Validation is an important part of mental and emotional health.
It’s how we come to terms with the not-so-wonderful aspects of ourselves, find compassion for those flaws, and grow to understand them.
Validation is to seek to understand and then accept what your mind and heart are saying to you, for better or worse.
That doesn’t mean that you need to approve or agree with what is going on within.
Sometimes we have feelings that we know are wrong or incorrect and vehemently disagree with them, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are still feeling them.
In a relationship, validation is essential for demonstrating understanding.
By offering acceptance and understanding, we provide room for each other to work through our flaws and grow together into something more significant.
This is a powerful thing that can help you or the people you love find acceptance for yourself, which provides freedom and understanding on a deep level.
It is a challenging thing to do.
Self-validation is just as challenging.
Self-validation is when you can accept and understand all of the moving pieces of what makes you who you are, both good and bad.
And let’s face it, we all have that internal critic that likes to tell us that we aren’t good enough, that our emotions aren’t valid, or that we are somehow unworthy.
We may also experience thoughts or emotions that are not consistent with how we view life, want to think, or that are objectively untrue.
Still, we should not judge ourselves harshly for feeling and experiencing these thoughts and emotions.
That fuels frustration and anger, which deprives us of our ability to use those as learning moments.
The more comfortable you become with these flawed aspects of yourself, the easier it is to stay calm, collected, and find your way through.
It allows you to better provide space for yourself so that you can do the necessary internal work to grow.
How do we practice self-validation?
Dr. Marsha Linehan, Professor of Psychology and creator of Dialectical Behavior Psychology, identified six levels of validation of another that increase in difficulty in practice.
These levels can also be applied to practicing compassion for yourself.
Even if you are only able to practice one of these levels some of the time, you should be able to create more space for yourself to understand and accept what you are experiencing.
1. Be present with your emotions.
The act of being present is to focus on the situation at hand.
That can be either physical or mental.
To be physically present is to have your attention focused on whatever activity you’re participating in or witnessing.
You could be sitting and watching a sunset, but you keep looking at your phone instead of actually watching the sunset.
To be present would be to put the phone away and actually watch the sunset.
On an emotional level, to be present with oneself is to acknowledge and feel what you need to feel when you are feeling it.
It means we don’t numb, distract, or ignore what we are feeling.
We give ourselves permission to feel our feelings and then feel them when we can.
This is a balance.
There are times when our feelings are intrusive or may be twisted.
There are also times when you may just be tired of feeling the emotions that you are. They may not be going away or may be causing other difficulties in your life.
You may not have the option to feel your emotions at that moment. That’s okay too.
The important thing is that you do give yourself some time to feel and think at some point.
2. Accurately reflect on the situation and emotions.
An accurate reflection is to contemplate and identify that which you are feeling and the reasons why.
The keyword in that sentence is “accurate.”
By accurate, we mean factual and correct.
It does no good to tear yourself down as someone less than because you are experiencing negative emotions or reactions to a situation.
Instead of thinking, “I’m sad because my date canceled on me. No one wants to be around me. No one likes me.”
You’d want to think something along the lines of, “I’m sad that my date canceled on me because I was excited about that date.”
An accurate reflection of the situation should include the feelings, what caused the emotions, and a factual statement of why you are feeling those feelings.
The more you can stay away from opinion, the less you will find negative or critical language in those thoughts.
3. Make an educated guess if you aren’t sure.
Guess!? Why would you guess if you aren’t sure?
Well, it’s because we may not always have a clear idea of what we are feeling or why we are feeling it.
An educated guess can help us land in the relatively correct area of the problem and provide some guidance on how to get to the validation of what we think and feel.
There are different ways to make this guess.
You may look at physical sensations that you are experiencing.
A knot in your stomach could indicate anxiety or fear. A lump in the throat can help point to sadness or being overwhelmed.
You may also want to consider what someone else in the situation that you’re facing would feel.
That is to not undermine what you think, but to get a better idea of the possibilities.
What emotion would this make another person feel?
Have you seen anyone else in this position? How would they think or feel?
And then you can use that as a road map to understanding what you’re feeling.
4. Consider past circumstances that may be contributing.
The experiences we have in life leave lasting marks on our minds.
It is perfectly reasonable and acceptable to have a negative response and emotions to circumstances that are similar to past experiences in which we’ve been hurt.
A person who was bitten by a dog may be afraid of and uncomfortable around dogs as an adult. That’s not unreasonable.
In trying to validate your emotions, it can be helpful to look at past circumstances to better understand why you are feeling the way that you do.
It may be a wound that has not healed entirely, or that has left a lasting mark.
That doesn’t mean that you need to dwell on that negative past experience and doom yourself to suffering for it every other time you experience it.
No, the point is to see where those emotions are coming from so that you can accept them, validate them, and let them pass.
The more you do that, the easier it will be to accept and understand them until it won’t bother you much at all.
5. Normalize your emotions by letting yourself feel all of them.
The self-help culture and atmosphere is keen on promoting positive thinking and happiness, which is unfortunate because life isn’t solely about happiness.
It’s okay to have strong negative feelings, especially when you’re dealing with some negative stuff in your life.
It’s reasonable to feel sad about a breakup, angry about not getting a job or promotion, or fearful about an uncertain future.
Less emotionally intelligent people may chalk these things up to being soft or weak, but they’re not.
They are fair and reasonable emotions to experience in a negative situation.
You don’t have to always be happy, always look on the bright side, or try to find the silver lining in every gray cloud.
Sometimes you need to feel those negative feelings so that you can accept them and let them pass.
The important thing is not to live and dwell there.
6. Practice radical genuineness with yourself.
What does it mean to be radically genuine?
It is to accept yourself for who you are, warts and all.
Everyone has some ugly things about themselves that they may not like or want to accept.
Perhaps we’ve made the wrong choices in life, were steered in the wrong direction, or aren’t a very good person.
These are all things that we can change if we dare to admit that we aren’t so perfect, and accept that we are capable of these negative things.
But we must also accept that we have the power and ability to change these negative things that we don’t necessarily like about ourselves.
You are not your negative actions. No one is.
Sometimes people just make bad decisions. Everyone does.
Remind yourself of that when you find yourself dwelling or trying to avoid these things.
You may also like:
- 11 Critical Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Shut Out Your Negative Feelings
- 4 Examples Of Toxic Positivity + How To Avoid It
- Emotional Numbness: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment
- 20 Healthy Coping Skills: Strategies To Help With Negative Emotions
- How To Channel Your Anger And Release It In A Positive Way
- 7 Simple Steps To Not Let Things Bother You