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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Part of young adulthood is marked by a craving for intimacy and acceptance. You can see people forming connections, romantic or otherwise, anywhere on a college campus. Couples sit together in the library and new people strike up conversation in Midtown. It’s common to want to make new connections. But too often, there is a lot of emphasis on gaining validation from people whose validations are not particularly remarkable. This is especially common among young women who are seeking validation from men.

Even the most empowered young women are easily affected by male attention or a lack thereof. Women are dominating men in college right now. Since the 1960s, women have had higher graduation rates than men. Almost 10 percent more female high school students are enrolled in college than male students by the time they reach their high school graduation. Women are entering professions that were once entirely occupied by men. So why are women still looking to men to verify their worth?

As freshmen, my friends and I went to parties and other social gatherings to have fun. We loved to dance, spend time together and meet new people. Now, it seems like the main point of going out is to talk to boys. Everyone lathers on makeup and squeezes their feet into tiny high heels, all to attract any bit of attention. Successful nights are determined by how confident you feel leaving them, and this is usually determined by how many men caught your eye or gave you a compliment.

When a night is unsuccessful by these terms, the entire event is deemed a bust. If we didn’t allure any males of interest, the function was pointless and we leave the night feeling unfulfilled. My friends have forgotten how we used to be completely content just keeping each other company.

The sad part is that this kind of validation isn’t sustainable. At the end of the night, the makeup is washed away and the heels are slipped off. Voids that were filled with temporary recognition are emptied again. A vicious cycle of loneliness can only be paused by another night and another provisional companion starts all over again.

We are living in a period of history when women are being listened to more than ever. The #MeToo movement opened the door for women to be part of a conversation about gender inequality and oppression that still exists so many years after the women’s rights movement.

We need to be more aware of how the patriarchy prevails in little ways. Toxic masculinity is contagious, and women fuel the fire when they let men determine their value. We cannot give men the ability to manipulate our self-esteems. We must take that power back into our own hands and regain the ability to have a good time and retain our confidence no matter who deems us interesting, pretty or worthy of their energy.

Regaining this power starts from within. The right partner and the right attention will come eventually, and we shouldn’t expect to find him or her every time we leave our houses. Healthy relationships are developed over time, and this is true not only for romantic connections but for friendships as well. If we focus more on strengthening bonds with our friends and the people that make us happy, we will find a form of validation that is valuable and long-lasting.

There are so many places to find support and happiness as a young adult. It is important to spend time with the people who support you, not on the ones who give you a glimpse of attention and never show interest again. Our true value comes from within ourselves.

Molly Chepenik is a UF journalism sophomore. Her column normally appears on Wednesdays.

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