Friday, June 8, 2007

understanding validation

To begin, I have a little question for the bloggers out there: What are your reasons for starting a blog? Well, I guess that's not such a "little" question, as your answers to that question will no doubt be infinitely varied, and personal to you. Gah, I've gotten ahead of myself, let me give you some backround as to why I've decided to ask such an open-ended question..

Recently I had a discussion with a blogger that brought to mind a matter I'd been giving different levels of consideration over the past few weeks: The connection between blogging and validation. I've wondered how hard it would be to go on writing and sharing if I had no support, and if I would (or even could) still do it. Mostly I've had no choice but to take up this line of thought because I have a very small audience. But what if I had no audience at all? Would I keep it up if I had no one counting on me, no one critiquing me? Maybe I had to ask the right question, maybe I had to go back and realize what the point of blogging, for me at least, is all about. I think it's a perfectly good idea for any blogger to ponder over, no matter the topic of their blog. Hence the question: "What are your reasons for starting a blog?"

In this blog's first entry, I claimed I didn't have a reason. In reality, I ignored the true reason out of guilt, and shame. Truthfully, a good chunk of why I started my blog was to be validated. But the need for validation, to my credit, doesn't stem from vanity, it comes from a need to feel connected to others. To feel that I have a place here in the world (even in the relatively small community of bloggers), and that my opinions and thoughts are legitimately worthy. Not that my entire opinion of myself rests on the backs of others, but that I can bounce ideas off of people and vice~versa. It was another avenue out of Isolation, and I think that's a good step to take.

This is not something limited only to my own experience, I'm sure there are many bloggers who've felt the same, whether or not they've been able to put it into words. The shame and guilt, I think, manifests when we drown out those feelings, unable to admit them even to ourselves-deeming them humiliating or disgraceful, when they're really just human. And the problem is that we start to poison the community by chastising those who we deem guilty of the sin of neediness (through comments, through posts, etc..), stifling them because when we don't like to admit the truth to ourselves, we definitely don't want to see it mirrored in others. But wanting to be heard and understood is not the same as begging for readers. It is actually okay to want to be liked, but it is not okay to change your vision, or your ideas in order to be liked.

Should that be the only reason to blog? To be deemed worthy by other people?? HECK NO!! Wouldn't that be playing a game we could never hope to win?? YES!! My point is that we should acknowledge it, own it, and move on to bigger and better things without villanizing it. No, validation is not the be all and end all in the the blogging world, but that doesn't make it a bad thing either, especially when we work to be moderate and reasonable in our views on giving and recieving it. I love to get feedback on what I write, because my thoughts and interests are an extension of me, and I hope that what I say with be important to others. Still, while I enjoy hearing from readers, I refuse to pander to anyone for that kind of attention. False compliments don't serve any purpose except to throw us back into a negative, self-serving cycles of bull-crap!

I congratulate everyone who has had the mental and emotional fortitude to go on writing without comments, as much as I urge those who are reading and lurking to come out and and let your opinions be known, for good or bad. Because that's another benefit of feedback, that it helps us to communicate openly with eachother in ways we may not be able to in the physical world. I've made a decision that I will keep on writing as long as possible, with or without validation. Would I give up what I've learned, or what I still have yet to learn about myself and the world through my writing because I'm the only one listening?? That would be another firm "Heck No." Working to be strong, independent, and outspoken means that I won't shutdown because I feel I'm not being heard. I'll just get louder.

12 comments:

lindsay said...

First off, brava for this delightfully honest post. In response, i'll give some honest answers.

I actually have several blogs; i'll explain them in chronological order.

One is a livejournal that i've had for several years; i started it because i have memory issues and wanted to be able to look back and say "oh yeah, i remember that day". About 90% of it is friends-only, because i like my private life to remain private.

Another blog is really just a homepage. Nothing particularly special about it. I did it so that my family could check in from time to time, see pictures of the furkids and such. I rarely get comments there, but was delighted when i got a comment from my long-lost uncle who happened across it.

