharing. I hope you write that inspired article. I would like to read it and discover parts of myself too.

      I’m taking something away with me from your comment and that is, “… doing what you love is enough validation.” I will roll the words in my mind. I will think of the things I love doing and determine to do them more. For that is a place of strength no matter what others say.

      A writer’s mind never sleeps. Samuel, I say goodnight to you for the second time today 🙂

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  9. I welcome feedback on my writing, but I don’t automatically accept all criticism as final. My work will appeal to some people and not others, so I take what will improve the piece and leave the rest. No need to make it personal.

    On validation: We pressure ourselves to be great, to achieve, perhaps to the degree that we think we should be able to do it all ourselves. If someone has to fix my writing, it must mean that I am no good, right? If I had talent, my work would not need fixing.

    But how many art forms require the artist to go it alone? Actors have lighting and editing and music to enhance their performances. Directors have camera operators and lighting specialists help realize their vision. In comic books, writers, colorists, letterers, and illustrators all work together. Songwriters need producers to bring out the best arrangements and performances. I should not feel beaten down because an editor helped shape my piece.

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    1. Eric your approach is mature and that’s where I want to be.

      I think the comparison you’ve made with other art forms is freeing and nourishing to our “fragile” writer’s ego. Even after we’ve crossed our t’s and dotted our i’s, our stories are too much in our head for us to be objective. Another pair of eyes can be the difference between work that we’ll cringe at later and work that we’ll beat our chest to.

      I am thankful for all the people I harass, cajole, and blackmail into reading my posts before I publish. My posts could have been worse! 🙂

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          1. As long as you don’t mind that I address you by your blog title instead of your actual name. I imprinted like a duck from day one, so your name is “Lively” to me.

            This is why you shouldn’t let random strangers wander into your blog!

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      1. Livelytwist, so you do that, too! A very important thing to do.

        Eric, very clever comment. I agree absolutely. It took me years to appreciate this but it ultimately turned out for good. We must submerge ourselves in correction to rise up better, stronger.

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  10. I’d make an intelligent contribution if I weren’t laughing hysterically at your replies to my comments! Timi, you’re too much! Livelytwist 1: Maggielola 0

    One thing though: I’d like to know the dude you were talking to at the end of the post. Don’t lol at my assignment of gender to your neutral/invisible character. I’m just testing my deductive reasoning abilities ni jare 😀

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    1. Your contribution is very intelligent Maggielola. Believe me, I had to think of an intelligent reply 🙂

      I believe that a woman shouldn’t bare all. I believe an air of mystery should surround her. That she should guard some secrets. That only a privileged one should have the honour of stripping her layers. That she should keep people guessing. That diamonds are rare and scarcity makes prices rise . . .

      Okay, I’ll cut the crap 🙂 My lips are sealed. But when I come to your city, let’s do lunch!

      You affirm me every time you’re here, reading my posts, commenting, supporting me, thank you!

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      1. Haaaa livelytwist! Okay o, I won’t probe further but I WILL take you up on the lunch offer! 😀
        P.S. I’d still affirm you even if your transitions are crappy and journey through space! 😀

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  11. The other day, a lecturer of mine was going over the draft of an essay I had written about immigration in the UK. I wanted her to like it so badly, so i did all the necessary grammar and punctuation checks. One paragraph in and she was pointing out errors in structure and vocabulary. By the time she was done, my 1000-word essay was filled with dashes and corrections. Normally, i would have been distraught and left feeling crappy but i wasn’t. I got to write a better essay at the end of it all still with the hope that she’ll like it. I affirm everything you’ve written; so much truth and wisdom. We would always seek approval for our craft but we must learn to learn from criticism. When it comes to writing, i find that most criticisms are constructive.

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    1. Ouch! I feel the pain even though it didn’t happen to me. I admire your ability to accept feedback with grace and not take it as a reflection of your personal worth.

      I still have to tell myself to shut up and listen. Remind myself that I can evaluate later, but not explain or put the person giving me feedback on the defensive.

      I laugh at the reviews I receive for my work mostly. They tend to be the things I’d pick on in another’s writing, but I’m blind to them. Yes, feedback can be good and I’ll remember your story Tomi.

