124 – Validation: The Blessings and Dangers

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The Blessings and Dangers of Validation on the Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungIf you’re a writer, you’re going to feel insecure. Just accept that. We all find ourselves needing some kind of validation. So what can we do about it? Should we seek validation? Or are we opening ourselves to some dangerous consequences? Here’s what you need to know about validation, encouragement, and the best way to be affirmed.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Writers Seem to need validation

Needing validation is typical for creatives. We feel insecure. We’re putting our gifts and talents out there for the world to respond to and critique. We’re being vulnerable, and we think we need some feedback to keep us going. And that’s okay. But is validation something we should specifically look for? Especially for those of us who write to please God?

What is validation?

What is Webster’s definition of validation?

An act, process, or instance of validating.

So then what does validate mean?

To support or corroborate on a sound or authoritative basis.

To recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of.

Listen to the language of that: “illustrate the worthiness.” That’s where we run into trouble. We’re looking to be acceptable, worthy, legitimate. There’s a measurement happening. A judgment or comparison as to what would make us worthy, legitimate, and acceptable and what wouldn’t.

But who gets to define that?

Why do we seek validation?

On Oprah’s final episode of her TV show, she highlighted the importance of validation. “I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show,” she said, “and all 30,000 had one thing in common. They all wanted validation.”

And they weren’t even writers!

Then there’s Facebook. How many of us, when we’ve posted something creative or something that means a lot to us, go back and look to see how many likes or loves we’ve received. Or suppose you post something and NO ONE likes it. Not even your best friend or mom. How does that feel? Like what you wrote just doesn’t matter.

So why do we seek validation? Because we’re human, and too often we’re insecure in some way, shape, or form. And of all the insecure people in the world, you know who some of the most insecure people are? Yup. Writers.

Why are we insecure?

Writers deal with insecurity for lots of reasons, including:

1. We Have to Put Ourselves out There

We put our writing, our thoughts, our ability to communicate, and our ideas out there for the whole world to see, and that’s a fearful thing.

The number one fear for people is public speaking. Number two is death. Number three is writing, which is like public speaking but it STAYS out there. Our work WILL receive responses, some of which will be criticism AND judgment, good or bad, helpful or not helpful.

2. We Struggle with Imposter Syndrome

We struggle with feeling like a fraud. We struggle with self-doubt. We did a whole episode on this (episode 81) and we encourage you to go back and take a look at that.

We want our identity legitimized. We want to hear someone say, “You’re a real writer…” It’s hard for us to say that about ourselves. But it’s not just writing that we’re not secure in. We aren’t secure in our first and most important calling: to be a Christ follower and God glorifyer.

Isaiah 43:6-7 says, “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

3. We Aren’t Comfortable Walking in a Place of Total Trust

We’re trying to follow God, we’re trying to trust Him, but at the core, we aren’t comfortable in a place of real trust. Or we’re not comfortable if we can’t dictate the terms or conditions of that trust. Or we aren’t comfortable not knowing the future. We can only see a small part of the picture at a time, so we’re not sure where all this will lead, and that causes anxiety, self-doubt, and questioning.

4. We Falter When Things Go Wrong

Another reason we’re insecure is that in this industry things go wrong, or get hard. When that happens, we want proof that we’re still on the right track. We want some guarantee of success.

Where do we look for validation?

Here are a few places we look for validation:

  • sales
  • traditional contracts
  • reviews
  • awards (industry accolades)
  • comparison with others
  • social media mentions/shares
  • endorsements
  • help from others (because they think we or our writing is so worthy)
  • professional opinions

Let’s talk for a minute about professional opinions. What is a professional opinion, and are we saying it’s bad?

A professional opinion is what authors get from editors, agents, or other industry professionals at professional conferences or in other contexts. Or it’s what you get when you submit a query to an editor or agent, or when you pay for an evaluation or edit.

When we get feedback from professionals, that can provide some guidance and wisdom, and if we keep it in perspective, it’s a good thing. That opinion can give you input as you seek to improve your writing and move forward in your career.

But keeping that feedback in perspective is sometimes hard. As with any validation, you need to test it against God’s word and wisdom, and His will for you as a writer. Just because someone doesn’t resonate to what you’re doing and the way you’re doing it, doesn’t mean you’re wrong or on the wrong track.

The Pitfalls of Seeking Validation

Can we seek validation or do we just leave it to God?

Our answer: You can’t make validation your goal. Make obedience your goal, and leave the rest to God.

When you seek validation:

1. Your Focus Is on You, Not God

Your focus is on what you get out of this and not on serving God, our Creator, in humility. That can lead to pride, entitlement, and anger when we don’t get what we want.

2. It’s Based on Emotion Rather than Reason

When you make validation your focus, you can’t be happy with what you’ve done until someone says it’s good. That makes you happy…for all of 1.2 seconds. Remember, feelings are a rotten measuring stick for reality. Basing your worth, or the worth of what you do, on being validated or happy is a terrible idea. It only treats the symptom of feeling insecure. It doesn’t do anything about the core issue, which is trusting God.

3. We Create Our own Vision of Validation

When we seek validation, too often we have our own idea of what that means. We want validation in the way we want it, the way we envision it. Then we’re right back to dictating terms of trust to God. That can lead to frustration, confusion, and disappointment.

