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Accepting, but not needing, external validation

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20WrongsVs1 posted 2/22/2014 17:42 PM

Many of us cheated because we craved external validation. That's a surface reason, not a deep, meaningful, introspective "why." Craving EV is more like...a symptom of a deeper problem.

How does one learn to accept EV gracefully, but not crave it? And, how does one learn to truly and deeply love and accept oneself...without EV? My therapist has some ideas about it, but I'd like to hear from you, too, if you've overcome this (craving EV) or are struggling with it.

Losing weight and getting into better shape is a bit triggery for me. Last January I started dieting (healthier, not restrictive) and running, because I wanted to look good for APs. And by DDay I was probably in the best shape of my life.

In the months after DDay I started eating poorly, stopped exercising, and probably gained 10 pounds, in part because I associated physical attractiveness with the affairs. Currently I'm hovering around my "go-to" weight, my genes pretty much prevent me from becoming overweight no matter how much I eat. (Sorry.)

BH recently said I look a good way. Which was awesome to hear. He's always idealized the zero-body-fat athlete body, and I knew (he admits) that I was never physically his type. So him accepting and admiring me this way? Is fantastic. For both of us. During my affairs I used every perceived criticism of my figure, by BH, to further justify my shameless pursuit of EV. Ultimately I needed to accept myself this way, too, in my "natural state," instead of constantly berating myself to lose 10-15 pounds. And I have, I can look in the mirror and say, yeah, this is me and I look good!

(The...injustice, to BH, of me getting fit for the APs and then "letting myself go" after DDay is a whole 'nother topic.)

So now, even though I accept myself this way, I'm ready to get fit again and even surpass the "hotness" I achieved last April. But I'm encountering internal resistance. I really do want to "do it for me," and for BH, but it's almost as if I'm afraid of being too attractive. Instead of feeling flattered by being "checked out" by men, now I feel uncomfortable. Ashamed.

eremite posted 2/22/2014 19:29 PM

Hi 20vs1,
I'm a BS but I have been exploring this issue together with my WS, and I hope you don't mind my thoughts.

Ultimately I needed to accept myself this way, too, in my "natural state," instead of constantly berating myself to lose 10-15 pounds. And I have, I can look in the mirror and say, yeah, this is me and I look good!
That is so true, and it's great you're there! As you say, craving EV is more of a symptom, and I think that accepting and valuing/validating yourself is the cure for the deeper problem.

Instead of feeling flattered by being "checked out" by men, now I feel uncomfortable. Ashamed.
Aside from your own association between being fit and your As, there's the fact that not all EV is equal. How would you feel if an experienced athlete complimented you on your fitness, or your doctor on your health? I'm guessing you wouldn't be uncomfortable, because you'd respect their opinion, and be glad that they were acknowledging something *you value for yourself*. You'd appreciate hearing it, but it wouldn't be the reason you kept going to the gym.

With men "checking you out", there's neither respect nor value - the men are taking it upon themselves to judge you on your physical attractiveness to them. If you don't value being attractive to those men, then that 'EV' is totally unsolicited comment on your person, and your feeling of discomfort is a great sign that your boundaries are in a good place. The superficiality and objectification inherent in that kind of comment IS distressing, as are the societal assumptions that make it 'OK' for men to respond that way to they way women look.

I think it's important to resist the shaming that comes bundled with those assumptions, and accept your discomfort without internalizing the cause of it as being your fault... Easier said than done, I know.

SpotlessMind posted 2/22/2014 19:30 PM

Hey 20Wrongs--

Such an important topic, and an issue I've struggled with in my life as well. I definitely craved/needed EV in the past. I've also struggled with body image issues (perfectionism issues), even though I've always been within my target weight and fit/athletic. It turns out I have a lot of shame associated with my body (as apparently do the vast majority of women).

For me, when I decided to raise my boundaries 10+ years ago, it seemed to help me distance myself from any EV. Instead of wanting it, it made me uncomfortable.. Over the years, I practiced becoming more assertive, and that really helped me too--because besides the EV, I had "I want everyone to like me" syndrome. I started reading more on women's issues, especially concerning body image and media. And then I started to get mad, as I realized--a lot of this crap is foisted upon us. We're told to look a certain way, be a certain weight, that it's super important we make ourselves over so guys find us attractive. That we should be nice, not authentic.

It's all bullshit.

I think it helped that I had kids, and started to think about the futures I wanted for them. How I wanted them to hold themselves, what I wanted to teach them about how appearance is NOT the most crucial thing, and as long as they are happy with what they see and feel healthy, then to heck with the external noise. I also started writing books for children, so it became even more important to me that I get this right. Objectification is not okay, and it's not something I want to pass on to future generations.

At some point, I looked at myself in the mirror and just knew that as long as I accepted myself, I'd be okay. If I accepted myself, everyone else would have to, too. I could do my hair a funky way because *I* liked it, and who cared if others didn't? It's MY hair. My clothes. My body. MINE. And it's really no one else's freaking business what I do with any of those things.

