Are my feelings ok?
The dictionary defines val·i·date as:
Check or prove the validity or accuracy of (something).
Demonstrate or support the truth or value of.
Make or declare legally valid.
The word, valid, immediately reminds you of a driver’s license, passport, college ID or at the most a gift card from your favorite store.
How many of you straightaway think… you, me or our relationships?
When we think of what we can do to nurture our relationships, we often think of tangibles. Allow a free dinner for the office team, have the florist send off a bouquet to your mom on her birthday, buy new toys for your kids or buy your significant other a new perfume.
While all of these things certainly won’t hurt your relationships, they aren’t necessarily the strongest ways to connect with the ones who are important to you.
How often have you witnessed the death of a relationship simply because in the equation of two, one did not feel validated.
A mother who surrenders to the stillness around her. Her children, all grown up no longer talk to her as much as they did before. Life goes on but with very little rapport, she now questions her existence.
That friend who saved a seat for you at every lunch break, hung around behind you as you chattered along endlessly in college corridors, who for many years after, wrote you, called you, emailed you until she disappeared without a trace.
Or that ex-special friend who you never ‘officially’ dated, who silently stood in your shadows, always available when you needed him/her, never questioned you, your intentions or your reasons why. Today you remain a memory they’d prefer to forget.
Validation. What is it then?
To validate someone’s feelings is to accept their feelings. It is to understand them. It’s letting them know that what they say and do matters to you…. It’s saying, you matter to me. I hear you. I see you. I think of you. I thank you. I acknowledge your accomplishments. I appreciate your efforts.
Validation is one way that we communicate acceptance of others.
To validate is to recognize and accept one’s unique identity and individuality. Invalidation, on the other hand, is to reject, ignore, or judge their feelings, and hence, their individual identity.
When we validate someone, 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.
When feelings are positive validation helps keep spirits high. In the same breath painful feelings that are expressed, acknowledged and validated by a trusted listener will diminish. However those same painful feelings if ignored will gain strength when invalidated.
It doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing or approving. When you disagree with your friend or family member you would certainly let them know of your point of view. However, validation thereafter is a way of supporting them even if you hold a different opinion.
Validation is the recognition and acceptance of another person’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable.
One of the ways to understand why we need to be validated requires us to look at how often our feelings get ridiculed. We believe from an early age that strength means not crying, bravery means not feeling fear, and maturity means not getting angry.
Showing strong emotion tends to make people around you uncomfortable. Usually, they will attempt to stop you as quickly as possible. They may try to convince you that your feelings are inappropriate. That you need to get over these feelings. Though their intent maybe to help you feel better, often the impact of their message is that it’s not okay to feel what you’re feeling.
Most of us truly want to help other people, but often we don’t know how, or we try too hard and we start giving advice, solutions to the problem. But I have found that usually if I just validate someone, they are able to work out their own emotional problems even faster than if I were to give them my counsel. This I believe is a sign of not only high EQ but of wisdom.
The relationship will be better because with more validation you are going to have less debating, less conflicts, and less disagreement. You will also find that validation opens people up and helps them feel free to communicate with you. In fact, if there is a communication breakdown, if there is a wall between you and someone else, it probably has been built with the bricks of invalidation. Validation is the means of chipping away at the wall and opening the free flow of communication.
Lastly and most importantly do we always need to receive it from others? Or can we give it to ourselves?
Can you? In fact, you must. You need to give it to yourself. First.
Allow and accept feelings to flow through you. Acknowledge the unpleasant ones. Appreciate your achievements. If you don’t praise yourself, you’ll have a tendency to question the validation you receive from others: “Oh, he’s just saying that; she doesn’t really mean it.” Or you may end up being so hungry for validation that your partner, friends or family may perceive you as excessively needy: “If I don’t notice every little thing s/he does, s/he’s on my case.”
Essentially then, we yearn for acceptance of our feelings. Not only from ourselves but from those we trust, love or rely on as well.
Whatever else someone may be saying when they express themselves, they are probably also implicitly asking, “Are my feelings okay?”
Do take the time to answer.
Connect with your parent/s today, trace down that friend and have a heart to heart and let that ex- special friend know that you recall and realize. Thank them all.
Validation then, answers this indirectly asked question, “Are my feelings okay?”and provides satisfaction for a profound, though often unconscious need of every individual.