“You are forgetting one thing,” I pause and stare directly into the eyes of the man sitting across from me, “I do not need your approval or validation.”
This sentence is a feature of many of my daydreams. I have never actually said it out loud but it is my secret fantasy (or not so secret anymore) to be able to say this phrase and mean it. In my daydream I am strong and competent, self-assured and bold. I do not worry about what people think about me. I trust myself more than those around me. I do scary things. I do not care about being liked as much as I care about being right. In my daydreams the only approval and validation I need is from me. “So….” you might ask, “why are these daydreams and not reality?”
Over the course of the last decade I have made a conscious effort to distinguish between the thoughts and behaviors I actually desire and those I have acquired via enculturation in the Mormon culture. There are silly things like discovering that I do not actually like to wear dresses and skirts even though they have made up my “nice” wardrobe for the past thirty years. Likewise, I have discovered that I do not mind disagreeing with those around me. I’m comfortable with pluralism. I have learned that we don’t all have to think alike despite thirty-plus years of Sunday School enculturation instructing me otherwise. I have also made more serious discoveries. I have learned that I have a deep rooted instinct to acquiesce to male authority figures. I think this stems from our all-male church hierarchy where men will always have more power and authority over me. I did not realize I had internalized these thoughts until I witnessed my non-Mormon colleagues talking back to an academic leader and my first thought was “You can’t do that.” Since then I have paid closer attention to how I interact with males in power. I’ve discovered that my behavior completely changes in front of church leaders. I am quiet and deferential. I hold in my thoughts and opinions. Because I have no social capital or source of collegiality without their endorsement, I am reliant on their approval and validation for my sense of worth.
I am convinced that LDS culture produces women who are constantly seeking the approval and validation of others to justify and legitimize their own thoughts, beliefs, appearance and worth.Read More