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Who Would Want to Hurt My Favourite Thing?

Can we return to the idea of validation?

Josh pointed out one night that the reason the Wolvog had such anxiety over the idea of an Internet blackout on March 31st (was that seriously a month ago?) was that he couldn’t fathom why someone would choose to harm the Internet.  There was no point a person could raise that would be worth it in the Wolvog’s eyes.

Computers are his cake and the Internet is its icing.  The iPad without Internet service is still fun but add in a wifi connection and you will see his tiny body start quivering.

The idea of hurting his favourite thing — even to make a larger point — is unfathomable.  It would be the equivalent of strangling kittens to protest the use of animals in medical experiments or beating people to make a statement about violence against women.

It freaked him out.


I think it’s a human trait to assume that people will like what we like; or while we can understand that people have different tastes, we think to ourselves anyway, “they are really missing out.”  Meat eaters have told me that I “don’t know what I’m missing.” (This is true, I don’t know what I’m missing, but I think the point is also that I don’t care about what I’m missing.  I don’t consider myself missing something.  Whereas someone who likes meat would definitely feel themselves missing something if they were in my shoes.  Though I feel nothing of the sort being me in my shoes.)  And let’s be blunt: we’ve seen it in our own online community in regards to people’s choices in resolving their infertility, especially when it comes to resolving by living child-free after infertility or loss.

And yet, as rational human beings, we also know that just because someone looks at the world in a different way doesn’t mean that it negates our choices or our likes.  You can like vanilla and I can like chocolate, and neither fact makes a statement about the quality of either vanilla or chocolate.  My lack of meat eating doesn’t change your meat-eating world; doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat meat nor does your eating it mean that I should eat meat.  We can each make vastly different choices and not have it be commentary on what we think about the other option.

It is entirely possible to choose one thing without making a value statement about the other choice.

And yet, in our emotional world, we want people on our side, to see the world our way because it validates our choice.  If people choose a different path, it’s very easy to get caught up in wondering about the hidden meaning behind that choice.  Did they choose to not eat meat because they believe meat-eating is bad?  Because they think it’s cruel to animals?  Do they think I’m cruel to animals if I eat meat?  I’ve had people try to convince me to try meat, and it becomes clear very quickly that it has nothing to do with what they believe is best for me, but because they want us to be in agreement, standing on the same side of the meat-eating divide.


I can’t fathom why people wouldn’t like blogging, though I meet people who say it all the time.  Not that they don’t want to write one, but that they don’t even want to read one.  It’s not a judgment call — they think it’s fine that I blog and that I like to read blogs.  They just can’t imagine spending their time on it much in the same way other activities that people love don’t appeal to me.  I don’t ski, for instance.  I have and didn’t enjoy it, so I haven’t gone in years.  I really only went in the first place to be with my sister and father who both enjoy skiing.

It’s taken well into adulthood to stop doing things for the wrong reasons.  I was that teen who would have jumped off the cliff if others were jumping just because I wanted the connection; even if we already had ten places where we already connected.  I always needed that eleventh place; didn’t want to feel left out or that I was missing something (even if it was just cliff jumping).  I can still sometimes catch myself doing it now, going somewhere I don’t really want to go just for the sake of not missing out.

Sometimes I think we unconsciously go along because we want to validate someone else’s idea.  People like people who support them, who confirm their good ideas.  We rarely wonder why people agree with us though we spend a hell of a lot of time dissecting possibilities for why someone disagrees with us.  So we say yes to the activity even if we don’t like it or we do like it but it doesn’t fit into our schedule at the moment because we want to be that agreeable person; we want to have the other person see our similarities.  We validate them and they validate us at the same time — we were chosen for the activity (They really like you!  Validation!) and they chose the activity (I have great ideas!  Validation!). It’s a great big validation party.

We’ve talked a lot about people being validated, chosen, noticed in the other two posts (Validation and Being Counted) a few weeks ago, but I think it’s equally important that our choices are valued and confirmed.  We want to hear from others that we’re spending our time well.  We’ve chosen worthy activities.  We’ve accomplished something by how we’ve spent our time.  We want people to not only respect our decisions, but to respect us for making those decisions.  To agree with us that the decisions we’ve made are the best ones we could possibly make given the circumstances.

A lack of comments or page views isn’t just about not being noticed.  It makes us wonder if we’re using our time wisely.  Our rational brain can tick off all the things we gain from blogging that are not tied to numbers — a few quality relationships, maybe an interesting opportunity, some information we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.  But then our emotional side kicks in and we start looking at those numbers as validation for time well spent.

If people visit our blog or respond to our words, it’s confirmation that I’m using my time well.  That I am producing something of worth.  Time is spent well on creating things of worth ergo, I’m doing something rockin’.

