Everyone needs validation to feel understood and accepted, as someone with BPD, I find that I may need/ seek it more than others. There is a theory that the disorder may be caused by an invalidating environment. This means that, those with BPD, may have grown up having their feelings and thoughts disregarded by family members or close friends. The thing about emotional invalidation is, it doesn’t make the feeling go away, in fact it can cause more distress in someone and amplify their “difficult” emotions.
For me, I most need validation when something really makes me scared or angry but no one else seems to be reacting or notice. I always worry that I’m just “being moody” or that I’m “over reacting.” This fear that people will judge me for my feelings often causes me to internalize my emotions and try to fight them off within. However this usually makes me feel frustrated with, ashamed or even scared of my own emotions thus leading to things like self harm. Because of our intense emotions and mood swings people with BPD often face invalidation, others may have good intentions when they tell us to “look on the bright side” “others have it worse” or “you’re just overreacting” but this can make us feel like our pain is being trivialized or that what we’re experiencing is being denied as reality thus creating a vicious cycle of needing validation and then not getting it
I think this can affect anyone, not just those with BPD, if you grew up in an invalidating environment you may have low self esteem and feel a strong urge to seek reassurance from outside sources that how you feel is acceptable and valid. These outside sources may include friends, family members, therapists or people on the internet but what happens when those sources fail to validate you? I’ve found that no one can truly understand your experience without being you, so you may not get the reaction you’d hoped for as, some people, can be very compassionate and understanding while others may scorn you and make you feel worse for feeling or thinking a certain way. Being around those who invalidate your thoughts, feelings and experiences can cause a sense of loneliness and mistrust in yourself and your emotions which is why self- validation is so important and is actually a key skill taught in DBT.
What Is Self validation?
Self validation is the ability to accept your internal experiences such as your thoughts and feelings; this doesn’t necessarily mean the thought or feeling is justified though. For example you feel guilty over something you can’t control, you can accept that you feel guilty but not believe you actually are guilty because what happened was out of your control.
Ways to self validate:
Mindfulness of emotions– The core skill in Dialectical behaviour therapy is mindfulness, its taught as the best way to manage “out of control” emotions and reduce emotional suffering. With Mindfulness of emotions you learn to observe how you’re feeling, describe that feeling by naming it and decide the best way to react with it. This practice teaches us to let our emotions be as they are, without trying to fight them but accepting them to quell emotional distress.
EFT– A friend of mine taught me an exercise in EFT tapping. Which is where you tap certain parts of your body, such as your temple and heart, with two fingers while saying things like “I feel angry” “this is okay” “my anger is valid” “thank you, anger”
Affirmations– Much like EFT tapping I’ve started learning self validating affirmations for when i find myself conflicted with feelings and thoughts. These affirmations are phrases you repeat to yourself to help improve your mental state in a situation. Affirmations such as “I am Enough” “I Matter and so do my feelings” “My feelings are valid” or any phrases you know that can help you feel better.
Self Compassion– You’ve probably been told to “talk to yourself as you would a good friend” and that’s pretty much the gist of self compassion, as I mentioned before only YOU can truly understand your own experiences so its good to be able to be as understanding to yourself as you’d want someone else to be.
Workheets– While doing research for this post I found a “self validation” manual with information and worksheets on validation for yourself and others. Its a free printable so here’s the link; https://dbtselfhelp.weebly.com/self-validation-skills.html
Other Helpful Sources:
Thank you for reading this post, I hope you found it useful, feel free to let me know what you think or share your own story by commenting on this post or tweeting me on twitter @Addict2L