David Richo and David Seamands have written books referencing Vitamin A. How to be in an Adult Relationship, by Richo and Healing for Damaged Emotions, by Seamunds, each expound on the importance of of social interaction. The need for each of the elements of Vitamin A are required for true happiness and self-fulfillment. This article covers the the importance of these A’s:
Vitamin A For The Soul
Do you know one of the primary benefits of Vitamin A? Healthy vision, especially in dim lighting. But this article is not concentrating on the retinoid or beta-carotene kind of Vitamin A. It is focused on a different source of health that everyone of us needs to be successful.
One of the keys to living successfully is to have a positive self-image. How you see yourself will influence how you appear to those you love, those you work with and those with whom you socialize. And for many of us, the image we see when we look inside has been distorted. Our inner mirror is more like one from a house of mirrors, than a true mirror. Because of brokenness in our childhood or young adult years, we may see ourselves dimly. What we needed in the past and still need today is some Vitamin A.
Children crave attention. As my children were young, I always thought that I could multi-task with them. I would try to read and pay attention to them. But they always demanded more. Sometimes, they would take their chubby toddler hands and pull my face towards their face. They understood something very important; if they didn’t have my face, they didn’t have me.
Studies done in Russian orphanages have substantiated the tragic results of babies who are not given attention. It not only leads to mental illness, but even death. We were created to need attention.
If your self-image is poor, it may have to do with a lack of attention that you received while growing into adulthood. Becoming aware of this very real need is the first step to finding success. It will bring light into a dim place.
It is a good idea to take inventory regarding how you interact with those around you. If you are lacking in the Vitamin A of Attention, you may respond to others in one of two ways: acting out or blending in. Some of us as adults act out like we did as children. While we don’t pull faces toward us like a toddler, we do things that demand attention from others. Others have given up on getting attention. In those Russian orphanages, the babies eventually didn’t even cry anymore. There were silent nurseries because crying didn’t generate attention. When you look inside, do you see someone who has decided just to blend in like a wallflower?
The key to success is finding a healthy way to receive the Vitamin A of Attention, and it is neither acting out or blending in.
Now, we are focusing on our need for Acceptance. How many readers remember scenes from their childhood like this? You are getting ready to play kickball or some other game in the schoolyard. Captains have been chosen; they are usually the leaders of the “in” crowd. You wait nervously hoping that you are not given that sentence of death, being picked last. We all crave to be picked, accepted, we all want to be in the “in” crowd. Deep within us, there is a real need to belong. Remember, it is right there in the center of Maslow’s pyramid describing our hierarchy of needs.
What is your level of Vitamin A as it relates to Acceptance? Where do you feel accepted and where don’t you feel accepted? Is your response to this need impacting how you relate to others?
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, bestselling author, Brene Brown wrote: “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”
Attention and Acceptance
Awareness of this very real need brings light into what may be dim. We are working on seeing ourselves clearly through emotionally digesting the Vitamin A of Attention and Acceptance. We will continue this theme in future articles, and when we come to the end of our study, we will look at some healthy ways to appropriate resources for even greater success in our lives. For now, spend some time today thinking about how your need for Acceptance was met or not met in your childhood. Take some inventory about your present experience with being accepted. Does this impact your self-image?
We will not function without emotional health and will not experience real success in our lives without the proper dose of Attention, Acceptance and Affection. We live in a culture consumed with self: self-help, self-actualization, self-determination. But we can’t find real success solely centered on our selves. We need affection from others.
Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize winning author. She was being interviewed and was asked how she became such a great writer. The interviewer wanted to know if there was a form that she followed, or books that she had read. Toni’s answer was priceless: “That is not why I am a great writer. I am a great writer because when I was a little girl and walked into the room where my father was sitting, his eyes would light up. That is why I am a great writer. That is why. There isn’t any other reason.”
Have you experienced the security that comes from growing up knowing that you are loved? If you haven’t, what are you doing to compensate for the vacuum? Is it bringing health to your life or creating greater dimness?
