Hello! Are you sitting comfortably, and ready for my take on this?
Good! Let’s get to it straight away.
Here we go…
“If you constantly seek external validation, you will never be truly happy.”
Do you agree with this statement?
Do you know what it means?
Do the words resound with you strongly, or do they wash over you?
“Hmm” you think. “Blah blah blah. Yes, this sounds like the wise teachings of a Buddhist monk. But it’s not something I could apply to my life. I don’t really care for it that much.”
Here’s where I want to change that. My aim is to help you apply the above statement to your life.
And I hope it will impact your life in some small way.
The title of this post might seem brazen… bold… even arrogant – but I think we all know what is true, deep down. Like really deep down. Some people have figured it out already. And are living quite happily.
And some people have denied all knowledge of it, and are desperately living chaotic, tail-chasing lives, where they can never quite figure out where they went wrong, or why they’re not happy. They were following the “guidelines for life” – so what happened?!?!
If you constantly seek external validation, you will never be truly happy.
What does this statement mean?
External validation. You know what this is, secretly.
When you do something because of how it looks. Because it makes you look good. Because someone comments on it. Because someone praises you. (Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with praise – or enjoying it. I’m just suggesting you don’t make it your be-all and end-all.)
External validation = someone, somewhere has told me this is good. I am good, I have done well, I am “X” (where X is: a success, clever, the best, winning, “living the dream”, etc…)
I don’t mean to be patronizing. I just want to spell it out. I want your subconscious to hear it 🙂
…you will never be truly happy.
Well this one is pretty self-explanatory. But the emphasis is on the word truly. Sure, we can be happy. We can be happy when we buy things, when people tell us we are great, or when we do awesome activities. But these, as we all know, can be fleeting moments of happiness. They go. We feel bad again. We seek something else that will make us happy.
So I want you to think one small thing when you are buying, or doing:
If I could tell no one else about this, would I still do it?
If you bought a Mercedes, but couldn’t tell anyone about it, would you still enjoy taking it for a spin… washing it… caring for it?
If you would – great. Go for it!
But if you’re doing it just cause your friend down the road has a new BMW, have a think. I’m not saying don’t buy the Mercedes. I’m saying acknowledge why you are buying it. Just be aware. Feel it inside of you:
“I want to buy this super car, in part because my neighbour down the road has a sleek new car. I would love to own and drive a Merc, but if I’m being honest, a small part of the reason is because it looks good, and makes me look successful.”
Or another example…
Would you buy that Gucci or Louis Vuitton bag if you couldn’t show it to anyone, and you had to keep it in your room? Would you still enjoy the soft leather, the smell of the new bag… while keeping it hidden in your closet?
If you would still get some enjoyment from this, great! Go ahead and save up/make the purchase! But if you’re doing it purely to show off to your “friends”, it might not bring you the long-term happy feeling you are looking for. Just check in with yourself – what is the main reason you’re buying it for?
(I realize that’s a weird example. You would buy the bag to use it, not to keep it in your closet. But then if you’re just looking for a bag you can use, surely you could spend $200 less on one?!)
That’s all you have to do!
I’m not trying to take your enjoyment away from things. What I’m saying is that as soon as you start doing things for yourself, and stop caring so much about what other people think, you experience a kind of internal contentment and pride that you don’t get from doing it as part of a competition.
And after a while, if you move towards doing things just for you, regardless of what it looks like to anyone else, you start feeling more fuzzy inside. Long-term fuzzy, I mean. There comes a sense of maturity and inner confidence. Which is v. sexy!
Don’t believe me? Try it!
Ask yourself: Am I doing this for me, or for other people (external validation)?
Why am I doing it? And if I’m trying to impress these people, why am I doing that? Do I want to impress them? (Sometimes it’s important, sensible, or appropriate to want to make a good impression on certain people.)
I’m still working on this one, by the way!
A lot of the time now, I can quite honestly tell if I am doing something for me, or because it looks good. I ask myself, “If I couldn’t tell anyone about this or show them, would I still do it?” And the answer is usually quite clear.
But please allow me to be honest with you. I still want to be “cool”. (What – am I fourteen?! What a pathetic thing to want!) I still want people to think I’m cool. I still care what people think. It’s not always easy!
It’s a tough one to get your head round. We don’t really want to acknowledge that we’re doing things for other people.
Or we deny there’s anything wrong with it. (“So what – everyone else does it!” Or: “It doesn’t affect me that much anyway.“)
Just be honest with yourself. You know the most awesome times or experiences of your life. They were the genuine ones. Think back over the past five, ten – maybe more – years, to all your achievements and the best times you had. Really. Stop and have a think now. Can you think of a few awesome moments where you felt breathy and whole and generally amazing?
You were genuine, right?! You were happy, relaxed, and free, or you’d worked hard, or you’d achieved a goal you were seeking…
The best moments of your life aren’t the ones where you “get one over” someone else, or where you had something better than someone else. They were the moments you felt alive and free, and you.
Any thoughts? Am I crazy, or on the right track? And if you’re ready to be completely honest, drop something in the comments about when you’ve done something just because you wanted to look good.
Being honest with yourself is liberating!