When Someone tells us that what we feel or think is wrong, stupid or unimportant, they invalidate us. If it happens infrequently, we can probably shrug it off. But what if it has been happening your whole life?
You may have grown up in a home where invalidation was the norm. Your parents, siblings, peers or teachers may have invalidated you. Children with learning disabilities, ADHD, or physical or mental disabilities, experience invalidation on a regular basis from a variety of sources.
Some people are born more sensitive to their environments than others. When a highly sensitive person encounters an invalidating environment, the person often has difficulty managing their emotions (Linehan, 1993). A highly sensitive, invalidated person may develop borderline personality disorder.
Invalidated Children Grow up to Expect Invalidation
If we were frequently invalidated as a child, we may tolerate relationships with invalidating people, constantly trying to please them and gain their approval.
We not only accept invalidation from others, we expect it. We have learned to invalidate ourselves. We have come to believe our thoughts and feelings are wrong or unimportant.
When we aren’t validated, our emotions escalate. We feel overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, and worthless. This is true whether the invalidation comes from ourselves or someone else.
If we consistently invalidate our feelings and experiences, and allow others to invalidate us, we will experience anxiety and depression.
You can learn to Validate Yourself
Learning to be kind, gentle and accepting of ourselves takes time, patience and effort. By constantly monitoring, challenging, and changing our negative self-talk, we can become compassionate, non-judgmental, and kind to ourselves.
DBT Steps for Self-Validation
Step one: Identify your feelings, then put a period on the end. The period is important. It prevents us from going into a mantra of “What’s wrong with me?,” and “Do I have a right to feel this way?” I am angry, period. That hurt my feelings, period. That embarrassed me, period.
Step two: Give yourself permission to feel the way you do. Don’t question or analyze it. Just let it be okay. “I am disappointed that I didn’t get invited to the party, and I’m allowed to be disappointed.”
Step three: Understand, without judgement, why you feel the way you do. For example, “It’s understandable that I feel disappointed that I didn’t get invited to the party because I have been feeling lonely lately. I would have really enjoyed going out and meeting people.”
Judging is not Validating
It’s important that we not judge ourselves inadvertently while trying to validate ourselves. There is a valid reason why we feel the way we do.
If you don’t feel better after you validate yourself, chances are you are judging yourself without realizing it. “It’s understandable that I am upset because I’m an insecure, needy person,” is not a validation, it’s a judgment.
A validating statement might go something like this: “It’s understandable that I feel upset because I’m a caring, loving person. When someone judges me harshly, it hurts.”
It is normal to want validation from others. It is also normal to sometimes be rejected, hurt, and invalidated. Even those closest to us can invalidate us from time to time.
If we are going to practice self acceptance, we need to limit our contact with people who consistently and regularly put us down. Not only do we need to learn to be kind and compassionate to ourselves, we need to surround ourselves with like-minded people.
To learn more about understanding and managing emotions, check out the links and additional posts below. For specific DBT skills go to DBT Skills in the menu bar.
If you have an experience you’d like to share, add a comment at the bottom of the page. I’d love to hear from you.
“Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Take a quiz to see if you are a highly sensitive person.