Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to a fundraiser for an arts organization: The Open Studio Project.  Their approach is centered entirely around self-validation. They see art creation as an opportunity to open inner dialogue and promote healthy self-expression.

This studio operates a series of classes. In the class dynamic, the artwork that is created by the students is not to be commented on by any other student taking the class nor any of the instructors.  The work is to be created and not to be externally validated.

When I heard of this I actually felt uncomfortable. Where is the fun in that?

This approach directly combats the obsessive need for external validation that our new selfie and like for like culture is promoting.  In a world where suicide rates among teens are skyrocketing because of social media invalidation, this kind of approach is the balm to a toxic form of approval.

My thoughts flowed towards what kind of self-validation was I promoting in my own home. My child is incredible and it is natural for her to show me what she has created and it is natural for me to share a super positive response. I want to promote her, right!?  But at what point is this actually doing a disservice? If her whole world is focused on receiving positive cues from her outside world then at what point am I directing her to create those cues herself?

Eventually, as she enters tween/teen/young adult/adult years, I want her to stand proudly in her own decision making and self-validating skills.

When she posts an image on whatever social media platform is around in five years and she gets a thousand likes on Tuesday and none on Wednesday and (internet trolls are out in full force) I need her to know that this is irrelevant.

Teaching her that the journey is more important than the response of others, is a process of unlearning that I have discovered within myself. Funny to be teaching unlearning to my own child. I am super cognizant about it and I believe it is working.

I have mentioned on my podcast about the wonderful day that I was standing behind someone who clearly did not get my work. I had donated a piece to a fundraiser and overheard someone commenting on it.  She thought my art was ridiculous and did not mince words. At first, I felt like a swallowed a rock. Then I felt like I grew up. In that split second, I decided to self validate and that became a superpower.

That is the gift. It becomes a superpower that can’t be moved. Once applied self-validation is non-negotiable.

Yesterday my 3rd grade daughter brought home a deluge of tests she’s taken in school. Written on most of them were stars with positive words. One of them said “94% Goob jod!”

(She still gets her b and d letters mixed up). I said, “hey who wrote that on your test?“

“I did, mama. I like to promote myself.” She answered casually while opening her after school snack.  To which I said nothing and only smiled.

Where do you find yourself still needing approval and where can you give more of it to yourself?


Elizabeth Tuckwell is the founder of Art With Intention a site devoted to creative expression and personal growth. She provides creative coaching to remove old energy and gain clarity. You can learn more about working with her here:   She is also an accomplished Abstract Artist and her work can be viewed at

*Image Courtesy of Tumisu