Self-Validation vs. Invalidation
Many of us are our own worst critics, we hear our brains spit out judgmental and demeaning thoughts regularly throughout the day and think nothing of it. Despite the fact that our brains are hardwired for struggle and negativity as a means of survival, the longer the criticism goes on the more it can affect how we feel and impact our decision making. Self-validation is a key component to accepting your thoughts and feelings when things get tough, and it can be a way to enable more self-compassion on those hard days. Normally, when we feel invalidated, it allows our emotions to become more intense and our thoughts to become more critical. It is impossible for us to eliminate uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, so validating them allows us to make room and coexist with them. According to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), validation can come in 6 different levels.
1) Pay Attention:
In order for us to acknowledge how we feel about something, we first have to be able to notice when it’s happening. Mindfulness is key here because it means paying attention to our experience and not pushing it away. Avoidance or pushing away can look like zoning out, daydreaming, or suppressing what is going on internally. Sometimes we find ourselves avoiding with specific behaviors like being overly busy, scrolling through social media, engaging in substance use, etc.
Directly, reflection means to give serious thought about one’s own thoughts, actions, and motives. After paying attention to what we are thinking or feeling, it’s important to be able to describe it effectively. This can be a difficult step at first if avoidance has been the primary tactic for managing feelings. However, it can lead to a person learning more about the reason they are feeling an emotion or even why it led to a behavior. For example, asking oneself the question, “What prompted me to feel sad right now?”
3) Accurate Guessing:
There might be times when despite reflection, it can be hard to accurately label what thoughts or feelings are present. Here is where some guesswork might be required to determine what is happening in the moment. A great prompting question can be, “When have I felt like this before and what was that like?” Utilizing step 1, a person can pay attention to their body language in the moment to assist with accurately guessing how they feel. Reviewing the facts can lead to determining what an appropriate response might be for the situation (i.e. I feel sad because I lost my job).
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to guess, it just doesn’t feel right. This understanding step can allow us to validate how we feel and think based on patterns from our history. For example, “I know I feel sad when my partner leaves because I struggle every time he leaves with having to be alone.”
5) Normalizing the Valid:
All humans experience emotions, more specifically we all experience the full range of emotions (shame, sadness, happiness, anxiety, anger, etc). It’s important for us not to discredit how we are feeling because it’s uncomfortable. At times thinking about appropriate situations where the emotion would come up can be a way for us to acknowledge that what we are feeling is true and valid (i.e. I feel anxious because I don’t know what online school will be like).
The bottom line is being truthful with yourself. If you are feeling an emotion, feel it. Don’t lie to yourself or try to hide it because it will only increase the suffering in the long run. If you are having judgmental thoughts, don’t run from them better yet ask yourself,
“Is giving any attention to this thought helping me live the life I want?”
Here are some examples of invalidation vs. self validation:
Invalidation can sound like:
- “I’m fine.”
- “I really don’t even care about this.”
- “I think I’m just too sensitive sometimes.”
- “I don’t have a reason to feel sad right now.”
- “I need to get over it.”
- “I shouldn’t feel upset.”
- “I’m such an idiot for being angry.”
- “I’m overreacting.”
Self-Validation can sound like:
- “I did a great job with a project today.”
- “It’s okay that I said no to that person.”
- “I understand why I feel anxious about the situation.”
- “Today is hard for me.”
- “I don’t feel like myself.”
- “I don’t feel heard by my friend.”
- “I am happy and that makes me smile.”
- “I am sad and want to cry.”