On Self-Validation: What’s Real to Me


People have a tendency to say that other people who don’t think a certain way or do certain things, aren’t “real”—as if there was some benchmark to live up to in order to claim authenticity as a human being, and if you didn’t reach specific points on a benchmark, you’ve failed.

I’ve always had a problem with that sort of thinking.  We don’t consider people to be individuals with their own thought processes or their own specific situations.  We over-generalize based on what we assume (or, more accurately, what others assume should be ascribed to people) others should be doing to meet our standards.  When someone tells you that you aren’t “real” unless you match up under some standard that may not be functionally valid to your situation, the question that needs to be asked is: what were their expectations?

If other people can claim that I’m not “real” based on some narrow-minded assumption about how I should be or what I should be doing, based on standards that they set for me, and not based on my circumstances as they are taking place, then other people are attempting to define who I am through their set of filters.  That doesn’t seem right.  Yet, our culture does this all the time, to as many people as they can.

Advertising does this.  Opinion editorials do this.  Movies, music, parents, and friends do it.  Advice books do it all the time.  We’re all caught up in trying to determine a singular way of doing simple things like communicating with each other.  There are “rules” and “codes” that apply to simple acts like watching television or playing with toys.  From what I can tell, it’s mostly ridiculous; how is it that we’ve become so dependent on extraneous outside influencers to make decisions about what people should do in their lives?

I suppose that’s why I don’t take the relationship advice sub-genre of self-help seriously at all.  Here, we have individuals writing books and scribes and saying things that may not apply to everyone they’re trying to reach.  And yet media reinforces these things as law—in order to get the perfect mate, you must do these things, and they must be these things, and if they’re not, they’re disqualified.  Really?  So there’s no accounting for that person being their own individual, with their own set of qualities—good and bad—that can be dealt with?  That they must fit into this label, this box, or else they don’t fit anywhere at all?

But then we wonder why our dating culture is completely jacked?

We’ve created these dense regulations about finding mates, and then we complain about there not being enough mates that fit within the provisos which we’ve created.  Yet we don’t ditch the conventions and think about it in a different way; instead, we buttress them by following the errant advice of some clown writing a book, or some radio or TV host somewhere—people who haven’t written or said anything that far outside of the conventions which culture has set up.

I mean, how can I be a “real man”, if there are wide-ranging and divergent definitions that other people believe in, some which may not even apply to me?  Further, why would I want to enter into a relationship with anyone that would not or could not accept me for the person I am now, and trying to become, and instead expected me to fill a checklist of their expectations for me?  That doesn’t seem like an honest, caring, or fulfilling relationship to me: “you don’t have this, you don’t do that, and you’re not this, so you’re not a ‘real man’, and I can’t with you.”

Says who?

And that applies to other things I can name, too.  I read and write, so I’m “trying to be White” because I choose to educate myself and not be ignorant.  I don’t have an exclusive attraction to Black women, so I must not be attracted to anything other than White women.  I care about what happens to women, so I’m some gay, man-hating feminist.  I don’t work (yet), and poor, so I must be indolent.  I go to therapy, so I must be crazy.  I support the president, so I never disagree with him on anything, ever.  I don’t align with any political party, so I’m stupid.  And so on, and so forth.  Because I do or think or say x, you think I’m y, because you expected n from me.  That’s on you.

See, according to other people who would rather presume what they know about me, rather than ask me; I can’t be an individual who has his own thought process, opinions, views, problems, likes and dislikes.  No, I must fit into a pre-slotted label box, where I can be clearly identified as “something” by all people, rather than me defining who I am by what I do and how I think.  All of which is a profoundly languid philosophy.  And I reject it.  This is all a method to deduct people’s self-esteem, and make them conform to an idealistic standard or way of thinking that is set by someone else.

The way I see it is, if you can’t accept me for the things I know I am, or what I do, or whatever it is that makes me me, then I don’t need you around me at all.  Why would I?  I don’t need to be somebody else, at this point; I’ve got enough to work on trying to make the best things about me better than they are now, and the worst things are fixable and can be improved—even with my stubborn nature.  It’s work that most people don’t want to participate in, and I understand that.  It’s going to be work I will undertake alone, for the most part.  But I’m trying.

And to me, the effort is what counts.  Even if it means going it alone.  Because I can’t accept society’s generalized dictation about what I am, and I can’t accept people who buy into that.  I’ve lived long enough, I’ve learned enough, and I’ve done enough to figure out what standards and morals I need to live by; the things I can accept from people, and the things I need to do for myself.  That’s my guiding principle, and that’s what I intend to follow.

If you can’t accept that, feel free to pick up the next ten books for sale explaining how to get a square peg to fit into a round hole.