Why do we do what we do?

We have all heard the dialogue “Life is a race. Run run.” If life is indeed a race, what are we running towards? Where is the finish line? What do we get from it? Some may say money. Others say fame. Some may even say to make their life worth remembering long after they are gone. But, why do we care so much? Is it not okay to not have any money? In a world with 7 billion people, won’t it be possible that you’d be forgotten no matter what you do? So why do people feel the urge to make the race worthwhile? I feel it is for the validation, both materialistic and emotional, it gives.

Think about it. If given the chance, some of us would sleep our way through life. But why is it that we have this system of being educated, getting a job, building their career, starting a family, managing a family, etc. It can probably be summed up by one question everyone would have heard or thought of at least once in their life and that is “What would others think about you?” You hear it when you think of buying a sleeveless dress. You hear it when you think of choosing arts over engineering. You hear it when you decide to call it quits in your career. That need to satisfy the social norms and gain the stamp of approval from our society forces us to carry out stuff we don’t prefer to do. Yes, we get to decide our lives and it shouldn’t matter what others think. But, let’s be honest here, it matters doesn’t it?

We humans have this need for inter-relatedness, this willingness to express our thoughts, feelings, skills, etc. We have a need for people to accept our expressions, and more importantly, accept us. Even saying “I don’t care about what others think”, is basically seeking validation for not wanting validation.
Take your job for instance. No one wants to slog for hours in a dead-end job where you put in all your effort just to get yelled at by your higher-ups. We invest in our jobs. We give it time, effort, and continue to work hard and sacrifice the little things in life. And in all this, I bet a lot of us would rather want to be doing something else they’re more passionate about. So why bother? Well, at the end that pat on the back from your boss appreciating your work and the hefty paycheck he offers seems like a good enough trade-off to your passion. The recognition for our efforts is what makes us not regret those countless hours of hard work, patience, and sacrifices.

Even in relationships, the feeling of being heard and understood by people is powerful. Otherwise, you end up feeling left out, creating a fear of loss of companionship and acceptance, which let’s face it, is a basic emotional need. Validation is seen as a sign of respect and no matter what the role, be it spouse, child, friend, or an employee, they all would expect it from their respective relations. This enhances the relationship. Who wouldn’t want that?

All of this is pointless if one doesn’t practice the most important form of validation, self-validation. Self-love is the best love they say, and it comes with merit. The whole world may present bouquets to you, but if you don’t feel good about yourself, they’ll mean the same as brickbats. Learn to embrace the person you are. Sacrifices are common in life, but should not occur at the cost of one’s uniqueness and honor. Sometimes, in seeking validation from others, we lose our originality, bending too much to suit the society’s interests. It may seem rewarding at first. The money, the fame, everything you set out to attain is yours, but at the expense of losing yourself. All your money cannot buy back your true self. All the fame gained is useless if you’re not the same person you are when you started. Your life is not worth remembering if you forget who you truly are.

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