All of us have been invalidated from time to time.
Invalidation is when someone tells us that what we feel is wrong, silly, inappropriate, or simply doesn’t matter. Most of us then experience an escalation of our emotions. Some of us are lucky to live and work in environments that are more validating.
Many of us, as children, experienced environments that were consistently invalidating. As adults, we may continue to find ourselves in similar environments, through unsupportive relationships or toxic work environments.
Not liking it, but not knowing any different, we continue in these environments, simply accepting the view that there is something wrong with us.
As a child, if we were highly sensitive or had ADHD, we experienced a higher degree of invalidation as the world struggled to understand us. Our feelings and experiences may have been minimized, ridiculed, or even punished.
The message we received was that something was wrong with us, and our way of being in the world.
If you were abused as a child that very fact was an invalidation. Your feelings and needs were ignored.
If you were bullied at school you were invalidated. Whenever what we feel is treated as inappropriate, wrong or silly, or our feelings do not matter, we are invalidated. After years of being invalidated we learn to invalidate ourselves. We not only question our feelings, we judge them.
“Do I have a right to feel this way?” “Why do I feel this way,” What’s wrong with me that I feel this way?”
These questions are common mantras for the invalidated person.
We not only question our right to feel the way we do, but we shame ourselves and develop elaborate theories about what is wrong with us. We might decide we are simply insecure, get hurt easily, or have something psychologically wrong with us.
When others invalidate us our emotions escalate. This also happens when we invalidate ourselves.
If we consistently invalidate our own feelings and experiences, we find ourselves frequently flooded with our emotions, overwhelmed, feeling depressed, anxious, and worthless.
Self-validation is a skill that some people are taught as children by adults who themselves were validated. If you weren’t validated you likely do not have those skills. Self- validation can be done in three steps.
How to Self-Validate. 1. Identify your feeling, then put a period at the end. The period is important. It prevents you from going into your 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.
Get the point? Make sure the feeling is specific. “I am upset,” or “I am mad,” or “I feel insecure,” is too vague. If you are mad, identify the first emotion you had that prompted the anger, such as embarrassed, hurt, or frustrated.
2. Allow 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 it’s okay that I’m disappointed”.
3. Understand, without judgment why you feel the way you do. For example, “It’s understandable that I feel disappointed I didn’t get invited to the party because I have been feeling lonely lately, and I would have really enjoyed going out and meeting people”.
It’s important that there is no judgment in your statement. If you were to say, “It’s understandable that I feel disappointed because I’m an insecure person and not getting invited triggers my insecurity,” that’s a judgement.
You are putting yourself down and making your feelings the result of your imperfections.
If you don’t feel better after you tell yourself why it is perfectly understandable that you feel the way you do, then chances are it’s because there is a judgement in there. Keep working it until you get it right. You should feel understood, calmer, and more at peace after you have validated yourself.
Many of us seek our validation from others, looking to others to reassure us that our feelings and experiences are okay. You will feel more at peace with yourself and more content with your responses if you validate yourself.
When you validate your feelings you calm down enough to allow reason and logic to enter the picture. For example, if you soothe yourself by acknowledging that you are lonely and would have liked to be invited to a party, your logical self will then be able to tell you it might be a good idea to pick up the phone and call an old friend.
Our intuition may tell us that our old friend would be open to hearing from us. If we apply logic to our emotions, then bring in our intuition, we become our wise self. The more we operate and make choices from our wise self the more at peace we’ll be.
If the invalidation you received as a child or as an adult makes it nearly impossible to validate yourself, you may benefit from seeking counselling from your Employee and Family Assistance Provider (EFAP).
At Walmsley we have experience helping people acquire new skills so they can let go of old habits.
Jenny DeReis, MC Psych, CCC Concepts from Dialectical Behaviour Theory - Dr. Marsha Linehan