Yet another blog is actually a webcomic. So far, it's languishing, but i'm only updating it once a week and it's only got 8 pages to it. Heh. The premise behind it is different people having similar experiences in their dreams, and how they react to those experiences before and after. It's a way for me to explore some of the strange beliefs i have about dreams and put them out there without seeming like a complete and total whack-job. If people enjoy the story of it, neat. If one person reads it and e-mails me asking if i've been spying on them, then perhaps i'm not the only person who has these strange experiences and they're not just part of my "overactive imagination."

(I don't see that last part happening, btw, but a girl can hope, eh?)

The most recent blog is my body acceptance blog. I started it because it's a topic on which i feel i have a lot to say. I feel that i have a better body image than many women my age (30) and size (~220 lbs); if by sharing some of my thoughts and experiences i can help one person learn how to feel better about themselves, i'll be happy.

Intellectually, i know the things i'm posting in this blog are Good Stuff; but emotionally, i want people to read it and say "wow, that's good stuff". But at the same time, if i go overboard and start spewing nonsense and bile, i'd like someone to give me a proverbial smack upside the head and let me know.

The other day, i was re-reading Dune; towards the end, there's a physical fight between two characters. One of them is continually talking, trying to bait his opponent into slipping up. But his opponent, seeing through this, reverses it by not responding, by not saying a word. It worked.

I thought of this passage frequently in the past week, as i was still getting little to no response to my most recent blog. I was asking myself if i shouldn't just stop the blog, hell, maybe even delete it and act like it never happened. Like i was ashamed of it or something.

It's kinda like how you're in a public place and there's lots of noise, so you raise your voice to say something to a friend, and right as you do so it gets all quiet, which makes your voice seem REALLY LOUD in comparison. The most common reaction is one of embarrassment, even if all you said was "can you pass the salt".

I think i'm less afraid of "no one watching" than i am of "everyone watching and simply not responding". Hell, if someone flames me, it's still a response. It means i exist. It means i'm not being ignored.

When i was growing up, my father would frequently tell me that "the things we hate most about other people are the things we hate most about ourselves". We find ourselves disliking people seeking validation because we ourselves are uncomfortable doing the same. Perhaps there's jealousy involved: that other person is getting all this attention and i'm not.

Many things are good in moderation, with the application of good sense. Seeing validation for an unhealthy behaviour is ultimately unhealthy. Validation is incredibly important. It's how we learn. The desire for validation is a desire for the connection between what we know (or think we know) intellectually and what we feel emotionally. Having those things work on the same lines can be a powerful thing.

The brainmeats are starting to wander. I think i've replied to all the bits i wanted to reply to, but i'll post this for now and come back later to see if i've missed something along the way.

Thank you again for posting this. I'm really glad you did. :D

danucal said...

Brava to you for this comment!;D

What you wrote about wanting people to say, "Wow, that's good stuff" hits home for me. Why should I have to feel ashamed that once in awhile, I'd like people to say, "that was enlightening" or "good job"? Why does that carry such a stigma? Why especially does that embarrassment carry over when my intentions are good? It would be a different thing if all you or I wanted was attention, but we're both hoping to reach out, connect with people, get positive/negative feedback, and maybe even help someone: You through body acceptance, me through self-identification. A bit ambitious maybe, but that's not a terrible thing.

I thought of this passage frequently in the past week, as i was still getting little to no response to my most recent blog. I was asking myself if i shouldn't just stop the blog, hell, maybe even delete it and act like it never happened. Like i was ashamed of it or something.

First off, I have got to read Dune! But the sentence that really stopped me was ...Like i was ashamed of it or something.

That's exactly what I'm trying to prevent happening! I understand exactly what you're saying. But who are we letting win if we just delete our words? Why should we just stop talking because no one is responding? This reminds me of the post on your blog that said you would keep writing even if you knew someone could say it better.

I think i'm less afraid of "no one watching" than i am of "everyone watching and simply not responding".

