The futility of seeking external validation

After dark

[Epicus Moronicus returns to talk about the zombie yes-people and why running after external validation is a waste of time]

When you provide an incentive to do something, more often than not, there are takers. Then to further dissuade the opposite behaviour, we also make laws prohibiting it, or more effectively, inculcate a sense of alienation in the individual through societal stigma. This is the same approach we use with kids, giving them sweets to do something, punishing them when they forget to do something, all kinds of subtle and not so subtle manipulation of their young and putty like minds, until it is ossified into something we adults consider appropriately placid enough to exist in the so called world of grownups.

Last night, I was sitting in a taxi, listening to the radio, when I encountered something indicative of the world today. They were giving away free concert tickets for something called ‘Stereophonics’, a single ticket for every correct answer. The questions that they asked went something like this:

1. What was Justin Bieber doing in Sydney today?
2. Which of the Kardashian is currently pregnant?
3. Which celebrity was caught walking out in their PJ’s in Paris?

There were 3 other questions, but I had to reboot myself after all the questions were done, and as a result experienced a certain loss of memory. The caller was able to answer only 1 of the 6 asinine questions, and hence score a single ticket for the concert, and was consoled by the pithy statement, ‘Don’t you worry. You can go alone to the concert and find a new crew there!’

Here you are now given an incentive to fill your minds with absolute drivel, and then be rewarded if you are able to perform cheap parlour tricks, like a dog standing on 2 feet, while in this case, it is literally getting a human to perform on all 4, as this behaviour seems to strike me as the dehumanization of mankind. Rather than strive to be the best of what we could be, we now strive to be what we are asked to be. Instead of being an internal validation seeking creature, who thinks the thought – Am I a good person – we have become an extreme case of external validation seeking creature who thinks – Does everyone think I am a good person.

When you are driven by internal validation, seeming to aspire to be the best you can be, there is an equation to be solved with limited variables, in this case only 1. When the variable does not produce the desired results, a small change can be made in order to achieve the results of the equation that we set out to achieve.

  1.  2x = 8
  2. Personal equation of what we are trying to achieve in our lives. Solve the equation to find the value of x.
  3. X = what someone expects of themselves to achieve their goals in life.
  4. The equation is easily solved, and helps us identify what changes we need to make to be who we want ourselves to be.

As you mature, things change, the equation for self, which determines your goals, might change. But, the person seeking internal validation, still only has the single variable to contend with – the self. The equation might change to 3x = 9, requiring a change, or a growth in one’s behaviour and outlook.

While I don’t believe to control yourself is easy, it is far easier than controlling the minds, behaviours and outlooks of all those around you. An external validation seeker tries to solve the following equation :

  1.  3y + 2a + 4z – 23k *3j = 233
  2. From this equation, where the self is not even included as a parameter, we are trying to solve for X, which is what we can do to control the outcome of the situation.
  3. No matter what we try and do, we can’t influence the equation, as it is purely determined by what those around us think, who themselves are potential external validation seeking individuals, trying to answer the equation of their lives, by seeking validation from the very person seeking validation from others.

Instead of being something that can be solved, now you end up with a Gordian Knot, which cannot be disentangled no matter how hard you try. This doesn’t even take into account the fact that someone might change over the course of their lives and want new things. But, the external validator is still going to achieve the same by others opinion of self, rather than an internal goal to be the best that you can be, and as a result, exchanged one set of impossible goals for another. The life of such an individual would resemble an exercise in futility, even sheer lunacy.

In the museum of modern art, I saw this piece of art, which was a grainy black and white video of a man with a cane walking slowly up a staircase. Upon reaching the top the man immediately appears at the bottom of the staircase and painstakingly continues climbing up the stairs, repeating the pattern of futility ad infinitum. That to me defines the essence of someone defining self through external validations.

When Emperor Alexander was tasked with disentangling the Gordian knot, he swiftly proceeded to cut through it with a sword. I think that is the only way to get out of the disastrous circle of repetition that many people find themselves in. Cut through the need to please others, and think of the self, and strive to be the best that you can be. Again, this is not a cry to everyone to be selfish despots, as the message is to be best you can be, not the most selfish.

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2 Responses to The futility of seeking external validation

  1. deckard cain says:

    All of today’s ‘social’ contraptions further this idea of external validation. Nice article.

    • Epicus Moronicus says:

      I think it was always there, just like our tendency to kill each other. Its just that with modern technology, just as our ability to kill hundreds has blossomed into millions, so has social media allowed so many of us to be connected all the time, that rather than be forced to deal with the opinions of ten, now we deal with opinions of hundreds and thousands.
      Well, as long as people feel gratified in indulging in pointless labour, I feel satisfied by watching them indulge in it.

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