It is important to validate the negative, unpleasant emotions of our friends and loved ones.
It should go without saying that it is equally important to validate the positive feelings. However, many of us find this potentially gratifying task difficult to perform.
Unfortunately, people pleasers and excessively responsible people do not deal very well with disappointment or inconvenience. Such people often make things worse. They say things like, “You didn’t want that job, anyway” or, “In six months you’ll have forgotten all about the breakup,” or, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” or, “You are making a mountain out of a molehill.”
These words are said in an attempt to relieve the pain of the situation by denying that our feelings exist. In so doing, these well-intentioned problem solvers have succeeded in invalidating our distress.
A better technique would be to say to ourself or others:
“It’s disappointing when that happens, isn’t it? It must have made you angry. What do you think we can do about it?”
“I would be disappointed, too, if I thought…..”
“You sound disappointed”
“That must be disappointing”
“I don’t blame you for feeling that way”
Some people feel unworthy of happiness, and when they succeed at work or school, it creates a problem. They feel inadequate to cope with all this happiness because they feel happiness is only temporary and that it will end in disaster. They find it hard to participate in any celebration of success, “knowing” that the whole thing is a prelude to misery.
They may devise a deceptive cover story to explain their avoidant behavior: “I don’t want it to go to my head,” or “If I did a good job, I don’t have people tell me, or “I was just lucky.”
The truth is that they feel like a fraud who did not earn their success. The truth is that to feel happy would be inconsistent with their preexisting feelings of unworthiness. This clash is painful, and they seek to prevent it from happening.
Children coming home with a great report card expect positive validation from the people upon whom they depend for their survival. When their father says, “That’s no big deal,” or “Your cousin, got a perfect 4.0,” they feel good for nothing and invalidated as a person. Even if the parent says nothing, the child perceives the absence of the expected validation as an act of neglect and rejection. They become discouraged.
We are not here to pass our discouragement on to our children. We are here to encourage them. If we do not, who will?
It costs nothing to encourage others. In fact, it pays big dividends if we do it the right way. We must make it happen. We do not say, “That’s nice” – praise is not what the child needs. In order to encourage someone, we must give of ourselves: “It makes me so happy when you help around the house,” “I’m so proud of you. You are doing so well.”
There is no danger that these personalized encouragements will go to their head. They will not become smug or arrogant. They will feel encouraged to go on to the next task and do the best they can with it. This is called self-respect.
We can work on building our confidence from within and trusting our judgment regardless of external influences. We can choose to replace our need for outward approval with some self-validation, such as:
• I can do this
• It will work out
• Everything falls into place
• I will deal with it
• I am a good person
• I am lovable
• I can handle this