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  • Writer's picture Zalman Nelson - Therapist

Understanding Emotional Validation

Updated: Feb 9

Understanding Emotional Validation

Officially, we can define emotional validation as the experience of acceptance, approval, and reassurance that we receive from others or give to ourselves. Think of it as the very opposite of being rejected, judged, criticized, ignored, or put down.

Another Way of Understanding Emotional Validation

Here's another way of thinking about it. External validation is like money: we only have whatever money we put into our validation account. And since we all need money to buy our wants and needs, we have to have money…we have to have validation. Where do we get it?

The main source of money/validation for most people is other people. In fact, for most people, external validation is their only source of validation. We didn't get it enough, or at all, as a kid growing up, and throughout our school years, or with friends or partners. As a result, we remain constant on the hunt for it, desperately searching and seeking for it from others. We're deseperate to make other people happy so that we can then have money, so that we can feel we have value and worth, and feeling good about ourselves. Otherwise, we're empty. There's no money in the account.

This is why so many of us are desperate in our relationships with others, and will do anything and viplate our boundaries and cross red line, saying "yes" to others when we really want to say "no," It's because we're afraid we'll lose out on getting validation, and money in the bank, and be left hungry and homeless.

Learning to Validate Ourselves

This is we, ourselves, have to learn how to become a source of validation. Then, we also are able to produce money and put it in our validation account. We ourselves are able to produce a sense of security and reassurance. When we're completely dependent on external validation (that's called "codependence"), when we're exclusively dependent on others for money, we're desperate to make others happy. So that they will then be happy with us and then we'll feel some validation. And it works, a bit. A little money trickles in. However, in the next moment, if they're not smiling or they're upset, or we misread their body language (a.k.a. assumptions), that money all goes out and we lose it.

Producing Your Own Emotional Validation

This cycle repeats all day long: money in, money out. Despite lots of work and effort, we have very little to show for it, and we still feel insecure, and we lack money. However, if we ourselves learn to also be a source of validation, we're producing money, we're producing validation. That means more validation, more money in the bank, regularly. Our general sense of security and stability is stronger. And then, even when someone is unhappy with us, we get negative feedback, or we make a mistake, which in the past caused all the money to leak out of the account, now we're no longer affected as much. The core validation and savings in the account remain. We don't lose all the money we had earned. Our core sense of validation and worth remains intact, we can hear the feedback and learn from it, or use the mistake to help us grow, and we're ok. In fact, we're even better: validation and our account continually grow.

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