And I am drawn to other bloggers because they confirm my choice of activity.  They blog which means I’m on the right path if I blog.  If I was the only blogger, I would wonder if I was doing something worthy of time or if this was a complete waste.  But I’m not the only blogger; there are millions of us.  So I look at those millions as being part of my confirmation that I’m doing something that has some value even if the value is not monetary.  The value may be the friendships gained or the self-esteem obtained.  Millions of people can’t be wrong.

It takes a lot of emotional yanking to stop your mind from going to the place of “there is something wrong with my activity choice” when people say they don’t like what you like.  We all know that it’s entirely possible to not enjoy blogging and not have it be a statement on the worth of blogging.  To have it simply be a matter of taste.  Because it feels so personal, this idea of someone not liking what you like.  It doesn’t just have to be our activities.  It’s anything — our ideas, our values, our religion, our political beliefs, the way we have chosen to resolve our infertility — that are an extension of our self, of our being.  The things that make me, Melissa and the things that make you, You.


The Wolvog can’t wrap his mind around the idea that someone could harm his favourite thing.  He can’t wrap his mind around the idea of hackers wreaking havoc.  He can’t wrap his mind around the idea of spammers cluttering up his inbox.  In the same way that an environmentalist can’t fathom why a person would litter and mess up a gorgeous landscape, the Wolvog cannot let go of his belief that the Internet is a wonderful and vast playground that should be treated with reverence.  The boy has been known to stand in front of the modem just smiling at the blinking lights.  He’s the sort who would jump at the chance to cuddle up with a Mifi.

It scares him to consider this idea of someone not loving the Internet the way he loves the Internet.  Because it’s a commentary on how he spends his time?  Because he doesn’t want something he loves defiled?  Because how could someone not love something so absolutely fantastic and fascinating as the world wide web?

Because if someone can choose something else, especially the inverse of the thing he loves, does that make a statement on the worth of what he loves?  That is a very scary thought — we’re on earth for such a short period of time, no one wants to use their time poorly.  We all want to hear that we’ve made the best choices, that our decisions are cherished since they’re an extension of our selves.  We all want to believe that we’ve picked the best for ourselves given the choices at our disposal.

It’s a hard lesson; that not everyone will agree with you and that by holding a different opinion, it doesn’t mean they’re against you.  It can sometimes just mean that they’ve chosen something different and they are equally struggling with the fact that you aren’t standing with them just as much as you are struggling with the fact that they aren’t standing with you.  It’s a hard lesson to learn that our confirmation and validation needs to come internally rather than externally.  That if we love what we’re doing, we should just keep doing what we’re doing.  And not worry about the rest of the world or what their choices mean in connection to ours.  I don’t know many people who can consistently tune the external world out and merrily go about loving what they love regardless of what anyone else thinks.  I know I certainly can’t.  So I’m not sure how to teach it to the Wolvog.


1 Chickenpig { 05.07.12 at 10:04 am }

Meat? Eh…you’re not missing much 🙂 Except for bacon, there isn’t any meat that I would truly miss.

I for one HATE lobster. Hate, hate, hate it. My husband, and many other people, just loovey love the stuff. My husband still considers it validation if I will try it. I don’t have any personal reasons for not eating lobster, religious or otherwise, so I do eat stuff with lobster in it on occasion…but it still tastes foul. Maybe if it was wrapped in bacon and smothered with a tasty cream sauce?

2 Amy { 05.07.12 at 10:12 am }

Very timely. I spent Saturday evening fretting because a friend had read one of my recent posts and said essentially she’s offended because I’m making a value statement that adoption is the third class way to have a baby. I am still so mortified by that…first of all, my blog is about MY journey grieving the loss of my twins and trying to conceive again through infertility. Why she would feel I’m making a blanket statement about adoption in general is confusing and downright offensive to me. There are very valid reasons why adoption is my (and my husband’s) third choice, not the least of which is that we want and deserve a do-over. Exchanges like this make me want to shut down and not blog, but then I have to remember who I write for…me.

3 Bea { 05.07.12 at 10:55 am }

I would say that teaching him to tune it out is perhaps futile, a), and b) not entirely desirable in some respects. I think when you are out of step with the world it is good to question yourself. And the world. Either could be wrong, of course, although statistics might give us different odds either way. And in some cases it’s not a matter of right or wrong, it is merely a matter of taste, and it’s no sin to have unusual taste. In fact, it’s kind of special, though it comes with its own pros and cons.

