It feels good to be praised, to have your feelings affirmed, to be told you did a good job, and to be appreciated.

Its normal to want validation from others your parents, spouse, boss, friends — but some of us seek external validation to an unhealthy level. We rely on others to make us feel good. We doubt our abilities if were not explicitly told were doing well. We obsessively check our social media posts looking for approval. And we question our worth if others dont value us.

Relying on external validation can make us anxious or depressed. A lack of self-confidence may cause us to make more errors and have trouble concentrating. And disapproval and criticism are especially painful because we put so much stock into other peoples opinions.

We cant rely on others to make us feel good. When we do, we allow others to dictate our worth. And we dont trust our own thoughts, feelings, and judgments; we assume others know more than we do and their opinions matter more. We become needy and ask for validation in ways that turn others off in ways that scream my self-esteem is lacking and I need you to tell me Im okay.

Instead, we need to learn how to validate ourselves. External validation should be in addition to self-validation, not in place of it.

Self-validation includes:

  • Encouraging yourself
  • Acknowledging your strengths, successes, progress, and effort
  • Noticing and accepting your feelings
  • Prioritizing your needs
  • Treating yourself with kindness
  • Saying nice things to yourself
  • Accepting your limitations, flaws, and mistakes

Self-criticism, comparing yourself to others, minimizing or denying your needs and feelings, perfectionism, and judging yourself harshly are not validating.

Self-validation is a skill that takes practice. It wont be easy at first. To begin, try to do or say at least one self-validating thing per day (see ideas below) and then after youve got that down, strive for two and so on. With practice, it will become second-nature to validate yourself. And as you get better at validating yourself, youll seek less external validation and youll have less tolerance for people invalidating you, too.

4 steps for validating yourself:

  1. Notice how you feel and what you need.

Example: I feel angry. I need time alone.

  1. Accept your feelings and needs without judgment.

Example: Its okay to feel angry. Anyone would feel angry in this situation. Taking time alone will help me sort out my feelings. Thats a good thing.

  1. Dont over-identify with your feelings. We want to accept our feelings and also remember that they dont define us. Notice the subtle, but important, difference when you say I feel angry vs. I am angry or I feel jealous vs. I am jealous. Our feelings are temporary they come and go.
  1. Remember, practice is an important part of learning self-validation!

Here are some examples of affirming or validating things you can say to yourself:

      • Its normal to feel this way.
      • My feelings are valid.
      • Im proud of myself.
      • This is hard. What do I need to cope or feel better?
      • its okay to cry.
      • Im making progress.
      • I gave it my best effort.
      • I am worthy.
      • Good job!
      • Im more than my accomplishments or failures.
      • My self-worth isnt based on other peoples opinions.
      • Everyone makes mistakes.
      • My feelings matter and I will listen to what theyre telling me.
      • I trust my instincts.
      • Not everyone likes me and thats okay. I like myself.
      • I like ___________ about myself.

Tip #1 Treat yourself like a friend: If you struggle to come up with an affirming response to your feelings and needs, think about what youd say to a dear friend who was in the same situation. Try saying the same thing to yourself. It may seem awkward at first, but thats okay!

Tip #2 Give yourself the love you never got: If you crave or seek validation from a parent who has never been able to accept or affirm you, think about what youd like them to say to you now or what your younger self needed to hear from them. Write it down and say it to yourself. It can be healing to repeat this exercise for a variety of feelings and situations.

Self-validation also includes activities such as journaling your feelings, noticing your accomplishments and writing them down, resting when youre tired or eating when youre hungry, giving yourself a treat not because you earned it, but because you care about yourself.

How do you validate yourself? If you have other ideas, please share them in the comments.

2019 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved. Photo byRonise Da LuzonUnsplash