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    1. Ochuko, I don’t know. I don’t like losing friends. I blamed myself for being too “brutal” in my feedback. I’m a bit careful when people ask for feedback now, especially people I don’t know well. Even professionally, I use various “gimmicks” 🙂

      With people I’ve known for a while, we have the weight of friendship to cushion our fall. I did know the lady in question fairly well, but I think my refusal to look over the rest of the manuscript moved us poles apart. She felt it was the least I could do. I felt I had “paid” for my “sin” 🙂

      Affirmation is it an unholy quest?

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  12. Yes, we all need validation and a sense that we are special and appreciated. I guess it’s wired into our genetic make up as humans and I have often observed that a request for feedback might just be a thinly veiled attempt to indirectly solicit for some sort of approval….I mean who wants to expose their narcissistic tendencies by just blurting out ” don’t I look extra pretty today? ” or ” check out my manuscript, I think it’s best seller material and you will think the same once you read it”
    I am guilty, we all are:-) but that’s where having a strong sense of self worth comes in. When push comes to shove, You know your value is not dependent on any ones opinion but yours.

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    1. Lol @ narcissistic tendencies. Sometimes self-confidence is mistaken for arrogance. But that’s the end of the spectrum we want to be, so that as you said, when push comes to shove, we’re still standing. I like to think that this whole thing is a circle; that building a strong sense of self worth requires a healthy dose of validation. What do you think?

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      1. Yes….building a strong sense of self worth does require a healthy dose of external validation to begin with but to sustain that confidence and strong sense of self worth, one would need to progress to self validation. The way I see it, no amount of external validation will suffice if we cannot validate ourselves.

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        1. Ah Tamkara, I see your point. We can only be carried for so long . . . after a while, we need to walk on our own two feet or remain crippled for life.

          It’s a journey for me. I want to dance, run, fly even 🙂

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  13. The places I have gone, the people I have sought, the things I have done….all for this word validation…..
    Thankful as well for day by day a better me emerges. Validation is good; it makes you feel better but it’s also good to know it’s okay if you don’t get it from where or who you desire.
    Finally, as a Christian I have someone who loves me whether my bum looks big in a dress or not 🙂

    Thanks for sharing and you’re wonderful, inspiring and a beautiful Timi(as every Timi is 🙂 ) xxxx

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    1. Oh Timi, you have made me laugh- I have someone who loves me whether my bum looks big in a dress or not. This matter deserves an in-depth analysis. No, not the Rock who loves and affirms you to your core, but your “assets” in a dress 🙂

      @ it’s also good to know it’s okay if you don’t get it from where or who you desire, true that. People are people and sometimes, they can’t give us what we need. They may even be looking for validation more than we are.

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      1. My father, lover, friend, king , master loves me big bum or not! Hehehehe
        That question “how do I look” has wrecked a fair share of relationships. Hehehehe
        Like you said we need to realise that the person we are looking up to for validation may desperately need one as well.
        May The Lord help us as we grow daily.

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    2. “Finally, as a Christian…”

      It is a harsh world, ain’t it? We have to worry about buttock acceptance in addition to the need to be spiritual. Choi!

      Congrats on finding this God-sent person o, Timi! lol *runs away* 😀

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  14. This has a profound and deep message in here, Timi. Yes, we should not need validation and praise. But we are humans, we will wish to seek approval. I think you did your best, while studying a manuscript and giving constructive comments and helpful ways to improve it. I am not sure what to say about that. My oldest daughter cannot spell, yet she has so much to offer in her creativity. She can use spell check, but if she uses an acceptably spelled word, but it isn’t the correct one, does it still have the impact, and will the computer help her? I am sure that her artwork doesn’t need to be criticized, since many appreciate it. She won a $24,000 Ohio Governor’s Award, but when I tell people that my daughter did the painting over my love seat, without saying she won anything, most people use the term, “nice.” I am not sure I (as a mother and writer) appreciate that simple word. I guess, all is in how it is delivered! I liked this post about affirmations. It was excellent and should create a lot of dialogue! Smiles, Robin

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    1. Oh Robin, I went through a phase of being ashamed that I needed validation. But I have embraced it and I’m learning to understand the signals and where to “shop” for it.

      We excel at somethings, we don’t at others. Asking for feedback helps us know what to work on, or who to approach to help. For example my writing is okay, but I suck at many other things. I ask or pay people to take care of those things. Presentation matters and people judge us by what we put out there and not the intents of our hearts or the challenges of our lives.