Instead maybe he needs to learn how to generate a range of alternative explanations from (the vegetarian example is easier) the person is against using animals for food for ethical reasons (and therefore probably believes animals shouldn’t be consumed as food by anyone, although they may or may not be evangelical in this view), the person has been raised in a cultural environment where meat-eating is eschewed (and may or may not have reflected heavily and actively chosen to live that way themselves), the person is on a budget and meat is too damned expensive, the person does not like the taste/texture/smell of meat, either cooked or in preparation, the person has individual health reasons for not eating meat themselves, due to their own medical history, but realises these concerns do not apply to most others. Most of those explanations have nothing to do with his choices at all. So this might then give him a sense that he probably shouldn’t worry about it. And then if he’s still worried, by all means clarify directly, I suppose… I mean it gets tricky from there, but hopefully just seeing the list like that would settle a person down.

And then a few methods of dealing with the practicalities of being the odd person out. If you eat differently to everyone else, how are you going to join in a meal without making people feel as if their company or hospitality isn’t appreciated? If you have an unusual hobby, how are you going to locate the equipment and social group you desire to carry it on? Etc etc.

So I’m not sure if you’re wanting to teach him to get his validation internally, exactly… I guess I’m saying something along the lines of assessing external comments before taking them on board, against some yardstick of values. Rather than creating validation internally out of thin air. So the values (I am suggesting here – I don’t think these will be offensive to you though) would be a sort of live and let live, do unto others type thing. You look at the reasons behind actions including your own, work out any potential harm, try and put a stick in the sand between your reasonable right to swing your fist and the likelihood of it striking someone’s face, so to speak. If that makes sense.

I guess all this blather is my way of trying to figure out where the issue is, because I’m not 100% sure I’m seeing your issue 🙂 Tell me if anything is falling near the ballpark?


4 Bea { 05.07.12 at 11:07 am }


Mr Bea says this is an art vs science thing.

In art, if you are an artist, you need to do be able to believe in your own work when nobody else does. This is because you need to be original and nobody else will have the opportunity to believe in an original work until after the artist does. So as an artist you need to be able to say to yourself that something is worthwhile when nobody else believes in it at the time, and perhaps never will. In hindsight you can either choose to believe they didn’t get it or maybe start to see their point, but if you see their point, you’re going to need a hell of a pep talk to get yourself back to that place of self-belief at the start of the next project.

Art is mostly a matter of taste, rather than a right or wrong.

So. I’m a scientist. I am right or wrong, and when I am out of step with the rest of the world I don’t really need to worry about it because the truth will out. External validation is 100% necessary for sorting out this truth and is not to be feared because there is no such thing as a failed experiment (only a failed hypothesis). Failed hypotheses can be very exciting and can win Nobel prizes just like supported ones. Sometimes failure is even more exciting than the alternative.

Of course, life isn’t black and white and people do operate more like scientists in some respects and more like artists in other scenarios, so I guess it depends where you operate mostly, or something.

Is The Wolvog and artist or a scientist?


5 loribeth { 05.07.12 at 11:17 am }

Like Amy, this post made me think of choices & validation when it comes to family building — or not. Those of us who dont’ have children — whether by choice or not — are often challenged by parents as to why we don’t, or wouldn’t want to, have children. Somehow, they perceive our not having children (for whatever reason, even if it’s because of fertility issues) as a threat or non-validation of their decision to have children, of our dislike for children, when it’s often nothing of the sort. Even many people who are adamantly childfree by choice don’t necessarily dislike children — they enjoy other people’s kids — they just don’t feel they themselves would be good parents, or want to direct their time, energy and money in that way.

On the flip side, not having children in an extremely pronatalist society, it can be very difficult to find validation for living without children. Thank goodness for the Internet — it’s made it easier for us to find each other & provide that validation & support.

6 Corey Feldman { 05.07.12 at 11:57 am }

I think you have a couple different but important concepts going on in the post. We all want and seek validation. I know I fret if a post doesn’t get comments, or Facebook likes or large page views. You can’t help but feel like invalidation of what you are doing. The other issue is a scarier one and harder one to explain to kids. I struggle with it. Once day I am going to have to explain to my children why there are builders surrounding the property. I morn that day. I want them to never see them as anything other than something fun to climb on. But sadly people will try and hurt the things you love most for a variety of sad misguided reasons. It is something in the human condition I hope changes in the very near future.

7 Deathstar { 05.07.12 at 11:58 am }

For years, I’ve had to validate my choice of being an actress to a lot of people, including my parents. I’ve had complete strangers counsel me to take the first secure job I can get my hands on because security was paramount to them. I’ve made enormous sacrifices to stay in a very ridiculous business and you know what, I think of quitting every single day. Yet I still can’t picture myself sitting at a receptionist desk answering phone all day long, 5 days a week, 50 wks a year for the pay cheque. I’d slit my wrists. Yet that’s what some people do. And they’re content. And they have more money than I do. Yet I never regretted my choice. I can certainly tell you that other people DO regret my choice.

