Recently, I’ve been getting phone calls from women asking for dating tips/relationship advice. Everyday for the last 2 weeks, it’s a clever question disguised as a conundrum but my response to them all is the same, which is, “What does it mean to you?” And then we get to the real issue. A few weeks ago I received a message from an old high school friend who had been married for over 20 years. Yeah, that’s not a typo, that’s the number 20. As my friend Claire nervously asked her question, this was the exchange.
Claire: I’m sorry for calling and bothering you, but I just had to ask you a question.
Nando: No bother, what’s going on?
Claire: I’ve been married for 20 years and my husband doesn’t really pay attention to me, know what I mean?
Claire: And when we talk, I feel like he’s not listening to me, know what I mean?
Claire: I feel like I’m invisible and not sure how to make myself visible again, know what I mean?
Claire: My kids are getting older and they’re off doing their thing and I’m left alone, know what I mean?
By this time, I wanted Claire to see what I saw. So I let her keep talking.
Claire: Is this making sense? I don’t want to be a nag or anything but I need help, know what I mean?
Nando: No, I don’t know what you mean.
Nando: Yeah, what did that just do for you?
Claire: I felt like you weren’t listening.
Nando: I was listening, I just didn’t validate you.
Claire: I’m lost.
Nando: Do you realize you’ve asked me over five times, “Do you know what I mean?” Why do you need so much validation? You say what you say and that’s all. You don’t need anyone’s permission or validation when you speak. The world only happens in language, and it’s the most powerful way of communication if it’s done right, but you’re too busy making sure everyone “gets you” that you lose your message and effectiveness.
There was a pause. Then I heard a muted cry. Then the waterworks came. Then it all broke down. Which made me happy because only when we break down, can we have a break through.
Nando: What’s going on in your head?
Claire: I’m upset.
Claire: Because I have been like this all my life, know what….(she stopped herself) I’m mad at myself because I’ve been like this all my life.
Nando: Why did you stop yourself from another, “Know what I mean?”
Claire: Because I realize that I no longer need validation for my feelings. And I feel a relief.
Claire: Yes! That’s is! Why is that?
Nando: Because you just discovered a blindspot.
In our lives we have mastered many things for our personal development, careers, etc. and that makes up about 5% of what we know. Another 10% is made up of things we know we don’t know, you know? I don’t know how to make a a pie from scratch, but that means I need to know enough about how to make a pie to know that I don’t know how to make one. Think about it. First I need to know what a pie is, then I have to know what goes into a pie (filling — which I don’t know how to make) and I know there’s a crust involve (but also know enough to know I don’t know how to make one). Clear?
But the bigger portion of our lives is made up of stuff we don’t know we don’t know. We call these things, blindspots. Claire’s blindspot was seeking validation in life as noted in her conversation. Now, this is not going to fix everything in Claire’s life/marriage, but it’s a major start. When we look outside ourselves and into another person for validation/permission for thinking what we’re thinking, feeling what we’re feeling, or simply existing–that’s not the best place to find ourselves because we won’t always be granted validation. And it’s not fair to the person we’re married to, dating or in a relationship with. That’s not what they signed up for. Instead, we need to take a step back and realize we are creative beings who were made in “creation” therefore we create–and there is power to that but you can’t allow anything outside of you to power you up, only you can do it. The conversation in your head needs to stop being, “You know what I mean?” to “This is how it’s going to be.”
Nando: Claire, you’ve always had a radiant smile, and when you smiled, your light was so bright that people wanted to be around you. Try to find at least 3 reasons to smile each day and give the world your smile–let us enjoy it. And trust in yourself enough to know that you are your own power source. And just as the sun doesn’t need permission to shine, it just shines….so do you.
Do you seek constant validation in life? Where is that getting you? What are the conversations in your head?