Emotional Independence: How to Let Go of External Validation and Own Your Feelings.

In other words, how to stop being a chameleon.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

How it started

If you were a child that was raised in a volatile household you may have learned to adopt certain habits as a means of self-preservation…

Habits like trying to behave the right way, say the right things or even make yourself invisible in order to avoid unwanted, negative attention. The kind of attention that might result in anger, fear, or pain.

As children we obviously didn’t have the power to change our circumstances.

So instead, a lot of us became masters of changing our thoughts and our actions in order to avoid that negative attention, to avoid ‘rocking the boat’.

We learned how to think and act in order to control the only thing we thought we could – other people’s actions and emotions. 

In the process, our brains developed an equation: Act the right way = achieve the desired result:

Be the good girl = feel seen.
Get good grades = receive positive attention and praise.
Make someone else happy = feel loved and appreciated in return.

Through years and years of that repetition we developed the belief that controlling other people’s emotions was the only way to control ours.

How it’s going

While these behaviors may have served us when we were kids, many of us are still holding onto them as adults. 

How many of us as parents look to our kids for validation? While they’re young we want them to feel happy, “fit in”, or get good grades. Not just because we love them, but because we believe it means we’re good parents. If they seem happy and love us back then we’re “doing it right”.

And what about those of us whose children are grown and no longer live at home?

How many of us have had the thought “They’re not talking or texting me enough. They don’t want to spend time with me, which means they don’t love me. I did it wrong. I must have been a bad parent” –?

We apply that same thought process to our spouses and even our friends.
A lot of us also carry it into our jobs. We believe the more we do, the harder we hustle, the more appreciated we will be. And appreciation = validation, right? The feeling that we’re doing it right, that we’re worthy.

We’re repeatedly applying that same equation, that same thought error, to the people around us now, just as we did when we were kids, in the hopes that we’ll achieve the same results. 

But what served us then does not serve us now.

How Do We Get to There?

Imagine if we no longer gave other people power over our feelings of self-worth.

What if we were the only ones responsible for how we felt and acted?

What if we were the only ones who could provide ourselves with feelings of worthiness and “enoughness”?

(Okay spoiler alert – we are. We totally are).

No one else can give us something that we are unwilling or unable to give ourselves. 

No amount of external affirmation or validation, from anyone, could ever fill the void if our internal belief is that we’re not enough.

I am willing to die on that hill, my friends.

So how do we go about changing our internal dialogue? How do we turn off that negative belief of “not enoughness”?

I don’t believe that we should, or even could, ban negative thoughts completely. Mine have been running in the background of my primal brain for 50+ years, so that neural pathway is well-worn my friends. It’s become a part of who I am.

But we can develop new thought loops, new neural pathways (because, science). And, now that we’re adults, we get to choose those new thoughts.

On purpose.

I’m not talking about repeating daily affirmations about being worthy and enough (although I would highly recommend journaling them as part of the process).

I’m talking about taking a step back, looking at your current thoughts – without judgment – and just getting curious.

Discover the unintentional, negative thought loops that are running unchecked through your brain, thousands of times a day, and see how those thoughts are currently affecting your life:

  • Do you constantly second-guess everything you say and do?
  • Hustle all day to prove your self-worth?
  • Obsess over the reactions of others to determine what they might mean about you?

The thoughts running unchecked in my brain sound like this

  • “I’m not good enough”
  • “I did that wrong”
  • “This isn’t going to work anyway so why try”

Instead of ignoring my unintentional thoughts and pretending they don’t exist, I try to choose a thought that makes me feel a little better, one that feels true in my body: 

  • “I’ve gotten myself this far”
  • “What if there is no right or wrong way?” or “I can learn how to do it better next time”
  • “But what if it does work?” or “What if I just try it another way?”

 And I won’t lie, it takes work and commitment to change the thoughts you’ve been holding on to for most of your life.

It takes looking at the unintentional/unwanted results you’ve achieved so far, and deciding to do something different going forward to achieve intentional results.

Intentional thoughts = intentional results.

The only thing holding you back from living your fullest life is your thoughts. 

But I believe you can change that. 

Because you are beautiful and you’re worthy of an incredible life. 

We all are.

Discover what’s possible

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