Emotional Invalidation = Abuse
“Hold on a minute, what do you mean by that?” I hear many of you asking. Well for starters, let’s look at what invalidation means.
Invalidation, in simplistic terms, refers to rejecting something as truth or making it void. Emotional invalidation therefore is when someone’s personal thoughts and/or feelings are rejected, dismissed, ignored or judged (often by someone else, but sometimes by the person themselves).
It might not seem clear to you now, but hopefully, by the end of this post you’ll come to realise why emotional invalidation is THE worst form of abuse and how it can really damage a person’s self-esteem and confidence. Essentially, when emotionally invalidating someone, you are not allowing them to feel what they feel and most likely, you’ll be encouraging them to believe that they’re different or crazy. We all have flaws, and I’m in no way saying I’m perfect by any stretch of my imagination but, not allowing someone to feel the intensity of their emotions, express who they are or simply just be, is cruel.
Growing up, I spent most of my days feeling like I wasn’t seen, heard or understood and even to this day, I find myself strongly believing that I don’t belong in this world. I grew up in an environment where: my academic achievements were constantly compared to others; love had to be earned; nothing I ever did was good enough; and I was consistently told that I was ungrateful, selfish and rude. My hobbies were mapped out for me, my life was kept on the straight and narrow, and my feelings – well they were often dismissed, as well as hugely misunderstood. Even to this day, I have people in my life that say I’m exaggerating, dramatic or crazy. Though often unintentional, some people also say “but you have so much to be grateful for, think of all those people starving in Africa or who have it worse than you”. Oh right, okay then – just because I’m not impoverished or don’t have a terminal illness, I am not allowed to feel a certain way? Seriously, what kind of bulls**t is that?!
Having been misunderstood for most of my adult life, I want to tell people who are struggling from the effects of emotional invalidation (be it from the past or the present) that your feelings matter. What you think, believe and feel in the depths of your soul matters. That feeling you get before an important business meeting matters. That pain you feel when you see a loved one moving on matters. It all matters. However, the most important thing to remember is that YOU matter and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
It’s all too easy to rely on others as well as external situations as a means of validation. However, what I’ve come to realise (albeit painfully so) is that no-one has your back apart from you. Yes, you read that correctly and I’d like you to read that again, but no-one has your back apart from you. Sadly, nothing in this life is guaranteed, including people, places and things. We all make mistakes, hurt people and make the wrong choices. But, it’s important to realise that this is what makes us human. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and looking to achievements or others to validate you, validate yourself.
What do I mean by that? Well, think of what you might say to a friend who is struggling with difficult feelings or emotions and just wants to be authentic by expressing how they feel to you. How would you respond? If you have even an ounce of empathy, I imagine you would say something along the lines of: “I hear you”; “That must be difficult”; “It’s okay to feel the way you do”; and so on. I therefore implore you to flip that on it’s head and say all of those things to yourself.
Next time you’re feeling low and like everything’s too much; pause, step back and take a breath. What you’re feeling is okay and sometimes it’s okay not to be okay. You have an inherent strength inside of you so don’t invalidate yourself. Instead, self soothe and look at how much stronger you will be as a result of this moment, for it too shall pass.
Validation comes from within. Remember that.
Spread your wings and soar,
The Confused Butterfly
Disclaimer: The contents of this website are intended for educational purposes only. Nothing found on this site should be a substitute for professional medical advice nor is it a substitute for therapy. Therefore, please seek the advice of a Doctor or Mental Health Practitioner if you have any concerns about your wellbeing. These views are personal to me and are in no way a representation of other individuals or organisations.