Seeking validation

This is an excerpt from my journal.

I started blogging in 2010 before I eventually set up my website the following year. At the time I was a university student. I wrote about politics, the field of my studies. The first blogs I set up were toy projects to learn about the platform, experiment with different layouts, and the like. Once I had a good idea of what I was doing, I created a private blog for me and my classmates, thinking it would be fruitful for us to have a shared space to record our thoughts in written form and exchange comments about them.

What motivated me to pursue such an initiative was the belief that my enthusiasm to speak my mind through the pages of a website was shared among my peers. I quickly learnt this was not the case. Being situationally related to others does not necessarily mean you have overlapping interests. I was the only one in my group who wrote extensively and who cared about blogging.

The realisation was a moment of crisis, of judging how things stand and of making a decision with far-reaching implications. I questioned whether I wanted to be part of the group and behave the way they did, or heed the inner voice and pursue my intellectual curiosity despite the groups wishes, be they overt or tacit. “Why do I write?” I asked myself. It was not about making friends: I already had them. It was not about being popular: popularity in a small group of equals is irrelevant. Writing was a personal affair, springing from within and requiring an outlet to be made manifest.

I was hesitant to start a personal website. There was nobody to tell me if I was on the right path and whether what I was doing was worthwhile. Plus, I was a Bachelor’s student and it would be odd for someone of my status at the time to opine on highly technical matters. That is for experts to handle, no? People tend to have this self-limiting belief that unless they are the best in the given field, they are nothing. To me this always felt odd. If I am not good enough, others will be able to tell as much, and for as long as I am not seeking to deceive anyone, I will fearlessly express my thoughts. If others fail to recognise my ignorance, it is their problem, not mine. Still, not receiving any feedback was concerning. It made me question my judgement and meditate carefully about my next steps. “Do I seek validation?” I wondered, answering in the negative and venturing into the unknown. My inclination to write and to think things through found fulfilment in public writing. I was content with what I was doing, despite the absence of constructive commentary from those in my milieu.

What if I had conformed with the behavioural patterns of the group and refrained from ever publishing anything? Would it not be more prudent for a student to know their place? Norms never felt compelling to me qua norms without being backed by cogent arguments. What is wrong with a student participating in a public discussion? Let me be an ignoramus and deal with the consequences of my ignorance. I feel I would have lived with regrets, with self-contempt for yielding to heteronomy and the inertia it entailed in this case in exchange for conformity, i.e. the simulacrum of comfort. Instead, I did what gave meaning to my life, what my condition rendered necessary for my continued commitment to the work I was destined to do.

It is common nowadays to sound smart by dismissing the notion of “destiny” as some ancient superstition. Perhaps many of the narratives around the concept are indeed wrong and misleading, though the core tenet of not everything being in the person’s control seems relevant to me. I did not choose the set of talents I was endowed with, just as I had no input in how those would be combined with my personality and appearance as well as my particular upbringing, all of which contribute to how I conduct myself and am perceived by others. Give it whatever name you want, such as “genes” or “environment”, though the point is that factors beyond—and prior—to me contribute to state of affairs whose specifics and parametric aspects remain outside the purview of my volition.

I had to write. It was not a matter of choice, although it appeared as much, but of realising my potential. The plant must grow roots deeper into the ground. The bird shall fly to distant in search for temperate climates, and so will the human answer the inner call and echo, as it were, the voice of the muses.

I am reminded of those moments now that I live in the hut. Someone gave me advice to not build here because no-one will like what I am doing. Who is this “no-one”, anyway, and what is my relationship with them? I politely listened and ultimately did what I had to do. Other people’s opinion matters only when they understand you in light of the particularities of the case and have genuine insight to share. Many will be quick to share their thoughts without evaluating the prevailing conditions and with no effort whatsoever to understand who the person is in the specifics of the situation. They have no bad intentions, though they can still do harm if the person has not yet developed the requisite resolve to not seek validation from others for matters that are self-contained.

It does not matter if folks will like where I live and approve of how I do it, because they are withdrawn from these experiences as well as the drivers behind them. They cannot relate. Yet even if they can, their views are, at best, an assessment of how they would tolerate such conditions, not how I can cope with them. Each person is different: what is tolerable for me, is living hell for another. More importantly though, the person with a powerful motivation to act is willing to go to lengths that are otherwise too far away to fathom.

Should we thus not listen to others? No! We do not have all the answers and many erroneous ideas we entertain are not apparently false to us due of how attached we are to them. I think we must carefully assess whether the matter is personal or not. If I blog or not is of no import to those around me. Same for strictly in-house matters, such as if I have heating and warm water at the hut or not: they only affects me. If someone does not like cold showers, I see no problem in them increasing the water’s temperature. Life is simple this way. Perhaps then, the safest generalisation is to act decisively once you have concluded that no harm will be caused to anyone as a direct consequence of your actions.

The problem, however, is that no rule can ever be formulated in such a way as to cover all possible scenaria. There will be exceptions, meaning that we will always have to exercise judgement. It is why Athena, the goddess of wisdom, is represented as a hoplite, wielding a shield and a spear. Sometimes—sometimes!—the wisest course of action is to rise up to the occasion and fight. Sometimes! When exactly? That takes wisdom.