Trump, Kanye and the Validation Trap
It is only human to want more of the good things in life. It’s natural to long for the big promotion, the massive raise, the award for excellence that will set us above all the other desperate strivers angling for an advantage in a sadistically competitive capitalist world of winners and losers, big shots and wannabes.
I am not immune from that impulse. As someone who grew up poor, angry and friendless, my need for validation and attention is more pronounced than most. I’ve spent much of my career laboring under the delusion that if I only accomplished enough professionally, if I only wrote enough books and articles and columns then the deep, deep hole at the center of my soul where stability, security and a mother’s love should be would be filled with happiness and contentment and I would finally be able to break free of the shackles of the past.
I’ve learned the hard way that if you make your happiness and security dependent upon external factors like the approval and validation of something as crazy-making and mercurial as pop culture media and the publishing industry you will never be happy because no amount of approval and validation can ever possibly be enough.
That epiphany was a game-changer for me, but sometimes you can know something rationally and intellectually but your brain lags behind. So while I’ve gotten better at not seeing every Patreon deletion as conclusive, irrefutable proof that the universe hates me and ruin lurks around the corner, I’m still way more invested in the growth of my plucky little small business than is probably healthy.
It seems safe to assume that neither Donald Trump nor his brother in Dragon Energy Kanye West had a similar epiphany about the fundamental nature of approval and validation because both of these sad, strange men have made a ruthless hunt for approval, attention and validation one of the cornerstones of their lives and careers.
By every criteria, Kanye West is one of the most honored artists in the history of popular music. At only 41, West has won 21 Grammy Awards. Twenty-one! That’s not twenty-one nominations: that’s twenty one wins. Only Bob Dylan has released as many albums that hit number one in the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll and that dude is old as fuck and sings all funny-like. Yet despite being one of the most honored artists of all time, Kanye is better known for his indignant and very public outbursts upon losing various awards than he is for, say, the twenty one Grammys he’s won.
Kanye is so unhealthily obsessed with awards that he even famously threw a public tantrum when Taylor Swift won an award he felt Beyonce should have won.
For West, it’s clearly not enough to win more awards than pretty much any of your peers. No, he clearly sees it as profound, and unforgivable disrespect for him not to win every award. Like Trump, he seems to see everyone else’s success as a personal insult and loss for him.
By all standards, Trump has received an insane amount of validation, attention and approval. He’s made hundreds of millions, possibly even billions of dollars over the course of his career despite being so bad at business that he’s repeatedly had to declare bankruptcy. He’s slept with porn stars and Playboy Playmates and married exotic foreign beauties. He starred in a long-running hit television show where people competed feverishly for the opportunity to serve him and his Texas-sized ego. He’s a WWE Hall of Famer. He was elected President of the United States despite being screamingly under-qualified and ill-equipped for the most important job in the world.
Despite all of this validation and attention and approval, Trump goes through life perpetually apoplectic that Donald fucking Trump, of all people, is getting a raw deal, that he’s accomplishing great, even miraculous things on a constant basis with a cabinet forever approaching perfection but those incredible achievements are being ignored by a press that hates him because it hates America and America’s greatness and cannot stand to see a man brave enough to tell the truth about their lies succeed on such a historic level.
Trump is so perpetually apoplectic about what he sees as the press’ unforgivable, inexcusable refusal to acknowledge his greatness that he’s decided that the entire free press, with the exception of his allies and apologists at FOX, InfoWars and Breitbart, is illegitimate and engaged in a massive conspiracy to discredit him for the sake of their globalist Lefty masters. He’s renamed the legitimate press FAKE NEWS because if they’re not continually gushing effusively about him then they’re obviously jealous, insane liars.
It’s pathetic. It really is pathetic how angrily and insistently these two men carry on about all that they’re owed by a cruel and unfeeling universe when they’ve already been given far more than most people could ever possibly dream about.
The truth is that no amount of positive press will ever be enough to fill the holes in both of these troubled men’s souls. They stand united not just as brothers in Dragon Energy but also as cautionary warnings of the dangers of hungering desperately for external validation when real contentment can only come from within.
Y’all know the deal: I make my living through the external validation of Patreon, so if you would be kind enough to donate even a dollar (we haven’t had a new pledge in a hot minute) over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace it would be much appreciated and also