James T. Green is a conceptual artist, radio producer, writer, and educator from Chicago, Illinois, and now in Brooklyn, New York.

thoughts + feelings

16: Validation is a Tupperware Container

Friday morning was an unusually warm day, at least for Chicago standards—the bubbly jackets peeled off to reveal our cardigan-clad skeletons and spring scarves gliding across our necks. While this is my favorite time of the year, it can resurface my low self-confidence, to the point where I’m so aware of it I don’t do anything to stop it. As I was heading out of the door to work at a cafe, I caught a glance at myself in our full-length mirror. My mind started rattling off what was wrong with me in rapid succession, synonyms along the lines of “that guy’s way too fat to be wearing something like that.” After changing multiple times and becoming more self conscious and obsessing about even smaller details (like the way the laces on my boots were sitting), I gave the mirror a slight “fuck it” and went out the door, consistently thinking that I looked sloppily put together. This constant second-guessing led to me running for the bus.

Sitting in the back of the bus with my fellow commuters, I began to think about this episode of Freakonomics that discusses the “spotlight effect”. It’s a theory that a majority of people think that everyone else is thinking about them (including strangers) when in reality, no one cares. Here I am—consistently fixing my jacket, adjusting my shoelaces, fiddling with my hair, anxiously and mentally beating myself up when I guarantee if anyone on this bus was interviewed on what that guy who sat in the back of the Eastbound 18 CTA bus was wearing at 7:47am on Friday, no one would notice and/or give a crap.
  
Whether it’s clothing, what you choose to blog, tweet, make artwork about, or anything that generates an opinion from others (which is almost…everything)—trying to get everyone to like you is a recipe for mental disaster. There was a period in my online existence where I was checking my follower count after every tweet, having one of those unfollow trackers connected to my account, activating the “like” notifications on my Instagram account, obsessively checking how many people unsubscribed from this newsletter—it drove me mad, yet it was my own doing. Validation is a tupperware container for the mind, sealing your thoughts and preventing them being transformed by its environment.

There’s a freeing moment when you remember that you are living your life for yourself and those you care about, not strangers on the street and internet—however, there’s a difference between validation and seeking constructive critique. Wear what you want, tweet what you want, watch what you want, because the people that care will care, and those that don’t, won’t..and that’s totally okay. When I applied that thinking in my head Sunday morning, I made it to my bus, five minutes early.

Have you ever caught yourself seeking validation from others? Tell me about it. Just hitreply.

Thanks for reading and see you next week.

-James

What did I find interesting this week?

1) “The Reason Songs Have Choruses” by Alexis C. Madrigal: I love songs with repetitive lyrics, so it was compelling to read why repetition wires the brain into enjoying something more.

2) “An Open Letter to Portland & The World from “The Black Portlanders” by Intisar Abioto: I had the chance to visit Portland in October, and we happened to run into Intisar on in the Alberta neighborhood—even taking our photo for the blog.  This is a beautifully written letter on the importance of highlighting black faces in this city and more about her project.

3) “Why Middle Class Parents Are Awful” by Nina Aron: I’m not a parent but I find state of parenting culture very interesting. This piece was a fascinating breakdown of middle class parenting and cliques.

4) “Never Starving” by Whitney Smith:  It’s always hard to talk about money as an artist, so Whitney Smith did a great job of breaking down the terminology behind the phrase “starving-artist”. We should talk more about this as a community.

5) “Nothing” by LJ Frezza: An interesting video--super cut of scenes in Seinfeld where there are only exterior and interior shots of buildings. It’s eerily interesting with the laugh tracks, especially since New York is a dense city, but no people are in any of the cuts.

James T. Green