Right, because it comes down to whether or not our words can stand on their own. Are they good enough even if no one says so? "No one watching" is less worrisome than "No one responding" because if no one responds then the quality of our work is in question. Then we have to wonder what we're doing wrong, even when there is nothing wrong. This is part of what I'm trying to stop, this negative cycle (as I explained somewhat in my last post) of taking my anger/frustration out on myself. Why beat myself up when I know I've done a good job? Why isn't my best good enough, even for me? And am I really so afraid of rejection, that I'll take any comment-even a negative one just so I'm not ignored? (note: i've been pretty lucky, that even though i haven't had many commentors, the one's who do stop by are smart, thoughtful, and well-spoken, so maybe i wouldn't like getting flamed!)..These are some of the things I've had to confront since I've started writing a blog.

The desire for validation is a desire for the connection between what we know (or think we know) intellectually and what we feel emotionally. Having those things work on the same lines can be a powerful thing.

Very well put, I couldn't have said it better myself! I just want to get away from the shame associated with it, when it is just humanity at it's best. And I think it can be an amazing thing, especially for women, to validate eachother.

Thank you again for posting this. I'm really glad you did.

Thank you for reading and responding to it. Yours was one of the blogs I was thinking of when I posted this. I've seen so many well-written, but comment-less (or near comment-less) blogs over my few months of being a blogger. And I'm always in awe of those blogs that continue on, day after day, month after month despite that fact. Until I started writing myself, I didn't realize how much you're putting on the line, how much feedback counts. And then, I started to get frustrated, then angry. And I was ashamed about it. But I'm going to try my hardest not to let it discourage me from continuing on, and I know you'll do the same.

Also....on an unrelated note....so there is someone else in the world who uses the term "brainmeats"???

You rock!

lindsay said...

Why should I have to feel ashamed that once in awhile, I'd like people to say, "that was enlightening" or "good job"? Why does that carry such a stigma?

I have a few theories on this. One is the idea that being proud of our accomplishments is a diminishment (be it of them or of our character), that we should remain e're humble in the face of our own greatness. That's one possibility; while i've seen it in action, i'm going to say i don't think that's the prevalent theory.

Another possibility is that people view the desire for such feedback as childish. That we're only supposed to want our moms to put our crayon drawings on the fridge when we're in single digits. I've seen this as well, but again: perhaps not the most common.

I think the most common reason is not that we should be ashamed of wanting these things, but that people are uncomfortable giving these things. People have trouble receiving feedback, but a lot of people have trouble honestly giving feedback as well. This feeling of awkwardness may lend itself to embarrassment, guilt and/or shame, because the lack of communication does not explain the origin of the negative feelings.

First off, I have got to read Dune!

Yes you do! I think it should be required reading in the schools. It's got drama, intrigue, critical thinking, great storyline, plots within plots. Woof! There is so much awesomeness per square inch that you really have to read it more than once to catch everything (well, i did, anyways).

But who are we letting win if we just delete our words?

And therein lies a clue to the heart of the matter. Thinking that we're letting someone else win means that we've got an idea that this some form of competition. In all honesty, it's not. Some people may play it as such, and it can get particularly nasty... but those sorts of blogs aren't the type that i think you or i would have anyways.

I didn't have many friends growing up; if i got rebuffed once or twice, i figured i wasn't welcome. So i'd go off and do my own thing. Usually it was reading, but i had enough of an imagination to amuse myself with a stick, a shoe box, and a length of string. This isn't to say i didn't experience the typical social angst that comes with growing up, i was just more likely to handle it by sitting in a corner with my Walkman and a book than by competing on a sports team or smoking behind the school.

It might seem kind of ironic, in a way, i would rather sit off by myself somewhere instead of being competitive with other people... and yet, i also crave praise and validation. Truth of the matter is, i am incredibly competitive with myself - just not anyone else. I don't care if someone else's painting turned out better than mine, but i DO care that my painting turned out better than the last one i did. I want to see improvement in my life, and i want other people to see it as well.

I've seen so many well-written, but comment-less (or near comment-less) blogs over my few months of being a blogger.

Oh ho? I am curious for linkages. I am incredibly hungry for well-written blogs out there. The ones i read aren't bad, mind you. They scratch some itches and not others.

Also....on an unrelated note....so there is someone else in the world who uses the term "brainmeats"???

... You mean there are people who don't?! Heretics, all of them! Let the persecution begin. *cue ominous music*

:D

danucal said...

