happy smiling woman in recovery

Emotional Invalidation: What It Is and How to Validate Your Own Feelings

Validation refers to the acceptance of a person’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. You don’t have to agree with the person – you are simply giving them the space they need to feel these emotions and process them without fear of judgment or rejection. Invalidation, on the other hand, happens when a person’s thoughts, feelings or emotions are ignored, judged or rejected. 

Invalidation can happen to anyone at any age – and it doesn’t feel good. Over time, invalidation from yourself or others can lead to low self-worth, which can then spill over into your work, home, family and relationships. Sometimes, constant emotional invalidation can lead to other negative emotions and mental health conditions. 

Fortunately, you do not have to fall into this cycle – or stay in this cycle. There are things you can do to validate your own emotions. Even though it’s normal to seek external validation, you can’t rely on others to make you feel good. When you do, you allow others to determine your worth, and this can become unhealthy. 

What is Emotional Invalidation? 

Emotional invalidation occurs when someone dismisses or rejects your thoughts, feelings or behaviors. It’s like they say, “Your feelings don’t matter” or “Your feelings are wrong.” 

Sometimes, people use emotional invalidation to make you feel irrational. They want you to question your feelings, so they don’t have to take responsibility. Others do it to make you feel better, such as saying things like, “Everything happens for a reason” or “It could have been a lot worse.” 

Not all forms of emotional invalidation must be verbal. Someone rolling their eyes at you or ignoring what you said also counts as invalidation.

Consequences of Invalidation 

The consequences of invalidation involve far more than feeling hurt. You may start to distrust your own emotions and tell yourself that you are wrong for having feelings. You may also hide your emotions and develop low-esteem. After all, it’s hard to be happy and confident when you’re constantly doubting yourself.

Emotional invalidation can even contribute to some mental health conditions. And, if you already have a mental illness like depression or anxiety, emotional invalidation can worsen your symptoms. While emotional invalidation can happen at any point in life, people seem to be most impacted when it occurs in childhood. 

How to Practice Emotional Validation

Remember, there is nothing wrong with wanting validation from others. It feels good when someone praises us for a job well done. However, relying on others to make you feel good can quickly lead to a lack of confidence and self-worth. This is why it’s so important to trust your emotions and validate your own experiences. 

Here are some tips for practicing emotional validation: 

  • Notice how you feel and what you need. For instance, maybe you are feeling angry and need time alone. 
  • Accept your feelings and needs without judgment. For example, you might say, “It’s okay to feel stressed in this situation. I need a few minutes to myself and I’ll be okay.”
  • Don’t let your feelings define you. It’s healthy to accept your emotions and process them, but don’t let them define you. You can feel sad or nervous without being a depressed or anxious person. Feelings are temporary – they come and go. 

Statements for Self-Validation 

As you work on validating your emotions, here are some helpful statements you can make. In fact, you can use these statements on other people as they open up and share their struggles. Validating others’ emotions can get you to be more gracious to yourself! 

  • My feelings are valid. 
  • It’s normal to feel this way. 
  • I am proud of myself. 
  • I gave it my best effort. 
  • I am worthy. 
  • Everyone makes mistakes.

Building Confidence and Self-Worth in Addiction Recovery 

When you’re going through addiction recovery, it’s important to give yourself grace. If you were someone constantly criticized growing up, it can take time to see yourself as worthy and valuable. But with patience, acceptance and love, you can get there. 

The most important thing is that you recognize that validation is something you can give yourself. Once you do, you’ll be able to accept your feelings and celebrate your accomplishments without having to rely on others to provide this for you.

Awakenings Treatment Center is a holistic healing center in Agoura Hills, CA. We treat substance use and mental health disorders – and teach our clients how to build a life of resilience and determination. To learn more about our outpatient treatment services, contact our admissions team today.