What is validation?

It feels good to be seen and understood right? Validation is the method of learning about, understanding, and expressing acceptance of another person’s emotional experience unconditionally, without judgement. Why do we validate? Painful feelings that are expressed, acknowledged, and validated by a trusted listener will diminish. Painful feelings that are ignored will gain strength

To properly validate someone’s feelings is first to be open minded and curious about someone’s feelings. Next, it is to understand them, and finally it is to nurture them. Validation does not mean that you have to agree with or have the other person’s experience be meaningful to you. Its not about you in these moments, its about what the interpretations and opinions are for the other person as we allow them to safely share their feelings and thoughts.

We are reassuring them that it is okay to have the feelings they have. We are demonstrating that we will still accept them after they have shared their feelings. We let them know that we respect their perception of things at that moment. We help them feel heard, acknowledged, understood, and accepted. Validating statements are “it makes sense that you would feel this way”, “I hear you”, “that really sucks”, “anyone would feel the way you do in this circumstance”, “it sounds like you are feeling ____”.

Invalidation on the other hand, is to reject, ignore, or judge their feelings, and hence, their individual identity. This is why invalidation is too dangerous and harmful. When we invalidate somebody’s feelings the message people get is that their experience is wrong or that there is something wrong with them, and the closer the relationship the more damaging the effect. Invalidation has been suggested as one of the primary causes of significant mental challenges including self-harming behaviours and suicide.

Invalidation often leads to emotional distancing, conflict, and disruption in relationships, as well as feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, confusion, and inferiority in the affected individual. Psychologist Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D, observed that growing up in an environment where one’s inner experiences were invalidated, punished, or ignored was a potential cause in the onset of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Get some! Start asking for it from the people in your life that truly have you best interest at heart. You deserve it. Everyone has a right to it, because otherwise we suffer. Self-validation means accepting your own internal experiences, your own thoughts, and your own feelings with out judgment. The moment you judge your own thoughts, it adds another layer of upset. Consider negative thoughts objectively and with curiosity; label them simply as “unhelpful” and imagine them less integrated with your sense of self.

You are always allowed to feel the way you feel, we do not get to choose, and nobody can tell you differently.