How to Break the Chains of External Validation and Embrace Self-Love



It’s mid-morning, after a cup of coffee, but I haven’t eaten yet.

The kids are at school and I am heading out to the studio to paint. I catch John in the kitchen and start telling him something. I see his face squinch up. I’m about to ask him what the problem is and he says, “Ugh. Your breath stinks. You need to go to the dentist!”

I stand there for a second in amazement and realize I'm going to cry. I’m embarrassed that his rude comment is bringing me to tears, so I turn in a hurry and run upstairs to my room. By the time I flop into my chair, my face is wet.

The Power of Words: The Negative Impact of John's Comment

I feel incredible shame. I’m ashamed my breath stinks and I’m ashamed that I’m crying about it.

I can't figure out why I’m so crushed. Why does it hurt so bad? What is wrong with me? My mind starts to replay what just happened and I’m thinking my breath probably does stink. I hadn’t eaten and had drunk coffee. John’s breath probably stunk too. I think I have even told him that in the past, but I didn't see him run off crying! God—why am I such a sniffly, emotional woman? Why do I let John define me and allow this little comment to hurt me so bad?

A Divine Message of Love and Reassurance 

Oil painting of sheep and pomegranates inspired by "Song of Songs"

Just then I hear, from inside my bruised heart, God whisper: “Read Song of Songs 4:2”.

I look it up and it reads, “How beautiful you are my darling, Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn sheep which have come up from their washing, all of which bears a twin, and not one among them has lost her young.”

I am stunned! First, that I actually heard God speak to me—I barely know that poem and random verses don't just pop in my head like that. Second, how boldly God just reassured me and pampered me with love. I expect if God were to give me his opinion of my breath it would have be, “Yeah, it stinks a little. But stop crying about it, sheesh!” How beautiful that my teeth are like shorn sheep fresh up from the washing! It’s true none have lost their young. I’m not missing any teeth!

Letting Go of the Need for External Validation

This precious moment, years ago, changed me forever. I no longer needed John. I didn't need him to validate me, approve of me, or define me. He didn't complete me or fill some empty place in me. His words didn't make or break me and my identity didn't rely on him.

John is flawed like me; he doesn't have the power or authority to break my heart or crush my spirit. I want John. I choose him. I enjoy being with him and we are building a life and destiny together.

I don't want my words to have power over him, either. I want to be free to say something when I’m having a bad day and not destroy his self image over it. If John’s breath stinks, I want the freedom to tell him so.

That day I changed.

Discovering a Reflection of Radiance, Beauty, and Love

Artist Couple John and Elli Milan embracing

I looked to God to be my mirror and not a flawed person.

The poem goes on to say, “Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely... Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate behind your veil.” He says my cheeks are like the redness of a sliced pomegranate, flushed with emotion, and he finds it beautiful.

My dad didn't like it when I was emotional or cried. There wasn't freedom for those things. He certainly didn't find it beautiful. John gets awkward and feels responsible when I cry or get emotional. But God holds my face, looks deeply into my eyes, and beams. The raw passion of my emotions, the trueness and innocence of it, he finds incredibly and ravishingly beautiful.

This is the mirror I look into.

When you look into the mirror, what do you see? Do you see beauty, love, and worthiness staring back at you?


  • chloe dave

    I was totally broken when the love of my life left me, it was so hard for me, I almost gave up if not for a friend who directed me to a very good and powerful VOODOO MASTER who helped me bring back the love of my life and now he treats me with so much love and care. I don’t know what problem you are passing through in your Marriage/Relationship but with what he did for me I know he can also help you, Do not hesitate to DM him via Email:

  • Marguerite

    Wow, what a lovely story. I am such a sensitive person and very emotional and can cry easily. I am new at art and have been painting for about 14 months going to classes with a group of ladies and enjoy the community but need to paint more on my own. I get afraid that I will not be good. God gave me this talent and I don’t want to lose it. Thanks for your inspiring story.

  • Rebecca Woodland

    Thank you for this beautiful, powerful reminder. Elli, you are a gift from God.

  • Carrie G

    Elli , thank you for sharing this . I really loved hearing about that moment in your life while watching the video of you creating a beautiful piece of art . I felt inspired by your words and was just thinking about this yesterday as I spend a lot of time alone in my studio and asking myself do I need to spend more time with others , maybe it would be a way to learn more about myself . The truth is I’ve learned more about my through art and my own spiritual connection . I’m also a part of the Milan art mastery program and have grown so much in art and as a person .

  • Snezhana

    Dear Elli,
    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story and finding peace in truth and God. It reminded me of similar experiences and lessons learned. How we react to the outside world ultimately shapes our lives. Wishing you, John, and your whole family everlasting love, inspiration, and happiness!

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