We all need someone in our lives whose eyes light up when we walk into the room. And there is no reward without risk. To love and be loved always involves vulnerability. But the alternative is a hardness within that repels love. We prize individualism and independence, but wholeness and success really comes from embracing interdependence.
David D. Burns wrote: “A poor self-image is the magnifying glass that can transform a trivial mistake or an imperfection into an overwhelming symbol of personal defeat.” We need something to help us see ourselves as we really are, not something that magnifies our flaws or mistakes. Vitamin A helps us see clearly even when the light is dim.
If you Google “Need for Affirmation,” you will find an article from Psychology Today on “How to Need Less Affirmation” and another from a life-coach on “13 Approval Seeking Behaviors You Need to Stop.” But no matter how fast you try to run away from your need for the Vitamin A of Affirmation, you just can’t. We are created with the need to be affirmed.
Not long ago, my father was sharing with me about his father. My grandfather was a master craftsman who built homes as well as furniture. My dad said that his hand was just one big callus. Unfortunately, his heart was also hard like the skin on his hands. My dad told me about the time when my grandfather inspected some of his construction work. My father had built a bedroom and bathroom onto a little cottage we owned near the Jersey Shore. He fully expected my grandfather to be critical of his work, but he sat down next to him and simply said, “Good job, Harry.”
My father was telling me this story when he was 75 years old. He said to me, “That was the first time he said anything encouraging to me, and I was 39 years old.” As my father told me this story, there were tears streaming down his face.
Almost four decades later, those three words of affirmation, “Good job Harry,” still generated deep emotion. The need for affirmation in our lives is not to be avoided, it is to be cultivated. It is essential for our emotional health and eventual success.
Have you experienced a deficit of this important vitamin in your life? Has it impacted the way that you see yourself and the way you react to others? In the final article in this series, we are going to look at three ways to get the right dose of Vitamin A in our lives.
In this article, we have focused on our need for Vitamin A; not the pill that can help problems with night vision, but a dose of emotional health that creates the best opportunity for success in our lives. We need: Attention, Acceptance, Affection and Affirmation. If we have had a deficit of these needs in our childhood or young adult life, we may either act out or blend in. Both a craving for these needs to be met or a denial that we need them prove to be unhealthy. We are looking for a way to get just the right dosage in our lives.
The first step is to acknowledge our need. In our ongoing struggle for independence or individualism, we can try to deny our need for interdependence. From the sheer power of our will, we can pretend that we are an emotional island. If we have been hurt in our past, we can try to convince ourselves that we will never be vulnerable with others again. We can shut ourselves up tightly and deny our need for Vitamin A. The image we forge of ourselves is tough and independent, but the reality is often isolated and full of pain. We have to honestly acknowledge our deepest needs.
The second step to renewing a right self-image is allowing ourselves to receive from others. If we believe the wrong things about who we are long enough, we tend to think we don’t deserve Attention, Acceptance, Affection and Affirmation. We develop a false sense of humility that really looks more like self-pity.
The third step towards emotional health and being ready for success is to learn to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. It really is OK to give yourself some Vitamin A. David Richo, the author of,How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving, writes, we will only receive 25% of what we need emotionally from other people. The premise of his book is that we need to learn to give ourselves what we need emotionally.
The Formula for Success
I think there is an even better way. I have spent the last 20+ years leading young adults. I have seen my share of broken people who had huge deficits in Vitamin A while growing up. I learned that the best way to break that curse in their lives, to come out of the darkness and into the light, was to begin giving to others the very things that were lacking in their own lives.
If you need Attention, Acceptance, Affection and Affirmation, don’t act out or blend in. Start intentionally giving those resources to others. I believe there is a law built into humanity that rewards those of us who willingly become channels of positive emotion. When we dispense doses of Vitamin A, we somehow begin to receive the very things we are giving away freely.
This is how we get the right dose for real success!
Author: Rich Stevenson
Rich Stevenson leads a network of young leaders investing in church planting and missions around the globe (www.malachinetwork.org). He has authored 5 books, including Secrets of the Spiritual Life and A Voice from Home. For more information visit: www.richstevenson.org.