I wrote a post once about wanting to share some of the joys I’ve experienced with my son. I did that because I wanted people to know that though adoption was difficult, it gave me my best chance to become a parent. And those moments of having those sparkling eyes stare up at me made it worth it. I’m not sure I made it clear, but that didn’t mean I didn’t RESPECT others for not choosing adoption over childlessness. I do get it because I certainly contemplated whether it was all worth it at one point. It might not have worked out for us very easily and I had already made the decision to remain childless out of sheer mental exhaustion of trying to have a kid for 7 years.

We all have to make our choices and live by them. For ourselves.

8 Sharon { 05.07.12 at 12:13 pm }

I get what you’re saying here, and I agree. Like others, I can’t help but relate this post to our choices vis a vis having our children.

I have a few childless-by-choice friends who don’t have children and never wanted them. I know one in particular thinks/thought our decision to do donor egg IVF to conceive was just nuts: the expense, the hassle, the potential emotional ramifications. I think because she has never wanted to be a parent, she truly could not fathom why anyone would go to that amount of effort and expense to make it happen.

(Not that she hasn’t been supportive or said anything unkind; it’s just been obvious in her reactions to what I’ve shared and in some of the questions she asked.)

Even before (and now after) becoming a parent, I can fully understand why someone would choose NOT to be one. Even if you really want to do it, even if it comes easily, it is a huge commitment which will, of necessity, take up a lot of your time, money, effort and emotion. So in that sense, I feel I can understand my friend’s preference and choice better than she can understand mine.

(Then again, I think that my reasons for wanting to be a parent are not really “reasons” in the sense of logical, well-thought-out and reasoned arguments “for” parenthood. They are all emotional reasons and therefore inherently illogical. And that’s OK.)

9 a { 05.07.12 at 9:41 pm }

I think there’s sometimes inherent judgement in disagreement, though. I mean, everybody eats meat! What’s wrong with you? Or in my case, beans are delicious and an excellent source of protein! Why won’t you eat them? What’s wrong with you? Some people are comfortable with “to each their own.” But most people just want you to be like them. And when you’re not…well, you know…Salem witch trials and stuff.

I am having a hard time with this, because I spend a lot of time telling my daughter “It doesn’t matter what XXX thinks. Do you like it?” And half the time, I think it’s genetic, because I see her trying to tell me what she thinks I want to hear. Which is what my husband and his family do. And it makes me crazy. I’m as much of a people pleaser as the next person, but I reach my limit (of how much stress I’m willing to internalize before I call it a day and start saying no) sooner than most, I think.

10 Mali { 05.07.12 at 11:58 pm }

I’m glad you added the issue of living without children after infertility as an example here. People seem to be offended to see it discussed as an option. When really, it doesn’t make any difference to what they might choose to do.

In some ways I was like you as a kid – perhaps we all were under the threat of peer pressure. But I admit I still love validation. The HuffPost article was exciting to me simply because it gave me validation (though not all the comments – I knew what to expect there – including an unexpected one here on an SQ post). But I’m also used to enjoying and indeed celebrating the differences we all have. My husband and I think very differently (our processes are different – we end up with similar views on a lot of things), he hates coffee/mayonnaise/cucumber and I enjoy all those things. I love language and languages, he’s an engineer. I’ve travelled and I revel in learning about the cultures, seeing the differences, sometimes repelled but almost always intrigued. Difference is a good thing, as long as we don’t try to tear down what is important to others (with obvious illegal exceptions built in). And I wonder if that’s what the Wolvog fears? That someone who doesn’t love the internet might destroy it, tear it down, take it away from him? And so – at such a young age – he can’t yet appreciate diversity, because he fears what that diversity might mean.

11 Justine { 05.08.12 at 1:14 pm }

I don’t know. While I agree that we need to draw from the wellspring of internal validation, I also think that it’s useful sometimes to allow people who don’t agree with us to rock our cores a little bit. It’s hard to tell that to a child who is just *establishing* his core, but for an adult, that difference can make us question our belief and perhaps either confirm it (yes, I really DO like vanilla after all, or yes, blogging really DOES feel my spirit) or offer us a new perspective (well, hm, maybe the internet is an alienating place for some people … or what have you … I’m having a hard time coming up with hate for the internet, but hopefully you know what I mean here).

Of course, I’m having a hard time with the whole issue of validation these days, anyway, so perhaps I’m not the best person to comment …. 😉

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