A few weeks back, I posted this blog about Kevin Smith which took a pretty hard stance that internally driven validation was much better than seeking self-worth from external sources, like semi-anonymous praise on the internet. I then posted that blog in hopes of gathering some of that same semi-anonymous praise. Pretty typical stuff for me.
I was asked by a fellow blogger what a person would be like if they actually based their self-esteem entirely on internal forces. Their assumption was that people like this could be ‘kind of scary.’ I replied that a person such as this would most likely be intense or stand-off-ish, but probably pretty consistent in their presentation of self-worth.
Happy to have generated content worthy of questions, I went about my business, but continued to think about this question. What would a person who only used internal means of validation be like? I’ve certainly never met one, and no matter how much I pretend to be a self-sustaining machine, I like and/or need those external boosts as much as anyone else.
I continued thinking about this while writing my recent post on Jeff Winger, and it occurred to me that Abed Nadir is what happens when a person requires no external validation at all. Or maybe Dwight Schrute or Ron Swanson, but I liked writing about Community, so Abed it is.
Abed typically requires nothing from others to maintain his feelings of self-worth. Over the
seasons years he has come to enjoy the company of his friends and looks to them for support and advice, but this has more to do with the social nature of humans and nothing at all to do with self-esteem. Maybe he feels better about himself due to having a group of close friends, but it’s not hard to imagine Abed just as happily sitting on his futon watching and analyzing various movies on his own.
Abed’s self-esteem remains relatively constant regardless of external factors. He knows who he is, and is aware of how he is perceived by others. It’s this level of self-awareness that makes Abed a bit difficult to deal with. He sees no reason to tailor himself to a particular situation unless he wants to – he can feel comfortable being himself even if others are not comfortable with his choice.
This is one possible outcome of a person who focuses entirely on internally driven feelings of self-worth. Abed is awkward, steadfast, and difficult to be friends with at times. But he is always Abed, and that consistency of self is admirable. In some ways, his comfort with himself is enviable, even if that trade off involves a somewhat abrasive personality.
Moderation is the key to generating an authentic and healthy self-image. We need to heed external things at times to keep our internal perceptions in check, as well as motivate us to engage in socially appropriate behaviors. The foundations of self should be an internally constructed thing, but the trim work is probably better derived from the outside world.
In the end, given the choice, I still think I’d rather be a person of completely internally driven self-esteem, an Abed or a Swanson. This seems preferable to looking outward for validation and the horrendous inconsistency in worth that accompanies this method.