I think, really, it was more a matter of learning to respect and admire myself as a person, and the rest just fell into place. To realize that I am much more than my looks, and I have a lot more important and great things to offer than a toned pair of legs, or whatever.

I'm still a work in progress. I think we all are. But it is a lot easier now.

As for weight---I grew up with a morbidly obese mom who used to be a beauty queen, pre-kids. She valued us for appearance and achievement. It didn't help that in my sport back then, there were regular weigh ins and body fat testing--and extra workouts for those who were over a certain (totally healthy) percentage.

Because of that, I struggled with being obsessive about weight for quite awhile, and finally learned to let that go about 10 years ago. I stopped the compulsive weigh-ins, and got rid of the scale entirely. SO. FREEING. We have one again now, but I weigh myself to make sure I'm not losing too much (DDay knocked off pounds). I won't say that I don't still struggle with perfectionism issues and body checking, but I've also learned to be more comfortable in my own skin, and accepting.

Your comment about wanting to look hotter for your BS gave me pause. Honestly, I think a healthier attitude would be to make it about YOU and being healthy. Maybe set a work out goal instead? Or you want to put on x amount of muscle? Bc while it's totally fine and natural to want to dress up and look attractive for our SO's sometimes, if your entire appearance goal centers around someone else, I fear you are simply substituting one form of EV for another.

YOU. That is the person who you need validation from. Accept yourself, be kind to yourself, set realistic and achievable expectations. And when you learn to like the person beneath your skin, you will learn to be more accepting and comfortable with whatever version you see on the outside--and as a result, no longer need others to validate that outer shell.

[This message edited by SpotlessMind at 7:50 PM, February 22nd (Saturday)]

SpotlessMind posted 2/22/2014 19:46 PM

P.S. Totally agree with Eremite. It's normal and even healthy to feel discomfort over unsolicited comments on your appearance/excessive eye-balling. To me, it's okay to compliment a style ("wow, I love your hair cut" or "that dress is a great color") but comments about my body or staring are unwelcome. I find them intrusive, entitled, and entirely too personal (and often indicative of someone with poor boundaries.)

[This message edited by SpotlessMind at 7:49 PM, February 22nd (Saturday)]

JustDesserts posted 2/23/2014 09:45 AM

EV is a swirling stew of good and bad needs, reasons, choices for me going way back.

On paper...I've "got it all", with plenty to spare. And in middle age, it's becoming easier to compare favorably with my guy peers, as receding hairlines, accelerating love handle creep and general life complacency ramp up significantly. Oh, did I mention my clever wit, flirty knack, and love and fascination with what makes the fairer sex tick? Make them laugh, then let my baby blues do the rest...

Yup, I'm an egomaniac with low self esteem. On paper.

Sad thing is I'm not sure I'll ever really be good enough for me. Working on it.

And yes, fitness is a struggle with "for me and health" vs. wanting to be that tall, sexy drink of water that makes women think "Mmmmm..."

Tough topic.

Some of the most fun in affair recovery has been my BS and I both looking fantastic to eachother, having fun, flirty and sexy date nights, and talking about all of this. She's a rare beauty who's never "worked it". And one of the most mature, self assured person I've ever met, male or female. She's a great role model. Guys, married and otherwise, trip over themselves to try to impress her at work. She helps them redirect their focus. It can't help she's senior management and looks great in a pencil skirt. I've asked her if a RA is something she's ever considered. She says sure. And I'd never know. And that she respects herself more than that. And that she loves me and us. I've got a great role model in bed next to me.

It's a huge topic with my IC. Has been an issue from about 2nd grade.

Working on it.


NikkiD posted 2/23/2014 09:52 AM

BS Here.

Last week, at church, my pastor touched on this. He always talks about "managing your space." This is what he said:

Just because somebody tells you, you are fine (meaning Handsome or pretty) doesn't mean you need to start spending time and energy with them. Tell then 'thank you' and send them on they way. You don't have to dwell on it and think some sort of love connection is brewing....

I think its applicable here too.

somethingremorse posted 2/24/2014 12:57 PM

Losing weight and getting into better shape is a bit triggery for me.

I guess this is a t/j.

I don't have advice for you. I'm the same way. For me, I started to get into better shape, and was resentful when BW didn't fawn over me. So I found someone who did. Now, I have trouble mentally committing to recommitting myself to really going all out with exercise and diet to the full extent. You know, you need a certain kind of self-centeredness to go all out. And that's OK, if we can avoid falling into the same traps as we did during the A. Right now, I just cannot sign up for that degree of difficulty.

I think that I will be able to exercise, set and accomplish physical goals and know it is for me and my family, and not for EV. But I have more work to do on my mental process before I can feel comfortable with that. I anticipate that will happen in small steps. Probably along side of my family -- like all of us running a race or all of us doing a program. If that goes OK, I'll commit a little more.

20WrongsVs1 posted 2/24/2014 13:09 PM

somethingremorse yep. We're in the same boat.

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