Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Friday 25 June |
Saint of the Day: Bl. John the Spaniard
home iconFor Her
line break icon

How motherhood helped me overcome my addiction to validation

MOM,FAMILY

Alexander Dummer | CC0

Calah Alexander - published on 11/24/17

Today, I find my self-worth from within, rather than without.

I’ve always loved school, even as a kid. This was particularly true of college, where choosing what classes I wanted to take made me feel like a kid in a candy store. I loved everything about it — the reading, the writing, the discussions, even the tests.

So when I left school to raise my children, I found myself really missing school. I decided that I would embark on a self-directed poetry-reading project not unlike the infamous Junior Poet project we took at the University of Dallas. I chose my poet, got my books, and… never made it through the selected works, much less the complete works.

At the time, I chalked up my inability to study alone to the distractions of motherhood and the lack of socially engaging class discussions. But after reading an article at ThriveGlobal on the psychological link between trauma and work addiction, I wonder if it wasn’t something else entirely.

Like any problematic repetitive behavior, being addicted to work, validation, or success is an issue with lots of factors and possible treatments. In In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Maté distinguishes between contingent and genuine self esteem. The bigger the void that people feel, the greater the urge to get themselves noticed, and the greater the compulsion to acquire status. Genuine self-esteem, on the other hand, “needs nothing from the outside” — it’s a sense of feeling worthwhile, regardless of your accomplishments. “Self-esteem is now that the individual consciously thinks about himself; it’s the quality of self-respect manifested in his emotional life and behaviors.”

Gabor Mate is a doctor whose family fled the Holocaust when he was an infant. As an adult, he became addicted to his work as a doctor — ironically working often with drug addicts, whose experiences he chronicled in his book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction.

Mate told Thrive Global that addiction to work is addiction to a validation that fills a need inside oneself, and his need was created by the trauma of having an emotionally unavailable mother during the war years.

I’ve struggled with a similar need for validation through the years, though mine wasn’t caused by a trauma. That need for validation, and the related fear of disappointing others, was a strong motivator in my school years. Thinking back on my ill-fated independent poetry project, I think the lack of that motivation ultimately prompted me to abandon the project altogether.

Lucky for me, there’s no real validation in being a stay-at-home mom. No one claps for you when you mop the floors or gives you an A for successfully navigating a tricky parenting issue. No task is every truly completed, the semester never ends, and there are no days off. Basically, it’s a nightmare job for someone who depends on validation for their self-worth.

Over the years, though, that lack of validation has forced me to find my self-worth from within, rather than without. I’ve slowly learned to treat myself with the respect and kindness that I used to crave from others. It’s a work in progress, obviously, but it’s worth doing. I’ve always told my children that they have inherent dignity and worth, and I’m grateful that motherhood gave me a chance to learn that lesson for myself.




Read more:
Why are modern parents so overwhelmed and burned out?

Tags:
MotherhoodPersonal Growth
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
2
EUCHARIST
Philip Kosloski
Prayers to be said at the elevation of the host at Mass
3
SPANISH FLU
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
4
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
5
PARTY
Theresa Civantos Barber
Celebrate “summer Christmas” with these 5 traditions ...
6
Cecilia Zinicola
The best method for transforming annoyance and frustration
7
JEFF BEZOS' FATHER
John Burger
Parents of Amazon CEO donate $12 million to Catholic school
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.