Editor’s Note: Looking for an honest view of the world? Then you’ve found it in this critical thinking piece about validation, authenticity and happiness. If you want to further explore EJ Apicello’s thoughts, services and writing, visit her website for more information and reading.
Life is a Hot Mess
Raise your hand if you have ever browsed through Instagram, Facebook or any other social media platform and instantly felt crappy about your own life because you are looking at all the wonderful, seemingly effortless things your friends, family, distant acquaintances and even celebrities are posting about. Newsflash here, everyone’s life is a hot mess. In fact, the reason why people post all of those amazing dinners, perfect outfits or workouts accomplished is because we all need to be validated. For some reason we have decided as a society that this validation can not be achieved simply by working our way through this game of life without a playbook. The heightened social awareness has caused people to strive to constantly be recognized for their very best. Can you imagine a world where you were judged based solely on your social media popularity? To me, that sounds like a Twilight Zone nightmare, one step away from talking Tina and the pig people. Could you spend every waking minute that you are in the presence of other people, having to keep up the perfection we filter, crop and hashtag online?
Perfection is Unsustainable
Take it from someone who has spent their life attempting to live with that perfect persona 24/7, it isn’t sustainable. The only thing you will accomplish is burning out and breaking down. I have dubbed this perfect, albeit false, sense of me as an “ultimate representative”. Basically, it comes down to taking the idea of putting your best foot forward to an extreme level. It is human nature to dust ourselves off and spruce ourselves up before a major event – first date, job interview, induction into the karate hall of fame. However after the first kiss has been planted, the job has been won, or the ceremony comes to an end, most people return back to the sustainable, realistic versions of themselves allowing things we purposely hid from the public eye during those major events come back into the open. Our everyday person contains our good parts, but also naturally contains some not so good parts. We are human after all, raised by imperfect people who in turn were raised by imperfect people, and so on. We can all agree that this cycle is as old as our very existence no matter how you believe man came to be.
A Shield to Hide Behind
At a very young age, even before I realized what I was doing, I created this permanent shield, my ultimate representative, to hide behind because I wanted people to only see the good parts of me at all times, the ones that I knew would not be rejected. If ever there was a situation where a piece of the “real me” peeked through and was noticed, it made my life too uncomfortable to continue, even if the response to my true self was not in a negative way. To add insult to injury, this facade of pathetic perfection has followed me from childhood straight through until about a year ago, and I am well into adulthood at this point. I worked tirelessly to always ensure that the things I did, opinions I voiced, or actions I took, were perfect and correct because only then would I allow myself to feel successful and to have received positive validation.
Wait, what? Successful? How on this green Earth could I, or anyone for that matter, think that my personal, intrinsic, success could be quantified by how other people saw me or perceived my actions? My personal success, as is yours, as is everyone’s, is determined only by yourself. You do not require validation from others. Remember, I am not talking about career success, car success, or house success those are all material things. The way you feel about yourself, the you that you feel proud to show the world can only be decided upon within you. Be warned, I am going to request that you do a little homework now. When you have some time, find a quiet place and flip through your past actions and memories. Rewind past all of your major life events where you would have displayed your regular representative and instead, focus on the everyday, how you handled the little things. What version of yourself did you show the world, the true you or only the best parts of you? How hard did you work in order to make other people happy so that their versions of you they saw appeared successful? Are you hiding behind your ultimate representative as I was?