Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Give them the bird

Sometimes, as a way to shut down for the night, I play a mahjong game on my computer. It’s a simple, no-brainer game—match the pairs until they’re all gone. I play until my vision or brain blurs.

Somewhere along the way I developed preferences for some pieces and hatred for others. I even started associating pieces with people I like or hate, often based on the pieces’ tendency to aid or block the completion of a puzzle. Or because some designs please me more than others.

The peacocks are my favorite, perhaps because they’re the only animals in the game. I try to save a pair for last. It’s a bit of a bummer when they’re in the upper levels and I have to get rid of them early. I feel a bit of a failure when other pieces are the last ones. But the game doesn’t care. It doesn’t award extra points for peacocks. It doesn’t award any points at all. Ever. So I’ve developed a vague scoring system: Woo, peacocks! Hurray for me!

Woo! All the peacocks left! Double hurray for me!

We all grew up in a world of external validation. Some of us merely sensed it was useful to seek the approval of others. Some of us had it pounded into us (metaphorically or literally) that the opinions of others were all that counted and that the personal markers of value, success or joy were worthless and stupid. While our individual need for external validation may decline over the years, other people’s belief in their right and duty to pass judgment seldom does.

So we shouldn’t be surprised when those folks criticize our choice to live in a vehicle. And we should take it as seriously as their judgment of our favorite food. Or our favorite mahjong pieces.

There’s no reason their joy must be your joy, or vice versa. Live according to your own standards and dreams. Do what pleases you. Your points are the only ones that matter. Be a peacock.


  1. External validation is essential to our survival. Using validation is how we teach our children and community members essentials such as safety, health, basic skills.

    Playing Mahjong feeds the same chemical receptors that your parents and teachers fed with the validations.

    We feel hungry for that kind of sweet treat so we eat and quite often it is at bedtime ;)

  2. The need for external validation seems to vary greatly from person to person. I've never found much use for it. In fact, my life would have much less rich if I paid too much attention to what others thought. I agree that the need for external validation has seemed to decrease over the years.

  3. People who do not understand sociology dwell too much on thinking that it is wrong to want external validation rather than accepting that it is normal and natural part of being a mentally healthy individual who functions with ease in society. This blog certainly qualifies in the range of healthy behavior of generating external validation and as such it is good for the creator and for the readers :) It is not in the extreme range of seeking external validation that indicates an individual is having problems with their self esteem. No need to worry am I or am I not doing it, you have a normal balance.

    1. There's a difference between wanting external validation for the things we value and being offered validation only for those things valued by others. Sometimes those things intersect. The problem is when they don't -- especially when the things we value are reviled instead.