Affirmation is one of the most indispensable of the human needs. Without at least some degree of validation and appreciation, it is barely possible to survive, let alone thrive. If we do not feel this sense of validation, we spend our time seeking it out from others, whether we admit it or not. A lot of human behavior is perplexing until it’s seen as an attempt of self-affirmation and self-worth.
How the need for affirmation turns to judgment
The problem is that our society constantly undermines our self-validation. The entire advertising industry is premised on the assumption that you are inadequate. You don’t have enough money, you’re not healthy enough, your house isn’t nice enough. Modern society adds an endless list of new criticisms, and frum life adds more on top: you’re not a good enough parent, you’re not frum enough, you’re not sending your children to the right school.
The urge to judge oneself negatively in such an environment is overwhelming. To give in and judge ourselves by the unreasonable standards demanded by society would be devastating. Being true to your values and achieving realistic goals requires strength. The easier way is to of course turn the urge to judge outwards, onto others.
It’s easier because everyone else is in the same position as you. There is always someone to judge, someone to look down on. Everyone is either too frum or not frum enough, too protective of their children or negligent, working too hard or lazing around. All one has to do is pass judgment and then, as if by magic, your own choices in life suddenly seems much more valid.
The true path to happiness
However, while pushing the urge to judge outwards buys you relief, it doesn’t bring lasting satisfaction. Ultimately, it further undermines one’s sense of self-worth, since, in truth, it is ourselves we are judging in others. Deep down we remain unsatisfied, unhappy. We then engage in numbing behaviors, such as compulsive shopping, drinking, and overeating. This escape from vulnerability is forced upon us because we are too caught up in judging those around us to find mutual support and validation.
Escaping from the vicious cycle of loneliness, judgment, and escapism is not easy work. The rewards, however, are truly beyond value.
If you feel that you need help finding your self-affirmation and happiness, reach out for help. Psychotherapy with Marcia is available online and in-person. Reach out today for an appointment.Please share this post!