[6 Minute Read]
One of the best ways to build up your connection with yourself is by validating yourself.
Self-validation teaches you to take yourself and your experiences seriously. It nurtures your confidence and helps you become more assertive, stand up for yourself, self-soothe, and cope more easily with difficult feelings.
It helps you accept yourself as you are, in the moment, without intellectualizing, rationalizing, or explaining your thoughts or feelings away.
The more you validate yourself, the less validation you will seek out from others.
That doesn't mean being validated by others is wrong! Quite the opposite is true. Humans are social creatures, wired for connection. It's normal to want to feel validated, and to see validation from others. External experiences and interactions reaffirm our value. They can can help us cultivate a strong sense of Self and healthy self-esteem.
But if you grew up with a deficit or lack of adequate validation of your experiences — no one to hold space for your emotions or mirror what you were going through to help you understand your thoughts and feelings — you may struggle with this simple but necessary practice. And with it can come a host of other problems such as feeling disconnected, unseen, being unable to recognize or verbalize your feelings, lacking self-trust, or trouble regulating your emotions.
But don't worry! Validating yourself is a learned skill. Nobody is born knowing how to do this. With practice, it can become a habit that will help you throughout your whole life.
8 Ways to Validate Yourself
1. Acknowledge your feelings or bodily sensations to yourself (it’s ok if you’re not sure exactly what they are).
ex: “I feel angry”, “I’m so flippin’ excited”, “I‘m exhausted this week”, “That made me sad” “Something about that didn’t feel right to me”, “I’m feeling conflicted”, “I feel so tense lately”. If you struggle with connecting to bodily sensations, start with spending time with your body while doing something physical. Going on walks, working out, or stretching can help.
2. Make a list of “grounding statements” that you know to be true, to repeat to yourself in moments of doubt.
ex: “I deserve to be treated with kindness”, “I know that I’m capable of handling stuff”, “I can make good decisions”, “It’s ok to be confused.”, “It’s not my responsibility to fix others’ problems for them”.
3. Congratulate yourself when you accomplish something or reach a goal! Be your biggest cheerleader.
ex: “That was so amazing! I did such a good job!”,
“I’m the cleverest fox”, “That was so hard but I did it!”, “I’m really not surprised, I‘m a freakin’ badass”. ((seriously; just lay all the superlatives on thick. Be the Leslie Knope of compliments to yourself).
4. When you’re not feeling quite like yourself, acknowledge that and ask yourself what you need.
ex: “I’ve been in a funk lately; what could be the problem?” “Maybe I need to be kinder to myself”, “I’ve been pushing myself really hard lately. I could use a break”, “I need more time to think things through”.
5. When you finally complete a task you’ve been putting off or dreading, validate how difficult it was to do that.
ex: “That wasn’t easy but I’m so proud of myself for doing it”, “Now that I’ve done it once, I know I can do it again if I need to”.
6. When faced with a challenging task, encourage yourself gently and lovingly.
ex: “This is going to be difficult but that’s ok. I can do it”, “It’s normal to be afraid right now”, “Doing this probably won’t be easy but it will make me stronger”, “I believe in myself”, “I’m just going to do the best that I can”.
7. Support yourself when you “fail” at something or something didn’t work out like you planned.
ex: “It’s normal to feel disappointed, I really wanted that to work out”, “I wish that had gone better, it meant so much to me”, “It’s ok to fail. I love myself for trying anyway”.
8. Acknowledge when you DON’T know how to deal with something. This can make it easier to ask for help, if you need it.
ex: “I have no idea how to deal with this”, “I’m so angry and I don’t know what to do about it”, “I’ve tried everything I can, I don’t know what else to do”, “This may be more than I can handle by myself”.
Self-validating helps us tune into what we really need
Validating increases awareness of your needs, thoughts, and feelings. It helps you recognize what you may be needing and how you can go about getting that need met in healthy ways.
Validating yourself is the first step towards a healthy relationship with yourself, and thus healthier relationships and communication with others.
Let's look at how a situation plays out WITH and WITHOUT self-validation involved
Without: For example, let's say you feel like your partner regularly avoids a topic you bring up. They're normally attentive, but with this topic they tend to dodge you. You start to feel annoyed, rejected, or like they don't care...But you don't acknowledge it. You focus on their evasive efforts, shifting all the blame over to them. Or, you start to tell yourself that it's not that bad because you talk about other things, that you shouldn't make a big deal out of it.
This is also a form of invalidating yourself — not cool, and you deserve better! Over time, your resentment builds until you verbally lash out at them over something else entirely, leading to confusion and a big argument where you both give each other the silent treatment for days.
With: Now let's look at this scenario again when you've taken the time to draw awareness to your feelings and validate yourself. Validating yourself should be a lot like talking to a friend who really cares about what you're going through...So you take a moment to tell yourself that their behavior upsets you, and that this topic matters to you. You validate your own thoughts and feelings on the matter.
You tell yourself how you feel stuck, unheard, frustrated, and lonely. You let yourself feel all those feelings because you regard yourself with compassion (self-compassion is critical when learning to validate yourself!).
They are perfectly normal feelings, and you're allowed to feel them, no matter how dramatic or stupid or ugly they feel. You decide that it's important to you that, the next time you and your partner talk, you bring up how you've been feeling about this conflict (and their overall evasiveness).
Next time you see them, you ask them if you can talk, and then you bring up how you've been feeling — stuck, frustrated, lonely, perhaps a little abandoned. You express your wish to have more productive conversations. You might say that you're afraid of dealing with this alone. By focusing on your feelings first (which you took the time to validate), your partner lets their guard down a little. They share that they've been feeling stressed about this topic, and that they don't know how to deal with it either! You offer to do what you can to make this easier for you both, and they do, too. Their defensiveness shifts to vulnerability as they feel the space is a little "safer" for them to share their feelings.
Of course, this is very much a "in a perfect world" outcome, but this approach means the conversation has a better chance of playing out in a healthier way, and it all starts with you giving respect to your thoughts, feelings, and needs. (Side note: if your partner repeatedly shuts down your attempts at communicating your feelings in a healthy way or is easily triggered by you wanting to communicate, that's not your fault. If that's the case, you may need to start thinking seriously about your future in the relationship or boundaries you need to set).
It's not easy at first, but don't give up!
When we self-validate, it can help us understand what's causing us distress or difficulty. It can help us approach conflicts in a mature way by introducing our perspective and taking responsibility for our feelings instead of assigning blame. It builds up self-esteem, self-confidence, and increases mindfulness around what we think, need, and feel.
If it doesn't feel natural at first, that's ok! Like any new skill, it can take time to learn. Look at validating yourself as a muscle that needs to get stronger. Repetition and consistency will make this a habit for life!