Now that I'm single, how do I stop needing validation from men?
November 27, 2012 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Now that I'm single, how do I stop needing validation from men?

I've been in consecutive LTRs since I was 16 (about 10 years), without more than a three month break in between.

My most recent breakup was because I didn't think I was being self reliant enough. Depending on my ex for too many things wasn't fair to him, and was holding me back from growing as a person. So I broke it off and am imposing singleness on myself.

Now I have to be more accountable for myself (for instance, not completely relying on one guy for emotional support, or having to call AAA to come rescue me from a snow drift instead of just calling the bf), which I'm finding to be harder than I thought. Turns out, I'm pretty clueless when it comes to a lot of obvious things since I'm not used to being on my own for them. I'm not proud of it.

The biggest trouble I've had so far with the whole thing is feeling the need for male attention. This is a new, embarrassing feeling for me, having been happy with the amount I got previously from SOs. I absolutely hate it. The need for approval and "you're pretty!" from men is overwhelming, and I'm so easily crushed when I don't get it. I'm trying not to hate on myself too hard for it, but it really feels pathetic.

How do I not feel like that? How do I stop needing validation from men?

I should add that since my last breakup, I've changed jobs from a fast-paced job where I'm always interacting with the public and getting a lot of attention to one where I work alone, during winter, in a tourist town. I love it, but it's ridiculously lonely. Add to that, I barely see my friends because I work 12 hour days 5 days a week, and it's basically a recipe for HOLY SHIT I NEED A LIFE.

I could really use some solid advice. Hope me?
posted by moons in june to Human Relations (16 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Turns out, I'm pretty clueless when it comes to a lot of obvious things since I'm not used to being on my own for them. I'm not proud of it.

Be kind to yourself. You're young. Lots of people are clueless about things that seem obvious but aren't, for lots of reasons. Maybe they grew up in rentals so didn't get to learn by watching people using basic tools around the house. Maybe they grew up with a strong traditional father figure and clearly defined gender roles. In your case you've always had a boyfriend around you could rely on.

Whatever the reason, it's common for anyone who's on their own for the first time to feel overwhelmed and unprepared, so don't sweat it. Just be an active participant in everything from here on out. When you call AAA, ask the towtruck guy a bunch of questions about avoiding snowdrifts and what to keep in the trunk and etc., and increase your own knowledge base. People like to help out and teach others, and the more confident you feel the less you will need external validation, whether male or overall.

The loneliness from your job is probably not helping. If it's quiet and off-season, is there anything you can be doing while working? Can you be reading the classics online, or learning Spanish, or knitting preemie caps? Again, anything you can be doing that helps you accomplish things independent of a partner is going to strengthen your "I AM WOMAN" roar and make you less dependent on others.
posted by headnsouth at 3:48 PM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

We're social animals. We need validation from our groups. It's basic. It's not something to be ashamed of.

Here I am... a male handing out manformation and manswers. Jeez.

(I have a similar isolation problem and I'm dealing with it by getting what I need. It's a good approach. The hard part is identifying what I NEED, as opposed to what I would like. Big diff.)

Good luck. Shiz did not clear up for me until I was a widower at 44. Cleared up fast.
posted by FauxScot at 4:20 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'll agree with the previous comment that it's easy to feel overwhelmed and underprepared when you're out on your own. When I first moved, I called my parents almost every time I tried to cook something, had car troubles, etc. Over time, I learned little things to be more self-reliant. I scribbled down recipes with clear instructions in my own words. I kept notes in my car on how to jumpstart and how to change a tire. Even if I couldn't DO it myself, I could explain it to someone who was willing to help (a shocking number of people own jumper cables and are willing to help but have no idea what to do).

As for emotional support, try to broaden your network. Instead of leaning on one guy, lean on your friends, family, coworkers, or a therapist, in addition to a guy (if there's one in your life at the time). Spreading out your support network means less risk if any one person disappears from your life.

Male attention is tricky to overcome. Over time, though, you gain a stronger sense of how awesome you are, and hopefully friends and family are emphasizing that too. You start to rely less on attention from any one person.

Good luck!
posted by JannaK at 4:26 PM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's not just validation from men--it's validation from anyone other than yourself. When you learn to operate on your own authority and understand that the only approval that really matters is your own--everything else is gravy. It's okay to want to be thought of as attractive/cute/pretty/sexy/stylish or whatever, but putting all your eggs in the basket of outward appearances can be pretty risky--what are you going to do when you get old? Hide in a dark room all day or go around in a long black veil?

I think everyone needs friends and support and hugs and stuff, but learning to be your own white knight, your own boon companion and your own good provider means that you're never bereft.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:20 PM on November 27, 2012 [11 favorites]

On the self-reliance, make a list of things you want to know how to do and objectives for each that could realistically be achieved in a short time - say two weeks. Then learn them. In two weeks you'll be able to change your own oil, in another two you'll know how to replace a light switch and how home wiring works, etc. A few of these under your belt will also solve your validation problem as your confidence in yourself grows.
posted by Blue Meanie at 6:03 PM on November 27, 2012

I don't know that I can tell you how to stop needing validation from men, but here is a few suggestions that might perhaps help a little.