4. Validation from External Sources Doesn’t Nurture Creativity

Validation can be like a drug. The first hit feels good. Great in fact. But after awhile, you need more. And more. Until everything you do feels awful until you get your dose of external validation. But that will never last. Rather than nurturing your creativity, it destroys it because you’re looking at it through the filter of what others say rather than through God’s eyes of love and purpose. Receiving validation becomes no longer a want, but a desperate need.

5. We’re Looking for Something We Don’t Need

Remember, validation is a way for us to establish legitimacy or worthiness. It’s a value judgment. But that leads us to comparison, which fosters insecurity, envy, and jealousy. We can’t get our worth from things or people. God is the only one who has a right to establish our value and our purpose because He created us for HIM.

6. We’re Wasting Time and Energy on the Wrong Thing

If we’re looking for something we don’t need, then we’re focusing on something other than what God has for us. We’re distracted from the purpose He has for us. Worst of all, because He’s the One who knows exactly what we need when we need it, we’re focused on things that are false.

7. We Get Distracted from Our Passion

When we don’t see the validation we’re looking for, we start wondering if we’re even supposed to be writing, which distracts us from actually doing the work of writing. We get sidetracked from our passion, and that can lead to apathy. Which leads to discouragement. Which can lead to anger and resentment. Which can lead us to doubt God and/or His goodness. All this leads us away from God and His good pleasure in us and straight into the enemy’s hands.

The bottom line is that when we seek validation, it can lead to a boatload of negative emotions, and we end up feeling worse than when we started. Or we end up working against God, and that’s never a good place to be.

Encouragement Versus Validation

What about encouragement? Isn’t that validation? Is that bad?

We’re not saying encouragement is bad. We’re not even saying validation is bad. But there is a difference between validation and encouragement.

To give encouragement is to inspire, spur on, uplift, or help. That’s not the same thing as measuring your worthiness, making a value judgment about your legitimacy.

We humans do need encouragement. The Bible is full of examples of people encouraging one another, and 2 Corinthians 13:11 tells us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”

But be careful, because seeking encouragement can have the same pitfalls as seeking validation.

When finding encouragement is your goal, it puts the focus on yourself. We’re often told in Scripture to encourage others. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” We’re to help each other be steadfast and faithful, and help each other gain an awareness of God’s work in our lives. 

We’re also told in Scripture how believers encouraged one another. But far more rarely is anyone told to go specifically seeking encouragement.

Nevertheless, encouragement comes our way. The key is that God brings it about in His timing and in His fashion. Here are some of the many ways encouragement comes to us:

1. From Others

Sometimes God uses others to bring us encouragement. Family, friends, writing buddies, and professional opinions can all encourage us. When I (Erin) met with Karen for the first time, I wasn’t looking for encouragement specifically. I was looking for a professional opinion. However, it did encourage me. It told me something I didn’t know and helped me understand and identify what God was doing in me and my writing.

2. From Readers’ Responses

Seeking encouragement from reader feedback should never be our goal, but it can be accepted as a lovely gift when, or if, it happens.

3. Through Prayer

Sometimes encouragement comes during prayer as we cry out to God. Psalm 10:17 says, “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”

4. From the Holy Spirit

Sometimes encouragement comes directly from the Holy Spirit, which is an amazing thing. Acts 9:31 tells us, “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”

5. From Scripture and Meditation

Sometimes encouragement comes from reading Scripture and meditating on who God is and what He’s done for us.  2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 says, “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Final Words on validation

What validation, what encouragement, can you hang your hat on? Only validation from God. But here’s the thing. No one, outside of God, can tell you what that looks like for you.

I (Karen) know when God is speaking to me. I sense it in ways that are different from anything else in my life. It’s an outgrowth of my relationship with Him. So for me, it comes from within. Sometimes it comes from what others say, but not just that. It’s when someone says something at exactly the right time and I just stand there and smile, because I’d been talking with God about this and boom! Here is someone saying something that fits to perfection.

The key in this whole area is to keep your focus on God and on doing what He’s asked you to do. Focus on pleasing Him and serving others. Let God handle the encouragement and validation. I guarantee you that, in a way that only you will understand, He’ll validate you as His child and co-laborer in His harvest. He’ll let you know when you’re doing well, when you’re on the right path, and when you’ve gotten sidetracked.

You can’t seek validation. You have to rest in God and let Him bring it to you however He chooses. He will do so!

Psalm 149:2-5, slightly edited for writers:

Let [God’s writers] rejoice in their Maker; let the people of [words] be glad in their King. Let them praise His name with dancing and [write His truths with beauty and joy]. For the Lord takes delight in His [writers;] He crowns the humble with victory. Let His faithful [writers] rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on [at their computers.] Needing validation is normal. Seeking it is something else. Something dangerous. #amwriting @karenball1 Click To Tweet

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Have you ever fallen into the trap of seeking validation? What are some ways God has encouraged you when you weren’t seeking it?

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our August sponsor of the month, Stacy McLain. Stacy’s been working on her first book but also, like many, dealing with changes that this pandemic has brought to her life. We’re praying for Stacy and so many others affected by the trials in our world today!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous sound editing!

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