What's one thing you know now that you wished you knew earlier?

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I don’t need validation from others.

It sounds simple, and you hear it all the time from self-help influencers. But growing up as an abandoned child, I spent my childhood, adolescence, and the first decade of my adulthood trying to get approval from my dad. Oldest story in the fucking book of pathetic people-pleaser children.

Now that I think back, the reason my dad never respected me is precisely because I tried too hard. I think he wanted a son with a strong personality, a son who could go toe to toe against him and have a shouting match. But he got a pathetic, timid daughter who changed her tone according to his whim. Except, I could never be the kind of child he wanted. Growing up, I was constantly reminded that if I didn’t behave, my grandma would kick me out of the house, and I would live on the streets. When you grow up in that kind of environment, you learn to watch the adults in the household. You learn to read their emotions and try to appease them to avoid a beating. And my dad hated that.

It was a losing game for me right from the start.

I grew a backbone against my family when I finally gained financial independence. My dad finally got the child he hoped for, someone with a strong personality who could match him in a shouting contest and throw the door and walk out of the house. I was able to do that because I had a place to go. I’m no longer afraid.

I felt that, at that point, he wanted to have a relationship with me. Because I was well-read and had some life experiences, not only could I carry a conversation matching his (supposed) intellectual level, but I could even talk about stuff he didn’t know. I could entertain him. And, of course, there’s the fact that I can speak English and help him navigate life in the US.

I’m no longer a chore, a responsibility for him. I’m entertaining, I’m useful, and I have money. I could tell his attitude toward me had changed. The annoyance and disdain were gone. He asked me to call him. He asked me to visit him. He got unhappy when I didn’t reply to his random text messages. Suddenly, the role switched. My dad was suddenly in my position, hoping for my attention.

I finally got the validation, the “fatherly love” I so desperately wanted as a child. And I didn’t want it. Because I know he didn’t change his attitude because he suddenly grew some empathy for me. No. He changed his attitude because my stepmother died, and he realized he had only one blood relative left who could take care of him when he needed it. And he made a pisspoor effort to “make nice” with me.

I think once I got over my childhood issue with my dad, nothing else mattered to me. I worked past taking negative feedback about my art in art school and later on the internet (LOL). I learned to ignore haters and just do my own thing. Through years of therapy, I learned to have very healthy self-talk. I learned to validate my emotions. I learned to analyze my actions and call myself out for questionable decisions without putting myself down. I learned to be my own best friend and biggest supporter.

When you know yourself, good and bad, it doesn’t matter how other people see you.

In the game Dragon Age 2, there was a little NPC banter between two companions, Isabela and Merrill. Isabela described how she would flirt with guys in a bar, and Merrill admired her flirting skills. Isabela replied, “You have no idea how many times they tell me to “fuck off, you pathetic old hag.” Merrill was shocked and asked: ”Doesn’t it bother you?” Isabela replied, “Why should I? They don’t know me. I know me.”

And that line just stuck with me over the years.

They don’t know me. I know me. Only I can validate myself. I don’t need to make other people proud. I want to make myself proud.

I wish I had known this earlier. I wish I weren’t that people-pleaser child who had desperately wanted validation from a narcissist. But then again, there are some lessons you have to learn the hard way. I’m just glad I finally learned it.

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