We all want to know that we matter. Validation is more than just a nice feeling; it gives a sense of purpose to feel accepted and understood. It helps build meaningful connections when people recognize what we say, do, and who we are.
Validation is so important to our emotional and mental health. Dr. Marsha Linehan (Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, 2019), the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), identifies six levels of validation that are important to learn and practice in relationships.
Being validated by others is a wonderful thing, however, a good place to start is by validating ourselves. It is not a good feeling to be dependent on others to make you feel good or worthy. And relying on external validation can make us overly anxious, needy, and ultimately can turn others off.
Validating yourself allows you to deepen your awareness of yourself, manage emotional experiences, and increase your inner tranquility. When you start having your own back and that right there, is a real game changer.
What is self-validation?
Self-validation is when you recognize and accept your own internal experience, thoughts, feelings, and needs. It is the opposite of hiding, blaming, or judging yourself for how you react and process the world around you. Self-validation and mindfulness work go hand in hand as you must notice your own thoughts and feelings before you can validate them consistently.
Speaking about the sense of self and how conditions of worth are added on people, Carl Rogers explains the concepts of conditional positive regard. Conditional positive regard is when a person is imposed with conditions or contingencies in order to receive love and acceptance. This happens early on in life and in the most subtle ways- ‘If you do not finish your food you are not a good boy,’ ‘ You can only make me proud if you become a doctor.’ I am sure that you can instantaneously see how problematic such conditions of worth are. Especially since according to Rogers, Positive regard (AKA love and acceptance) is a core condition for growth and fulfillment. On the other side of the spectrum, is unconditional positive regard where a person is filled with love, acceptance without any conditions.
It is easier for people to self-validate if in childhood they received emotional validation, unconditional love, and compassion from parents or caregivers as well as society at large.
A history of emotional invalidation in family life and/or systems at large makes it more challenging to feel inherently worthy.
Conditions of worth are ingrained in us, in generations, parenting styles, culture, linguistics and therefore when it becomes so normalized we hardly see the problem in it. Conditions of worth are seen in almost all relationships- parent-child, employer- employee, amongst spouses, siblings and so many more. Just think about it.
So ultimately bringing us back to the questions it is possible to break that cycle and build self-compassion. After all, self-criticizing hasn’t worked right? Let’s try something different.
The key to happiness many times lies in our own hands, seldom do we realize it. We cannot control the world around us but what we can control is way more powerful- ourselves!
Take back to power, take back your worth, do not let others control it. Self validate yourself, do things for you and in turn you will feel more in control of your happiness. Isn’t that what we all want?
Here are some pointers that can help you introspect on your level of self validation.
How do you know if you self-validate?
First, notice how your inner voice sounds with these questions:
• Is it a supportive voice or critical?
• If it were a person, would I like them or want to spend time with them?
• Does the voice comfort me or cause me distress?
• Do I feel like I deserve to be talked to negatively or punished?
If your inner voice is not able to provide reassurance, warmth, and be your cheerleader then start by giving it a boost of self-validation. Like anything new, you will need to take it slow and practice.
If you feel that you can improve in the area of self validation then don’t worry we got you covered.
Here are some ways to build a validating inner voice:
Notice the ways you take care of yourself each day, simple things to big deals, and recognize those adulting moments and be proud of it.
Ask yourself what you need right now – rest, comfort, a break, etc. And follow that question up with truly listening to yourself. Heed your inner voice, don’t disregard it. Disregarding it means disregarding yourself, which is the opposite of self validation.
Normalize your thoughts, feelings, or needs by recognizing and acknowledging them. Accept that you are feeling that way and have an internal dialogue with yourself.
Before looking to others for validation, ask yourself, “What do I hope that person tells me?” Then say it to yourself.
Build a gratitude practice that is focused on yourself or make a “you” section. Examples are “today I’m grateful for my mind that allows me to create” or “today I’m grateful for the senses that allow me to enjoy my meal.”
Compliment yourself regularly. Write one on a sticky note to put on your mirror or computer to repeat to yourself.
Say encouraging words to yourself, give yourself pep talks by telling yourself “you’ve got this”, “you can get through this”, and “you are worth it”. The thing about affirmations is that it can’t just be read out on Instagram or Pinterest once in a while. It needs to be practiced regularly and you really need to try to believe it to see the magic.
Make a list of things you like about yourself. If you are struggling, start with what your friends or loved ones appreciate about you. Reread that list when you feel in need of reassurance or approval.
Be a parent to the child in you – tell yourself that “You are worthy of love” or “Everything will be okay, I will keep you from harm.”
These practices will increase your overall awareness of your inner self therefore can integrate well with ongoing mindfulness practices. Therapy is also a space to practice receiving validation if you find yourself at the beginning of this journey. It takes effort and patience but self-validation is so worth it.
Another amazing thing about unconditional self positive regard, is that when you practice it you radiate it to others as well, thus creating a space for mindful positive regard for people around you as well.
Try it, to believe it!
Dialectic behavioural therapy. (2021). Self Validation: DBT https://dialecticalbehaviortherapy.com/emotion-regulation/self-validation/
Oregon Counselling .(2013). 4 tips for practicing self validation. Oregon Counselling https://oregoncounseling.com/article/practicing-self-validation/
Martin. (2019). Why it's so important to validate yourself and how to start. PsychCentral https://psychcentral.com/blog/imperfect/2019/11/why-its-so-important-to-validate-yourself-and-how-to-start
By: Shreya Royan