      I like to think that validation gives us mushy feelings and the belief that we can do it. Feedback and criticism don’t, but are vital if we want to grow.

      @painting over love seat, I guess sometimes people cannot appreciate it because they are not art savvy. An artist would get it, but for others, it’s just a colour on a seat. This brings us to how we evaluate feedback . . . we should have filters in place, I think.

      It’s interesting to see what value people place on the love seat after they hear your daughter won a $24,000 Ohio Governor’s Award. I tell you, in this world of ours, it seems like perception and image are like gold and diamonds.

      Thanks Robin, the points you shared made me think some more and has made us engage in dialogue that transcends the post. I really like that. 🙂

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      1. True, perception and image are immensely valuable. Disbelieve this at your peril.

        “…we should not need validation and praise. But we are humans, we will wish to seek approval.”

        Regarding the above: I and a couple of writers were discussing criticism once, and we had all these conflicting opinions about how to critique a work. Some felt it must be as harsh as possible, with no recommendations, and no commendation whatsoever. Some others agreed with this but said recommendations on what went wrong, are necessary. For me, I think that giving specific praise for what is good, and pointing out flaws, are both necessary for a robust critique. Many skip the first part, the validation part, unfortunately. It is important, too. Humans aren’t robots. Two of the greatest motivation in life are praise and empathy.

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        1. Samuel, to agree with you, I pose a question: what is the essence of feedback? To cut down or build up? Our motivation and knowledge of human nature, would influence our approach.

          My mother is my biggest fan, but when I was younger, she withheld praise or gave it in measured doses to inspire me. I won prizes alright, but did not know the joy of accomplishment. Her attitude was supposed to toughen me. Outside I was tough, inside I was soft. But that’s what she knew at the time.

          We can look for good even in hopeless things before pointing out the bad. I like to think that if our goal is to influence people, praise and empathy should feature in our feedback like you said. If, however, we are at the receiving end and don’t get it, we can give that gift to ourselves.

          Oh, that the voices in my head do not join with the voices outside that put me down. See what you’ve done; you’ve made me write a mini blog post! But I love it!

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  15. You’re beautiful (obvious from your avatar), intelligent (obvious from the convos on this blog) and impactful ( a personal testimony)… There you go my affirmations for you!
    Seriously, we are creatures of vain glorification… We must have been configured for “pass marking” by others and we do anything to meet this standard of others…
    We may only surround ourselves with good people so as to be sure, even if we seek their approval, they are worthy of such esteem.
    Nice one here.

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    1. Ah Charles, you are a wise man 🙂 I owe you take-out pizza! Thank you for affirming me.

      Yes, we are wired that way. No shame in acknowledging it, but as you said, surrounding ourselves with good people helps. The lengths I have gone for affirmation; the places I have gone to get it- I shudder to think! But I’m in a good place now 🙂

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      1. Charles, please don’t mind Maggielola! I need all the affirmation I can get to keep writing posts for this blog!

        @Maggielola, you are also beautiful, smart, talented, a great writer, a wonderful friend, a supportive fellow blogger, an anointed worship leader . . . is your head bigger than mine now? 🙂

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  16. No, you’re not the only one with this ‘disease’. I like to think it is part of human nature to seek validation for what we do, even if sometimes we are better off hearing the truth instead. It adds a spring to our step, makes us feel good that someone agrees with us.

    I sympathise with that writer because I’ve been in that place before. I share my writing with friends to have their ‘opinion’, when what I’m really looking for is approval and a pat on the back for ‘doing a great job once again’. Took me some time to understand that their comments could actually help me improve. It’s still work in progress, but I receive criticism more openly now than before.
    Thanks for a good read 🙂

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Validation feels good. I wonder sometimes if too much of it is a good thing.

      @Writer, true. You’re on point about criticism & feedback. If we want to grow, we have to “learn” how to receive them. I play this game with friends sometimes where we answer the question, what do you think, like this: do you want the feel-good answer or the real answer?

      The benefits are that it zeroes in on our motivation and helps us make a mental switch to receive feedback, if we so desire.

      I am a work in progress too. We never graduates from the university of life do we?

      Liked by 1 person

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