This is the column where, each week, I’ll be answering one website visitor’s question in hopes of encouraging and inspiring you all through your shared (and likely, relevant) challenges, triumphs, and struggles.
I have had such an ordeal in my life over the last 40+ years of needing to be acknowledged or having some validation that I am doing well in whatever I endure in life. I am in school now as a mature student and find that I am sad because I feel I don’t get the praise others do and yet am doing excellent in class.
Along with the feeling that I constantly have on my shoulders of not being good enough, I have found a friend in food about 7 years ago when my mom passed. I gained 100 lbs and find myself always making an excuse on why I will start the next day.
I did grow up as the youngest of many children in a poverty level and got beat up by kids because I looked so ragged.
Please shed some light on why I must have validation or approval to live my life!
Fed Up in Freeport
Dear Fed Up,
My condolences to you on the loss of your mother. I imagine no matter how much time goes by, it’s incredibly difficult to lose a parent.
It’s tricky when we find ourselves up against beliefs that we’ve long-held, but find now no longer serve us — for you I hear that it’s your need for outside recognition to feel worthy and valuable. You’re certainly not alone in your strong desire for praise and recognition. It’s one of our basic human top needs, according to Maslow’s hierarchy.
Because our belief system is formed between birth and age 6, if you found, growing up, that acknowledgment was lacking, coupled with the mistreatment you experienced by your peers, you’ll naturally carry that desire into adulthood. The good news is, now that you are a grown woman, you have the wonderful opportunity to be an exceptionally loving and caring mother to yourself.
That part of you that feels “less than” or invisible can be loved and seen by you. That’s where it has to start before you can really take it in from others. If you don’t believe it for yourself, others’ words temporarily will fill the hole, but like a colander, will drain out of the bottom.
So, in the meantime, when you aren’t feeling seen by others recognition nor yourself, in comes food to fill the void. As Geneen Roth (a brilliant woman and author, well-versed in the real meaning behind people’s struggle with food) says, There is no amount of food on the planet that can satiate spiritual hunger (I’m paraphrasing). When we feel invisible, especially to ourselves, it’s as if our spirit — that inner light — gets dimmer and dimmer; especially under the emotions you are likely stuffing down with food.
Your spirit deserves to shine brightly! There are a couple things I think would be helpful for you to consider (each working best when in conjunction with the other):
1. Find a skilled therapist or counselor if you don’t already have one. Be sure to interview a few (yes, I know it’s some leg-work) to see if their specialties and approach match what you need. No settling allowed!
2. Check out some of Geneen Roth’s work. Her books have helped thousands and thousands of people get clear on what’s really behind their eating.
I wish you all the best — you deserve nothing less.
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