Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Validation Station

This is my yearbook from 8th grade; the only one I kept from junior high since 7th grade was so awful I trashed any memory of it. 

Click HERE to listen to this post! 

The hallway was crowded, and I was trying to make my way up to Holly and Lindsey. I could have sworn Holly heard me call for them to wait up, but I guess not. The 4 minutes between classes was always stressful, and jockeying for a clear path in the hallways of Churchill Junior High was never easy; kids zig-zagging to avoid the obtrusive, saggy backpacks because the one-shoulder method was the only acceptable way to wear them. 

“Did you invite Sheevani?” I heard Holly ask Lindsey when I finally maneuvered into a spot behind them.

“No,” Lindsey said with a snicker, “She’s so annoying!”

“I know!” Holly said as her peripheral vision caught my presence behind them. Her face fell when she saw that my expression confirmed I had heard what they just said.

“Oh, um... not you Sheevani, another Sheevani... from the roller rink.” Holly’s wide eyes told Lindsey to play along.

“Right, um... we know another Sheevani... I think she goes to Shrine.”

I tried to respond but choked on the lump in my throat. Instead, I nodded and smiled, totally accepting their pathetic attempt to convince me there was another Sheevani in white-ass Royal Oak who goes to the local Catholic school. 

A few days later, I got a last-minute invite to Lindsey’s party. I wish I could say I didn’t go. I wish I could say I got the message that day in the hallway. I wish I could say I didn’t need their approval. Instead, I went to Lindsey’s party and pretended like I belonged. 

My previous post highlighted some moments in my life where I was able to change my mindset in order to bring some contentment to my life. In this post I’d like to discuss one of the areas where my mindset can’t or won’t budge; the need for validation from the wrong people. 

As you can tell from the opening story of this post, I wasn’t exactly crushing it when it came to friends in junior high school. Looking back on that time, I can confirm that I probably was annoying. I’m not trying to put myself down or justify how those girls treated me, but I do cringe at some memories of trying to fit in. My major issue was the desire to be “popular.” I had watched The Breakfast Club enough times to know that I’d much rather be the princess than the basket case. Prior to junior high, I was generally accepted. So, I figured, why not shoot for the fences when it came to new friends in junior high? I could totally fit in with these girls who suddenly seemed 20 years old. So what if my emotional maturity was still grounded in a world of playgrounds and flip-top desks?

The first half of the school year was spent trying to wedge my way into that world. I changed the way I spoke, acted boy-crazy, rolled my eyes at the “weird” kids, you name it. So, my fake-ass dove right in only to be spit back out. If only that rejection came with invisibility. Instead I was punished with a rotating set of cruel mind-games; looking at me and laughing, whispering to each other while looking in my direction, prank calling me almost every single day, calling my name over and over only to ignore me when I’d respond. The worst was “psyching” which meant they would act like my friend, sometimes for up to a week, and then at the end of the ruse one asshole would yell, “PSYCH!” revealing it was all a joke, and I was sent back further than where I started. Individually these may not sound so bad, but for a sensitive kid like me, it was torture and I fell in the trap every damn time. Girls at this age don’t need brute force, they are masters at devising psychological tactics specifically designed to torment their victim.

Today, there are a handful of people in my life who can trigger this weakness. These folks have shown, time and time again, that they have no genuine interest in me, yet I seek their approval. The degree to which I let it affect me varies, but I do grant a couple of them an unreasonable amount of power and I end up hating myself for it. 

How I Get Triggered to Seek Approval

  1. Meet someone who is well-liked by someone I know
  2. That person gets to know me
  3. We're cool and get along for weeks, months or even years
  4. Without warning, this person changes their attitude to either ignore me, act indifferent toward me or is plain nasty to me (an adult PSYCH! if you will). Various pieces of evidence show the behavior only applies to me and no one else in the friend-circle
wish I could change my mindset to say, “Oh well, I guess she doesn’t want to be friends,” and go on my merry way, but it stews in my head far too often and for far too long. I rack my brain to figure out if I did something to offend the person. Text chains are combed through, Facebook posts are scoured, every conversation examined as best as my memory can serve. Is there an odor I’m unaware of? Do I black out and start yelling insults? Did the recent selfie in my Depeche Mode shirt push them over the edge? Believe me, I’ve gone over it all and I always assume it’s my fault. And as difficult as this is to write out and share with you, I’m too afraid to ask them for the actual reason for fear of looking pathetic. 

As further evidence that this need for validation stems from my 7th grade anguish, the above scenario usually happens with women. I go into sort of a tailspin similar to when I wore tight-rolled jeans and Malibu Mist. I can’t help it. When I see the person in a social setting after the shunning, I’ll never reciprocate what she is dishing out. In fact, I go above and beyond to rekindle the connection and it never works. I guess it stings so badly because (brag alert) I’m generally a good person; I avoid drama, I’m sensitive to other people’s feelings, I’m supportive, I’m kind and most of all, I’m genuine. No longer am I pretending to be someone else for acceptance into a group. That’s something I’ve worked on for several years and well... (brag alert #2) I’m proud of the person I am today. 

The individuals who have this hold on me are well-liked by people I love and respect, so the need for validation stems from a place of, “I must not be good enough.” When I experience a shun from dickheads, I can brush that off very easily. Even when I decided to start this blog, I thought, “Oh, so-and-so will think this is so stupid.” In fact, I probably delayed my first post for a good month because I was thinking about the reaction of one person. It’s this senselessness that I wish I could reverse. Sometimes I can talk myself out of those emotions, but I know it’ll only last until the next trigger launches them out again.

Bottom line, I know it’s probably not me. These people may have other shit going on. Or, they’ve decided they just don’t like me. Perhaps someday I’ll get an explanation as to why they stopped calling, texting or caring about my life, but I’m not holding my breath. There are plenty of friends and family who support and love me, so focusing on the tiny number of people who do not is a waste of time. 

The power of that 7th grade experience astounds me. 28 years later and I can still be transported back to those same emotions when a friendship is abandoned. This stubborn mindset may never completely turn around, but I have noticed I’ve been able to reduce the length of time I will allow it to bother me... and that’s progress. I think that 12 year-old-girl would be happy to see the woman I’ve become, although she’d be sad that I didn’t marry the lead singer from Color Me Badd. 

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