She thinks, See me. See me. See me. ―Gabrielle Zevin
You’ll have less heartaches and disappointments if you stop seeking from others the things only God and you can give yourself. ―Yvonne Pierre
I wish someone, sometime when I was growing up, would have told me what expectations would get me. ―Chris Crutcher
When it comes to validating your experience, you’re the only person for the job.
A teenager rushes over to me, outraged by a theatrical director’s slight. I’m sorry she’s upset and listen to her supportively, but I must not appear adequately distressed because she proceeds to detail prior events in the hope that if I understand exactly what happened, I’ll agree with her assessment of the situation and properly mirror her outrage.
The girl is hurt and looking for solidarity; she wants me to validate her experience. But the events she describes don’t seem so bad to me; I don’t think the director was out of line. I respect her feelings, I just don’t share them. She takes my mild response like a slap in the face and stalks off, angrier than before.
It’s natural to seek sympathy when we’re distraught. When I feel awful, I’m comforted by a heartfelt, “That sucks.” It means, “I care about you. I see your misery. I’m sorry you’re in pain.” It does not mean, “I totally agree with your reaction. You should be outraged. I’d be livid if it happened to me. You were wronged.”
There’s a difference between seeking sympathy and seeking approval. Friends can usually offer the former, but the latter is a crapshoot. Experience is subjective—you can never adequately recreate yours for me, and because mine is different, my responses would differ anyway. In any case, your account is never the full story. If comforting you requires your friends to mirror your reactions, it’s a coin toss whether or not you’ll be disappointed.
Something to keep in mind when you’re catching up with family and friends this holiday season.