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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Validation & Rejection

So much of human happiness is governed by two emotions, both of which reflect the way we experience others’ views of us. Human need for validation and fear of rejection are nearly universal traits excepting those few among us who truly do not seek approbation nor accept rejection. To be clear, I am not speaking of those who brandish their egos asserting contempt for others’ opinions nor those who have walled themselves off from the world to avoid human interaction and the inevitable feelings to which they give rise. While I have not met anyone who is above these feelings I have certainly seen their archetype modeled in literature and on stage and screen.

Who among us is possessed of sufficient humility and self-awareness that they do not measure their worth in the ways most of us do? Two examples readily come to mind, Jesus and the Buddha. Of course, what we know of these two comes to us through the witness of others, but there are some remarkable similarities in their narratives despite significant cultural and temporal differences. Accounts of their childhood are noticeably thin, but we are told that both exhibited a propensity for spending time apart from others in a quiet meditation or communion. Both demonstrated a wisdom born of indwelling certainty as they approached adolescence and both came into their fullness with the universe before the age of thirty.

I want to refrain from any commentary on either figure from a religious perspective, though I quite understand it is central to their identity. Early in my knowledge of Christianity I once told a friend that they could not be both Buddhist and Christian at the same time but confess that a former pastor told me that I was the most Buddhist Christian he had ever known. Heresy though it may be, what draws me to Jesus is the same compulsion that draws me to the Buddha, not as godheads, but as men who turned their gaze inward to show us a path to enlightenment. To become one with the universe one must un become.

Let me put this another way. At our best, we humans walk a knife’s edge between thought and feeling. Too much of either renders us both less human and less empathic. Were we able to walk the path that Jesus and the Buddha walked we would know that validation and rejection are just reflections of the same preoccupation with the self—dwelling on one’s own thoughts and feelings rather than an awareness of the larger cosmic current. Validation and rejection are simply mirrors, neither good nor bad, just reflections that distract us from knowing our true selves.

The danger of empowering others’ views of us lies in the distortion it creates. Unfortunately, most of us are not able to process that input as objectively as we might think. In subtle and sometimes overt ways we act and react to gain favor or deflect criticism. In extreme circumstances we can veer towards egoism or rage. Lacking a healthy and objective self- awareness to govern our response we assert an independence from others’ views even as we validate or reject them, further separating ourselves from reality.

The only antidote to distortion is self-acceptance. We must begin my acknowledging our limitations and faults, not to excuse those behaviors which may be injurious to us or to others but to free us from responding with an inflated sense of self or exacerbated pain. What change inside us comes from self-examination and that can only proceed by affirming our positive attributes tempered by an awareness of the consequences of our actions. We cannot grow as humans by sparing our need for validation or fear of rejection, but we can learn that acceptance is ultimately within us.

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