"Words of Affirmation: On Assurance and Validation" by Joy Garcia

"Words of Affirmation: On Assurance and Validation" by Joy Garcia

The essay was originally published by Joy Garcia on her blog

Hi! Here is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from a novel that shaped my formative years, “The Little Prince.” Let me know if you love words of affirmation, too. As always, thanks for being here. I appreciate you 🙂

Now, just because you can’t immediately quantify something, doesn’t make it any less real.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the tale as old as time: a girl tells a boy her problems, the boy analyzes the situation and offers a solution, and the girl gets mad at the boy. “Why can’t you understand me?” the girl exclaims.

When we have a problem, we usually know what to do but lack the courage to do it. We lack this courage because we doubt ourselves. Assurance is the antidote. It certainly doesn’t make your problems go away, but it’s a gentle reminder that everything will be okay and that we are okay. Hearing someone say that can work wonders. Sometimes, it’s even all you need to push through.

I have been going through a period of instability. My journal entries are sparse. My to-do list remains lengthy. I’ve been sleeping way past my supposed bedtime and waking up earlier than I should. As I’m figuring out what I want the next few years to look like, I can’t help but worry that I’m not taking a step in the right direction.

My mom is someone I feel close to, but we aren’t always generous with affection. When I confided in her, she told me she was proud of me. I always knew deep down that she was proud of me; I just never realized I needed to hear her actually say those words. I felt my problems melt away, and I could breathe for the first time in weeks. I realized I didn’t have to worry and that things were going to be okay.

Receiving assurance from her made me feel like I’ve been making the right decisions and that I will continue to do so. I still have a long list of things to do and big adult questions to answer. But now, I’m facing them with the renewed conviction that I’ll be able to address them in due time.

Assurance, in the form of words of affirmation, brings peace. Sometimes, that’s all you really need. Solutions are overrated. Genuine assurance from people you trust isn’t. The worst thing someone can do is make you doubt your sanity. That’s why we despise gaslighters. That’s why we go to therapy: to hear someone tell us that despite all our fears and anxieties, everything will be okay because we can trust ourselves to make things right.

The effect of gentle nudges like assurance isn’t quantifiable. When we are stingy with our affection, it’s often because we think it isn’t significant enough. We tend to ignore what we can’t see. But I’ve learned that many things in life are invisible, or at least difficult to quantify at first glance.

Life is made up of many invisible pushes and pulls. The present you’re in is a product of an abundance of unquantifiable, unforeseeable moments. What’s obvious is a result of what’s not. We’re oblivious to the yellow flags, only responding to the red.

Life feels much lighter when you learn to see nuance. Assurance is nuanced. Assurance is wonderful.

Recent consumption (what made me feel !!):

  • When ghosting is okay
  • “Dear John” by Taylor Swift
  • Every single video on 2PM, the K-pop group, on YouTube
  • Paul Graham’s essay on good work
  • The affirmation: “When I let go of the need to arrange my life, the universe gives me abundance.”
  • SSENSE’s Ganni catalogue