Firstly, figure out specifically what it is that you want to have validated. Make as complete a list as possible. You don't need to know why you need these things validated. You just need to know what the things are. It really helps to know what your needs are, and you're probably going to find that they are generally reasonable. We all need to know that we're good company. We all need to know that we're lovable. We all need to know that we're attractive to somebody. As was said upthread, we're social creatures, and much of who we know ourselves to be comes from seeing ourselves reflected back by others.

Now that you know your needs, it is time to determine who your peer groups are. You probably have most of the following: Yourself, family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, coworkers, people you know from volunteering or hobbies, etc.

Now go through your list of stuff you need validated. See how much of it you honestly feel you can assign to yourself to take care of; there may be a few. And then start asking if there are people in these peer groups, or if the groups themselves, can offer the support your need. And by that, ask yourself, when I am with this group or this person, do I feel the way I need to feel to fulfill this need. Family, as an example, may (or, sadly, sometimes may not) fulfill the desire to be loved. Social peer groups might already fulfill the desire to feel witty, or to feel fun to be around, or similar needs.

Are there gaps? Ask yourself if this is somebody you need a romantic partner to fulfill, or is there some person or group of people that can support you on this. Let's say you're smart, and one of the things you like about a partner is that they validate your intelligence. Would a reading group do that? Would weekly trivia? Is it something you can validate yourself by watching game shows, or writing, or something else that takes advantage of your intelligence?

Write down what you feel you need validated. Track it. See if what you're doing to address it takes care of the need. If not, revisit and find another solution. Do you not feel fully satisfied? Increase the amount you address the need until you do. Oversatisfied? Decrease. And you may find your needs are greater or less, depending on your mood, or the season, or how busy you are, or whatever. That's fine. The nice thing about knowing how to address your needs is you can always go out and get satisfied, when you feel you need it.

I hope that helps! I do believe that our emotional needs are profound and deserve to be respected, so it always helps me to find out what it is that I need and work from there. And I especially like that I know how to take care of my wants, and am not reliant on any one person to take care of it for me. It puts me in the driver's seat. No one person has ever been very good at satisfying my needs. But a whole bunch of people manage to do it, in pieces, without even meaning to do so.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:42 PM on November 27, 2012 [17 favorites]

I've found that creating things helps to reshape self valuation and builds mental independence. This could be choreographing dance, painting, building something, writing, etc. I too realized that I learned to get some sense of self through the various aesthetic judgments of those around me, especially men. But being an actor and creator in the world seems to refocus my own attention. Good luck.
posted by sb3 at 7:47 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Travel by yourself. It does wonders for your perceived ability to cope in solo situations. Sure, it can be a bit lonely here and there, but you will never have to negotiate where to have dinner, stay at which hotel, when to take a pee break.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:51 PM on November 27, 2012

How do I not feel like that? How do I stop needing validation from men?

As women, we are socialized to seek validation from men. It takes some doing, but we can break free of that programming.

You learn to validate yourself. It's a gradual process, but it starts with doing things you don't know how to do because you have always depended on others to do these things for you. Take a course in small home repairs, for instance. Look up "How to (do whatever)" online. I think you will be surprised to find that most obvious, routine things are actually pretty easy for anyone who is willing to try.

As for the emotional validation, you can do that for yourself too. Start with giving yourself props for just wanting to be self-reliant. Here, let me give you a kick-start: you are a perceptive and admirable young woman for recognizing a need to improve yourself and taking the initiative to ask for help. Good for you!

This is cut'n'pasted from another, related question:

Appreciate yourself for qualities that are not looks-related. If you can't think of any, develop some. Be a hard worker, a generous friend, a staunch ally to the oppressed, an inspired creator, an expert on something, unfailingly kind to strangers, things like that.

When you are feeling the need for validation, remind yourself of the good qualities you possess. Remember kind things others (not necessarily men) have said about you.
posted by caryatid at 8:03 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


This, not men in particular, is likely the problem. You do need a life. You need to become so fascinated and interested in yourself, what you're doing, your ideas, your projects, and your friends that you aren't looking for validation and fascination from outside, men included. You aren't interesting enough to yourself yet. How could you be? YOu haven't spent enough time on your own to really know and develop yourself.

Give it time. Get more deeply involved. IT's good that you love where you live. Explore it. Go to events, even if you think they aren't really for you. Take long walks. Draw and write. Try a new hobby. Learn something - cooking, cross country skiing, whatever. Figure out what interests you about you.
posted by Miko at 8:33 PM on November 27, 2012 [10 favorites]

Lots of men have to call AAA when their cars get stuck in snowdrifts, too. This isn't about you and Men, this about you learning self-reliance (which includes making a decision to call AAA rather than digging your car out yourself, if that seems like the right decision).
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:18 PM on November 27, 2012

When I was a (male) teen I had quite bad acne to the point where I found dating girls very difficult. What it basically taught me me was that if they didn't want to see beneath the surface then it was their problem not mine. Not saying it necessarily made me any happier but it stopped me being sad about *that*. I guess you could now call that stopping needing validation from girls. It was a lesson I'm glad I had, I have never since courted popularity.

