I once had a friend who contracted a life-threatening disease at a young age. She was a quiet woman. But once the diagnosis came, she became a woman on mission. She fought the disease, and fought to raise awareness. She became steely and outspoken.
On the outside that seemed noble and courageous. But I felt disturbed by her change in attitude. When she met a new person, the disease became the second thing she mentioned after her name. She wore it like a proud badge. Look at me, I felt like she was now saying, I deserve your attention, now that I have a disease.
This terrified me. It appeared that she was embracing the disease as her identity, as a justification for her existence. I feared that she would not be willing to let it go.
She lived longer than the doctors said she would. But she still died at a young age. Would she have become one of those miracle cure stories, if she identified as a woman in healing and recovery from a disease, instead of a woman with a disease? Unlikely, I imagine, but I will never know.
When you are suffering, you seek validation. That is valid, reasonable, encouraged.
But take a moment to consider, what are you trying to validate? That you are a good person who happens to be experiencing pain? Or that you are a victim deserving of pity and sympathy? The former will use the validation as boosts to go up to a better place. The latter will make sure you stay miserable. Because if you stopped being miserable, you’ll lose all the pity and sympathy. Your pain becomes justifications of your existence, and of receiving attention.
I had this myself. I tasked my suffering to be the reason why I deserved people’s attention. It was a gradual process of loosening my grip. To condition myself that it was OK to feel good. That I won’t be damned if I actually enjoyed life. That I will still have people around me even if I became relaxed and happy.
So next time you show up looking for validation, pause and reflect on what you want validated. Do you want to validate that you can go up from that low, dark place? Or that the pain is the reason why you need love and support? Be careful what you wish for. Because whatever it is that you ask, it will be given to you.