Another possibility is that people view the desire for such feedback as childish. That we're only supposed to want our moms to put our crayon drawings on the fridge when we're in single digits.

I'm so tired of that crap. We as a society heap tons and tons of praise daily on people we don't know. Actors, authors, poets, sports stars..Heck, anyone who is on the blasted telly! But how dare we, the mere mortals, expect any of that to come back our way? How dare we try to get an ounce of respect, or acknowledgement for living our lives, just as these people do? And some of our lives are infinitely more inspiring than anything thats yet to hit either the big or small screen, or be in print..

No you cannot "win" in this system.

And therein lies a clue to the heart of the matter. Thinking that we're letting someone else win means that we've got an idea that this some form of competition. In all honesty, it's not. Some people may play it as such, and it can get particularly nasty... but those sorts of blogs aren't the type that i think you or i would have anyways.

I have to disagree. I think you have a noble idea here, and I do wish I could say it's not that way. I would like to believe that I'm not in a competition. In fact I wholeheartedly believe that I'm not even in the running, because-as you say-it can get nasty. But just because I'm not in it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And I think you are fooling yourself. Why sign up with Technorati, then? What are you trying to prove? Why are you allowing yourself to be ranked? Also, my use of win = success. Who will succeed if you decide to delete your words? No one. Both you and your potential reader suffer. You suffer for obvious reasons, the reader "suffers" (a matter of opinion) at not having access to whatever insight, knowledge or point of view you have to offer. Maybe I should edit the post and clarify.

It might seem kind of ironic, in a way, i would rather sit off by myself somewhere instead of being competitive with other people... and yet, i also crave praise and validation.

It doesn't seem ironic or strange to me at all. I'm that way too. But not because I'm not competitive, because I'm ultra-competitive, and a perfectionist to boot. Stepping out of the competition is my way of controlling well..my need to control. So, I fail. Once again, trying to dismiss yourself from the "competition" doesn't do anything to stop it from existing.

I want to see improvement in my life, and i want other people to see it as well.

I think that sums it up for me, too.

Oh ho? I am curious for linkages. I am incredibly hungry for well-written blogs out there. The ones i read aren't bad, mind you. They scratch some itches and not others.

Well, I have a few listed in my blogroll. But I haven't bookmarked every single site mostly because being well-written is just the beginning. Sometimes they are just not my cup of tea, even though I appreciate what they do. I have no idea what exact criteria a blog must meet to get listed, or bookmarked here, I just know it when I see it. But I'm always on the lookout.

Celine said...

you know, when I first started writing online [probably six years ago], it was all about validation. now? I'm not saying I don't enjoy the feedback and conversations in general, but I think I've learned that it's not everything that makes writing a blog appealing. I'm not necessarily talking about the food blog I have, here, but about LiveJournal, for example. there's been a big history of making bad connections with certain people, so now I completely nixed the comment option so that I don't have to worry about any of it anymore. can't say I've made any bad connections with the food blog [yet]!
you write the best entries. seriously.

danucal said...

Celine! Are you saying I must write for a minimum of six years not to feel the need for validation??? *faints* Bah, I turn my premature lil' blog over to you and lindsay! Do what you will! (How you will combine a body acceptance blog with one about vegan food, well that's your problem! ;D ;D...hmm...actually it's not that bad of an idea! it could work...okay, okay, I'm really reaching here.)

I'm sorry about your bad connections. I haven't had any since I've started to blog, but I can sympathize with you because I've been in other non-blog online communities where things have gotten less than friendly. I'd like to say the problem isn't me, but I sometimes don't mesh well with people. It's sometimes hard for me to get my ideas across in a way that doesn't alienate everyone. Bah..Something must be done.

Thanks Celine..Yep, you're the first food blog I added, and you know why! The best! Okay, stealing an oreo cookie-cookie from the jar to cram in my mouth so I'll shutup now!

lindsay said...

And I think you are fooling yourself. Why sign up with Technorati, then? What are you trying to prove? Why are you allowing yourself to be ranked?

Good point, and one that i think does bear consideration. My initial desired response had a fairly defensive edge to it, so i'm thinking you touched a nerve. You may well be right. So i don't have an answer for that right now. I'll need to think on it for a bit.

