“When we consistently suppress and distrust our intuitive knowingness, looking instead for authority, validation, and approval from others, we give our personal power away.” ~ Shakti Gawain
I spoke candidly with my favorite clients this past week, as they gear up for full retirement in less than two months’ time. I’ve had the privilege of being their advisor and planner for five years, and they have entrusted me with their wealth, and ultimately the next phase of their lives together. As we discussed the logistics of investment portfolios and insurance coverage—sexy, I know—I saw a light shining through each of them that radiated such an immense level of joy it was difficult not to smile with them.
In my professional experience, getting to the emotional root of what people truly want from this life—financial freedom, should that ever exist, a second or third home, the ability to travel at will, peace of mind in any form—makes for a much more engaged client and a much more meaningful relationship between us. It is, however, necessary to maintain a level of professionalism that tends to minimize the giddiness that overwhelms me when we reach a milestone, big or small, together.
I giggle when I’m happy, and that generally doesn’t qualify as professionalism in my line of work. Although it should.
I couldn’t help myself, though, as they spoke of their carefully laid out plans to move on from the constant stress and nagging burdens of corporate America. They had given 80 years between the two of them doing the things they loved by excelling in work that exhausted them, emotionally and physically.
She battled cancer during her working years, and survived. He was unemployed for three long, gruesome years, and survived. Both grateful as we revisited their challenges and accomplishments alike. And they raised a beautiful family in the midst, allowing all three of them to grow up and be let go to serve their own purposes and feed their own souls. It was done, they told me in confidence, and I knew what they meant.
I had to suppress the joyful giggles as he began to answer my question regarding the reaction of his dedicated team at work when he shared the news earlier in the week. He had mentioned the anxiety he felt passing the buck, but knew it had to be done. He spoke with sadness in his voice:
“Overall, they are happy for us, but had invasive questions and disappointed faces that took me by surprise.”
What will you do with your time? How will you feel once you no longer have this as a grounding purpose, a reason to get up in the morning? How will we move on without you?
An odd sense of grief filled me as he spoke so candidly—the freest he has ever been with me in the room—about the need for validation from his team, his supervisors, his friends. He had delayed scheduling the conversation with them, as that anxiety crept up, rooted in the fear of not receiving a warm, encouraging response. The couple spoke of giving so much of their collective time to something, working diligently to create a lasting impression, to make sure others approved of their work and their time and their passion and their decisions. Validation, received over 40 years time, was about to disappear.
At least that’s what they felt when we spoke.
I could feel the energy shift as we sat at their over-sized dining room table. A sadness took over quickly as we all realized the power of what had just been said.
Without the need to seek validation through peers in the working world, would all be lost?
Of course there would be travel and family and reconnecting with one another in an empty house and time to enjoy the quiet, less hectic schedules. But is the specific type of acceptance that is granted through a job well done necessary to a fulfilling life? No one was certain, on way or the other.
I drove home from our meeting in quiet, considering their joyous yet terrifying journey on which they were about to embark. They—we—have planned and planned and planned for this moment, checking all the required boxes and filling in all the necessary holes. But the emotional turmoil that was about to reign down on them, that was already taking charge, was unexpected for all of us. I knew there would eventually be a shift away from that negative outlook, as the freedom of leaving work for good set in, but I questioned how someone in her late twenties could start doing the work necessary to make that shift, now.
The search for approval is never ending—work, friends, family. It can rule our days and make for sleepless nights.
I admire those who are able to be perfectly content with who they are and what they have created thus far, but I do not fall into that camp often.
Constantly needing both acceptance and the proverbial pat on the back is exhausting, but it feels too good to completely let go. And that is the lie validation presents: without it, we are nothing—worthless creatures simply occupying space on this earth. Our efforts are fruitless and our time poorly spent unless someone tells us that is not the case.
It is a challenge to break free from that damning belief, even after giving it all we’ve had for a lifetime.
But what I realized on my long drive home is that the only validation we need comes from within, fully and completely. If we cannot be enamored with who we are in this precise moment, the acceptance granted to us by others won’t serve any meaningful purpose. We will continue to seek it outside ourselves, until we understand and begin to embrace that we have it already. It exists, in this present moment, within us.
80 years of work between the two, and still they were concerned with who thought what of their next adventure in this short life. I understand it, but I am determined not to live it.
My intention is this: let go of the lies that validation holds over my head, and move forward knowing that there is no purposeful doing until there is fully being.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard