Validation as a Self-Improvement Tool

A couple of years ago, I posted the video/movie below. In updating the blog this week, I found it and watched it again. It’s about validation and needs to be seen and taken seriously. It’s a fun, feel-good story with a powerful message. Have you thought much about validation as a self-improvement tool? How are you validated and how do you validate others?  It isn’t talked about much. Maybe it should be.

What is validation anyway? While I dislike using dictionary definitions in blogs but this one is important:

val·i·da·tion  noun 
  1. the action of checking or proving the validity or accuracy of something.
    “the technique requires validation in controlled trials”
    • the action of making or declaring something legally or officially acceptable.
      “new courses, subject to validation, include an MSc in Urban Forestry”
    • recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile.
      “they have exaggerated needs for acceptance and validation”

The question is, “Don’t we all need to know that we and our feelings are valid and worthwhile?” Literature and the Internet have example after example of why we need validation.  Dr. Karyn Hall says we need validation because it:

  • communicates acceptance.
  • shows the person they are on the right track.
  • helps regulate emotions.
  • assists in building identity.
  • builds relationships.
  • enhances understanding and effective communication.
  • shows the other person that they are important.
  • helps us persevere.

Most agree that validation comes from two sources: self and others.  Let’s take a look.

Self-validation

Self-validation is accepting your own internal experience, your thoughts and feelings. But it doesn’t mean that you believe your thoughts or think your feelings are justified. What it means is that you recognize them, accept them and work through them.

Validation for/from Others

How often do you recognize out loud and personal to someone how much you appreciate them? Do you acknowledge the accomplishments, talents, struggles, and value of others?  I don’t want to get preachy about this so I’ll ask you to watch this short film. It will make your day:

How do you Validate?

According to Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., from the treatment creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, there are six levels of validation. She seems to indicate that it is impossible to overestimate the importance of validation.

  1. Mindful engagement

    There are so many ways to be present. For example, holding someone’s hand when they are having a painful medical treatment, listening with your whole mind and doing nothing.
    Being present for yourself means acknowledging your internal experience and sitting with it rather than “running away” from it, avoiding it, or pushing it away. This sitting with intense emotion is not easy.  Even happiness or excitement can feel uncomfortable at times.

  2.  Accurate Reflection

    Accurate reflection means you summarize what you have heard from someone else or summarize your own feelings.

  3. Reading Cues

    People vary in their ability to know their own feelings. This is true mainly because they weren’t allowed to experience their feelings or learned to be afraid of their feelings.

  4. Historical Perspective 

    Your experiences and biology influence your emotional reactions. For instance, If your best friend was bitten by a dog a few years ago, she is not likely to enjoy playing with your German Shepherd. So validation at this level would be saying, “Given what happened to you, I completely understand your not wanting to be around my dog.”
    Correspondingly,  self-validation would be understanding your own reactions in the context of your past experiences.

  5. Assuring Reasonableness

    Understanding that your emotions are normal is helpful for everyone.

  6. Respectful Honesty

    Respectful honesty means providing feedback that lets a person know that you respect them enough to “keep it real.” This level of validation is best delivered with an accompaniment of radical acceptance, along with a nonjudgmental stance – taking into account that everyone has their strengths and limitations

Validation strengthens relationships and helps with managing emotions. By communicating acceptance, validation empowers yourself and others. For emotionally sensitive people, self-validation and validation by others helps them manage their emotions more effectively.

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