Learn to do things on your own and to be self contained and happy without being a recluse or a loner. BUT know when to get help, and when to give it. Let other people take you for what you are. Some people will like you for it, some won't. That's how it is.
posted by epo at 2:36 AM on November 28, 2012

It's good that you recognize your dependency issues but it sounds to me like you find them so horrifying that you are forcing yourself to go cold turkey. This force approach probably appears as strength to you, but it's just "counter-dependency." You need to become more accepting of who you are and less insistent that you meet some exacting standard in a big hurry.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:58 AM on November 28, 2012

Honey, even IN a relationship, no partner of any gender should be where you get validation from. It sounds like the heart of this is that you need to maybe do some self-esteem work?
posted by DarlingBri at 6:39 AM on November 28, 2012

Once you have a better handle on some of the validation that you need, start by giving it to yourself. I try to mentally say, "hi, pretty!" when I see myself in the mirror. Sure, it's hokey, and I know I'm not traditionally pretty. But it sure helped me stop spiraling out bad associations from feeling less-than in the most-of-my-adulthood that I was single. I try to mentally congratulate myself when I do a hard workout or accomplish some new grown-up task or Anything hard.

Also, think about on-line social validation. I'm a member of the metafilter Health Month team, and having a like-minded group of on-line people to commiserate when I didn't make a goal and cheer when I do is really, really great.
posted by ldthomps at 10:31 AM on November 28, 2012

My most recent breakup was because I didn't think I was being self reliant enough. Depending on my ex for too many things wasn't fair to him, and was holding me back from growing as a person. So I broke it off and am imposing singleness on myself.

I haven't read the entire thread but I want to pick up on this right here. Because this? ^^ Right there, that is one of the most self-affirming, validating, courageous and empowering steps you can take on the path towards independence and maturity. Seriously. It took me thirty-seven years before I made that leap towards realizing I didn't need a LTR to validate me as a worthy human being. Some people never get there - they'll eventually just marry into the codependency because "it's the best I can do", and spend decades just sort of... drifting through life, at best, or alternatively making themselves and someone else (plus kids, maybe) miserable. Sometimes it works, mostly it doesn't.

But you already took that first step. You knew you needed this space to grow. That's incredibly wise. And you're getting great advice here too. From my own experience, the best way to stop these obsessive, intrusive feelings (if that's what they are) of needing to be validated, is to find something else to fill up your mental space. Lonely job is maybe not the best for that, but if it's what you have to endure, is there anything you can multitask with (idk, good podcasts, yoga breaks, go for walks on the beach or whatever) to get you out of your own head a bit? I know the need for approval and feeling crushed that you describe, oh believe me, I've been there. The only way I ever found to pull my brain out of the crazymaking rut was to acknowledge I was having a oh-shitty-me day and just actively work to derail that mental track with busywork or riding my bike; music helped a lot, too. Sometimes I would just get super pissed off and CLEAN ALL THE THINGS, but that helped too, because: yay clean living space!

I know there are some basic life skills you feel like you're lacking right now, but it sounds like you're on top of the AAA membership, so that's another step in the right direction. And you know, the feeling clueless thing? That... actually kind of never goes away, sorry. My 82 year old aunt just got a new smartphone and has had to figure out how to find apps for it to make it do what she wants (she called my husband at first, now she's self-sufficient). I myself recently had to swallow my pride and admit that, even after a lifetime of being a car geek, to the point of doing SCCA racing, I still had no idea how to to drive stick. We're all just making it up as we go along, really. It certainly gets better as you get older, but it never goes away completely. Do you have a good friend and/or relative you can call for advice when you're really stuck? If not, maybe see if you can make good connections with a neighbor or colleague? Our neighbor across the street jumped our car one morning when it wouldn't start, and collects our mail when we're on vacation. In return, we put his bins out on the curb and shoveled his walk when he was away on a work trip. Community is there for a reason; we are social animals and even in the absence of romantic relationships, we should strive to make connections for no other reason than it smooths our path in life on the little stuff, and we all need to cooperate to survive. That's not seeking validation, that's being human.

And making it up as you go along also means you get to have some crazy adventures, because life isn't perfect, it's kind of messy. You'd be amazed at how empowering it feels to just throw up your hands and go "omfg there's a RAT IN MY TOILET what the actual hell??!!" And yeah, you'll be embarrassed to ask right up until you realize everyone else is going OMG NO REALLY?!? CHRIST ALIVE THAT'S SCARY, AND EW! HERE, TRY THIS THING, AND THEN THIS, AND ALSO THIS, AND LET US KNOW WHAT WORKED!! and then you'll have a hilarious story to tell your grandkids about that time when you lived abroad with three other people in a crappy basement flat and FOUND A RAT IN THE TOILET and you were so completely aghast that you stood on a chair in the hall with your laptop to ask the Internet for help whilst the boy roommate cavalry charged in with barbeque tongs and a bucket and a rat eviction notice, and all the while you were jumping up and down going "ew holyshit fuckityfucking ew ew ARGH!!" ...because that last bit would have been the sum total of my reaction for sure
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:58 PM on November 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

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