I was once in a relationship where communication was a huge issue. One of my biggest frustrations was that I felt like my partner didn’t understand me when I tried to express my feelings.
I would say how I felt, he wouldn’t respond, and I would get upset. Then he would say, “You just want to be validated.”
I began to believe that needing this from him was a weakness, and it took me a very long time to finally realize that needing validation isn’t bad. In fact, it’s normal.
Validation is nothing more than empathy, and empathy is connection. And human beings can’t survive without connection.
Not only that, we develop our identities in part based on how others respond to us. How we see ourselves is shaped by what is reflected back to us.
This need for connection and “sameness” isn’t limited to the emotional realm. You can also witness this on a physical level: your heart rate adjusts to match the heart rate of the person you’re with, and mirroring the body language of the person talking to you is a natural instinct. Validation is essentially a social survival mechanism that ties us together.
Ok, I’m sure you’re wondering: what does this have to do with weight loss?
Validation is positive to a point . . . but it takes a wrong turn when it’s used as an excuse not to grow.
When I hear my friends talking about losing weight, I hear a lot of statements about how hard it is to do. It’s hard to lose weight when you get older, it’s hard to lose weight when you have to buy junk food for your kids, and it’s hard to lose weight because you don’t have time to work out.
And there may be an element of truth to these statements. I’ve made many of them myself.
But the problem is that none of these statements are challenged. I’ve never heard the person on the receiving end say anything other than, “Oh my gosh, I know.”
Even worse is when the conversation turns into commiseration. It goes on and on, each person bolstering the idea that losing weight is hard with more and more evidence — until it practically becomes a truth.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “What you think about, you bring about.” But when you actually speak the words, what you’re saying is guaranteed to become a reality.
Why do we do this?
Part of it is to validate whoever is talking, but that’s only true to a point. I think the main reason we do this is to justify the lack of results in our own lives.
Please don’t get me wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve agreed with statements like these, and I’ve been the one making them too many times to count. And I know how much better it has made me feel to buy into the concepts of aging, busyness, and lack of time as reasons for why losing weight is hard.
But I also now know that none of these things makes it impossible to lose weight. And I also know that by validating these statements, I turn them into easy excuses for women I know and love to stop trying and to never make the changes they so desperately want.
The reason this is vitally important is because women are collectively turning the idea that losing weight is hard into a truth, and we’re creating an entire reality for ourselves that keeps reinforcing it as fact. And we’re keeping ourselves stuck.
Any woman I know would tell you that if she could find the specific combination of actions to take that would give her the body she so badly wants, she would take them. But this is a huge part of the problem.
The truth is that there is no one set of instructions, no matter how much we want to believe there is. And the reason we want to believe this is true is that it’s easier to believe in the magic bullet than it is to do the challenging work of changing our habits and slowly improving ourselves.
You can see evidence of this in the endless array of diets that exist and our constant buying-in to them out of desperation to finally lose weight.
The irony is that dieting never works, so your ultimate failure solidifies your belief that losing weight is hard and it becomes even more of a certainty. And so you have to keep clinging to the magic bullet, and so you keep dieting.
And in doing this, you never access the unlimited personal power you possess to make changes.
In order to make real changes, you have to take responsibility for where you are now. You have to accept the results you currently have and acknowledge that what you’ve been doing so far is what got you to this place. But by supporting the idea that losing weight is hard, you absolve yourself of responsibility.
If you challenge the belief that losing weight is hard and ask yourself, “Is it really that hard?” then you’re on the hook. Because if it’s not hard, then you can’t keep making excuses for why it is. And then you have to do the work.
It’s a lot easier to make excuses than it is to take responsibility. But do you want to stay where you are forever?
Letting go of the belief that losing weight is hard isn’t an admission of failure — it’s clinging to excuses that is. And taking responsibility means you’ve already won, because it’s the necessary first step toward making changes that last.
So back to validation.
On my own journey of taking responsibility, I’ve learned how not to seek the validation that ultimately keeps me stuck. And so I don’t make statements that require validation in the first place.
I’ve also learned something else: I can validate someone’s feelings rather than the statements being made. And then I can gently challenge them.
I now see that doing the opposite keeps my friends stuck, and I love them too much to do this.
So if this is a hard pill to swallow, at least consider this: is it possible that we’re making it harder to lose weight by supporting the idea that losing it is hard?
I think we are.
So let’s do ourselves a favor and stop keeping ourselves in an excuse-filled, sub-par reality. Instead, let’s turn simple validation into a combination of empathy and empowerment.
And let’s help each other be better.