"the one need he refused was external validation."
what a fine line to balance... [\]
I think a lot of soul searching is needed to improve your aikido. But sometimes its frustrating about thinking you know the theory behind it, but you're unable to do it. Its like this switch or key you're missing that is not visually available from your observations of sensei's or yourself.
I think there are very few instructors who not only have the key, but are aware of it in a way that they can make copies for others to use to unlock themselves.
Even then, we should not expect that things will always work. If I have a key in my pocket, in principle it's an easy thing to take out, put into a lock, turn, and open. And most days this is just how it works.
But some times I have my hands full. Some times I fumble sorting through my keychain. Maybe it's dark, or cold, I have gloves on, or just drop everything into a puddle. It's human to be distracted. Even the simplest of things go wrong.
Yet consider the common miracle of getting into your car and inserting the key into the ignition switch without looking, without even thinking about it. Think about the amazing precision with which you do this ordinary task, more often perfectly than not.
Aikido is just like this. When it's perfect, we don't even notice. It rarely feels special, and because of its ordinariness, it easily escapes our attention.
We stop looking for what we already have. And because of this, we lose what we possess.