It doesn't seem ironic or strange to me at all. I'm that way too. But not because I'm not competitive, because I'm ultra-competitive, and a perfectionist to boot.

When it comes to my arts and crafts projects, i've always been a perfectionist. But in my mind i've never compared the end result to anyone else's stuff; i was usually doing these things solo, and the only thing to compare it to was the notion i'd had of it in my head. My goal was to make the end result come as close to what i'd imagined it to look like before i started working on it. I think it's possible to be a perfectionist without experiencing competition with external sources.

Once again, trying to dismiss yourself from the "competition" doesn't do anything to stop it from existing.

Oh, i'm not saying the competition doesn't exist. But i am saying that i personally don't give a fig about it. I have no desire to be better than anyone else. I have a desire to be better than i was yesterday, better than i was a year ago, better than i was when i was born.

One thing where i did slip up in that comment was failing to mention that the whole competition thing was another possibility. Oops. It was not my intent to imply that it was The Answer.

Okay, having thought about the Technorati thing... I don't really pay attention to the rank. I know my blog will never be incredibly popular, because some of the things i'm saying could be considered pretty scary to some folks.

The aspect of the Technorati thing i'm interested in is what they call "authority" (but a part of me really balks at that term). It simply means "how many other blogs link to your blog". The more other blogs link you, the higher your authority rating. And i don't care so much how mine compares to that of others; it's got more than one aspect to it. One is that i'm curious to see who might be paying attention (be it positive or negative*), and the other is to see who thinks my stuff is interesting enough to link to (validation is tasty).

* - This goes back to an earlier conversation we had about how negative feedback might be considered by some to be better than no feedback at all. It has occurred to me to mention that i do not believe love and hate to be opposites. They are different sides of the same coin. The true opposite of both love and hate is indifference. If you expend energy hating something, you're still saying (whether you realize it or not) that it's valid enough to be worthy of that energy you throw at it.

danucal said...

My initial desired response had a fairly defensive edge to it, so i'm thinking you touched a nerve.

Hmm? I'm not quite clear on this sentence, but let me tell you why I gave you that response:
At times your tone suggests that at certain parts of my posts you merely pick apart my words, find the flaws, then go to work on them. I don't know if this is because that's the way you figure it out in your head, or if you are trying to dispense knowledge to someone "who doesn't know any better." I try to figure in my head what you think my response would be, but the more I think about that question, the more it angers me that you could be trying to provoke me (and I'm not saying it's entirely concious on your part). And that would be without any heart, because we don't even know eachother yet, so I'm not entirely sure you're interested in my growth-maybe I'm just another source of attention (negative or positive) for you, eh?

Your thoughts about not being in a competition (Oh, i'm not saying the competition doesn't exist. But i am saying that i personally don't give a fig about it. I have no desire to be better than anyone else. I have a desire to be better than i was yesterday, better than i was a year ago, better than i was when i was born.) seem a bit condescending coming right after your statement about winning. First you make sure I know why "winning" was wrong, then you clue me in on how to fix it by telling me what you've always done-disconnect from the competition. Instead of passing over that statement, or asking me what the heck I meant by it, you invalidated my point...on a post about invalidation, no less.

I fully understand your ideas about not being in a competition because you don't actively participate in it, but I fail to grasp how that coincides with your need to be ranked as if in a contest. Surely you know that Technorati is not all about bringing bloggers together, that is one part of it-it's a popularity contest, that's why you get a number. You can't "not give a fig" about competition, and then sign yourself up for one. You can't accept one part of it, but then deny the other. There's a disconnect in getting this kind of "authority" without competing for power with all the other Technorati blogs. You are attaching a stigma to competition by denying again, and again that you are in one. What makes it so shameful? It feels like trying to shift the blame from validation to competition. And that misses the entire point of the post.

KleoPatra said...

Wow, what a fantastic, thoughtful, thought-provoking post. i came here thru Celine's blog and i am very pleased that she recommended your blog to look at. VERY insightful, and you've now caused me to look way deeper inside me than i already do (i'm a nutty emotionally challenged wreck - in other words, a Pisces!)... and that's a good thing.

danucal said...

