Validation is the act of confirming something to be true, worthy, or legitimate. When others validate us we feel understood and accepted, and our relationships can flourish. Self-validation can have similar positive impacts – but it can be hard.
Self-validation is accepting your own experiences, thoughts, and feelings as true. This may sound simple, but when you have been through traumatic experiences – you are taught to question your experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Breaking out of that thinking is not easy – and takes time and practice.
Here are a few things I do to work on my self-validation on a day to day basis.
- Check in with your body. I often find when I am struggling with self-validation I can feel it in my body. My shoulders are tense, my chest is achy with anxiety, and my stomach is usually doing a few loops. This can tell me that the thoughts I am having are causing distress. I do exercises to ground myself and calm my body (examples: 54321, Calm Breathing, and Progressive Muscle Relaxation) before I look at why my thoughts are causing distress.
- Check in with your internal self. This is an important part of self-validation. We have to create some kind of dialogue with our inner self. Sometimes this can happen freely within the mind, and other times journaling or other tools can be used to enhance this kind of dialogue. I find that when I take the time to pause and look internally at the struggle I am having – I get a new and valuable perspective.
- Check the facts. Did that experience really happen? When a thought creeps in and I question whether I am justified in labeling my trauma as “trauma”, it can be helpful to check in and remind myself what happened. Objectively looking at things can be a way of reminding myself that while it may not have been “that bad” or that “others have it worse” – my experience was still trauma.
- Talk to yourself like you would a friend. I have often talked down to myself – minimized and invalidated my experiences because that felt safer. It is one of the harder habits to break. When I hear that voice creeping in, I ask myself “Would I talk this way to a friend?” More often than not, I catch myself with this thought – because I would not hurt my friends, I would not say mean things to my friends, and I would not invalidate my friends. A friend is someone who you are honest with – while also being empathetic, compassionate, encouraging, and kind.
- Don’t judge your emotions. Emotions are information – and they do not have intrinsically positive or negative value. When I experience an overwhelming emotion or thought – I like to sit with it and understand why it is coming up. The act of trying to understand our emotions is an act of self-validation and a step towards acceptance.
- Accept your aren’t perfect – and that it is hard. I’ve often gotten into the loop of thinking that if I am struggling I must be failing, which often increases the struggle. This is not true. Remind yourself that you will stumble, but you will get back up. Self-validation is hard – but that doesn’t mean you aren’t succeeding.
Self-validation comes with trust and trust takes work. You don’t wake up one morning and suddenly trust everyone – because that is not safe. The same can feel true when building trust with yourself – because maybe it hasn’t always felt safe to trust yourself. Be gentle and be kind with yourself.
If you struggle with self-validation and want some more tools – please reach out to one of our therapists at firstname.lastname@example.org.