Hi, Kleopatra! Thanks so much for coming by! :~)) Celine is such a sweetheart to put that post up, I was shocked.

I'm glad what I said made sense to you, sometimes it feels like it only comes together in my head, you know? Bah! Well, I'll try my best. ;~) I hope you can come back to my blog when you have time, I'm going to check yours right now. Thank you again for the support.

lindsay said...

You can't "not give a fig" about competition, and then sign yourself up for one.

Perhaps part of the problem here is that you are unaware (through no fault of your own) with the way my site is scripted. I use a script called WordPress; on the admin index page, there is a section called "Incoming links". It shows you the most recent links to your blog from other blogs; there is a link on it called "more"; when you click on that, it takes you to your blog's listing in Technorati. i signed up for Technorati because i wanted to see more of the incoming links than my WordPress script wanted to show me.

You can't accept one part of it, but then deny the other.

I am not denying the other. I recognize it for what it is, but do not find it interesting, relevant or otherwise worthy of my personal emotional investment. I am not saying that other people are not allowed to find it interesting. If they want to compare their progress to mine, they're welcome to do so.

There's a disconnect in getting this kind of "authority" without competing for power with all the other Technorati blogs.

From the Technorati FAQ article entitled "What is Authority":

"Technorati Authority is the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. The higher the number, the more Technorati Authority the blog has."

I don't care how many people link to anyone else's blogs. I'm just curious about how many people link to mine. And i'm curious about the context in which they do so. This is an easy way to find that out.

I find the Technorati "authority rating" to be an amusing curiosity in which i put no emotional investment. If it goes up, neat. If it goes down, i'm not going to lose sleep over it. I do not view it as a contest.

You are attaching a stigma to competition by denying again, and again that you are in one.

My feelings and opinions about competition are my own. I recognize that many people disagree. I do not attempt to say that competition is inherently wrong, just that i do not enjoy it.

You're only in a competition if you are comparing your progress to the progress of others. I am not doing that, therefore i am not in competition.

What makes it so shameful? It feels like trying to shift the blame from validation to competition.And that misses the entire point of the post.

I am honestly confused with regards to your reference of "blame", as i was not aware that it was any part of the conversation up until now. As such, i am somewhat baffled at how to respond to this statement.

However, i am not confused about the anger that you have mentioned - it comes across very clearly. I am not comfortable continuing a conversation in which i cannot say anything without provoking an emotional response that feels entirely unwarranted or appropriate.

danucal said...

I'm not going to respond to the entire statement, this post has been derailed enough. And I'm honestly getting tired of trying to prove my point, when as you said, it's a difference of opinion. I accept your explanation, even if I don't agree with it. Take it or leave it.

However, i am not confused about the anger that you have mentioned - it comes across very clearly. I am not comfortable continuing a conversation in which i cannot say anything without provoking an emotional response that feels entirely unwarranted or appropriate.

You do not get to say what is or isn't appropriate on my blog. Also, I am not waiting with baited breath for your next comment. Last time I tried to alert you to what is actually "inappropriate" on my "everything in moderation" post, you ran off and wrote some pretty unkind things in your "Suggestions and Invalidation" post.

Yes, I got your meaning when you said: Some people identify very strongly with their problems. Their problems become their sole source of motivation, their sole source of emotion. This sort of scenario is incredibly common, and sometimes problematic in and of itself...it means that person’s primary identity is their chronic pain. There is little else there...

Then, I had to confront you about it, you were not even respectful enough to address me on my blog, and had I not visited you, I would never have known.

I do not come to your blog and derail your posts with my opinions, or life lessons. If I disagree, I don't feel the need to impart any special wisdom, or let you know my "theories". I do not assume you need to be taught about the things which matter to you most. I do not think I can say all matter of things, and then simply have them dissolve by saying "oopsie!" When I validated your posts I did not then go on to point out the errors in your way of thinking, that wasn't the point of my message to you. When I honestly enjoy a piece that is thought-provoking and well written, that is my point. End of story.

I have nothing else to add, except don't expect to get an audience here.