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Difference Between Invalidating and Not Validating People

Difference between invalidating and not validating people
Difference between invalidating and not validating people

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the difference between not being validated and being invalidated in relationships.

First a quick update:

“Why do people to stay in abusive relationships?”
Two out of every three women have been abused, and men also experience abuse in relationships – often in the form of verbal or emotional abuse. Why do abused victims find it so incredibly difficult to escape or leave abusive relationships? Dr. Frank Ochberg, is an acclaimed psychiatrist, a pioneer in trauma science and PTSD. Dr. Ochberg was responsible for identifying, defining and explaining The Stockholm Syndrome. Listen to my interview and conversation with Dr. Ochberg where we explore The Stockholm Syndrome, the Ariel Castro case and abusive relationships. Dr. Ochberg reveals the way that the fear, the abuse and even torture create the emotional bond between the abused and the abuser.

“5 steps to clean up your life”
Emotional Mojo TV show hosts Michelle Yarn, Jada Jackson, Tara Gidus and I discuss clutter in the home, office and desk along with its link to depression and mental health. Also, why do women tend to have messy cars? Watch the TV interview here.

Now, let’s talk about the difference between not being validated and being invalidated in relationships.

Whilst many people promote being an independent, self-affirming individual who is not attached to other people’s approval and opinions, it is also essential to realize that we are not islands; we cannot isolate ourselves from other people and from connection to a wider community. We need to understand and accept that as humans we have certain emotional needs: Love & Connection, Security, Challenges, Significance, Growth, and Contribution. Read my article “Getting your six human emotional needs”.

Another need that falls within the categories of Love & Connection and Significance is validation. We need to be validated, and on various levels. .

What is validation?

One of the definitions of the word validate is: to demonstrate or support the truth or value of; to confirm.

Thus, to validate someone means that you demonstrate his or her value; you state or make it known that the other person is valuable, meaningful or significant; you confirm their worth – as an individual and as a part of your life or relationship.

Confirming and validating someone’s worth or worthiness also involves recognizing, acknowledging, accepting and welcoming that person’s thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas (even if you don’t agree with the other person.)

If a child does not receive validation, he or she will grow up believing that his/her opinions, thoughts, feelings and ideas do not count, that they are not valid and not of any value. In turn, he or she will also have a fear to speak up or express him/herself.

Some clients of mine who were never validated as children state that they often feel stupid. Other clients with similar experiences as children tend to become desperate adults who push for validation from their partner or, they harbor resentment at the spouse because they are not being validated or because the spouse refuses to validate him/her. (Also read my article, “Validate yourself” )

Accordingly, when a person does not validate or refuses to validate the other person, then he or she is withholding validation. And this is a very different action to invalidating the other person.

What is invalidation?

One definition of the word invalidate is: to weaken or destroy the effect of (something); to show or prove (something) to be false or incorrect.

Thus, to invalidate someone means that you weaken the other person and make him or feel wrong; you deliberately or clearly demonstrate that the other person has no value.

This action of invalidating is achieved by using criticism.

Accordingly, the difference between not validating someone and invalidating someone is:

  • Not validating someone is withholding validation by not praising or acknowledging that person – refusal to accept
  • Invalidating someone is expressing criticism and condemnation towards that person – outright rejection

A parent who ignores a child (lack of attention, time, interest, praise, feedback, etc) is withholding validation. A parent who notices a child (attention, time, interest, feedback, etc) but criticizes and condemns the child is invalidating the child and invalidating his/her worth and value.

While both actions have negative effects on the child, invalidation is the worst of the two behaviors.

When a child is invalidated (constantly criticized, condemned or harshly judged) then he or she grows up with serious deficits in self-esteem – believing that they can never do anything right and judging themselves (and others) as failures, losers or incompetent.

Thus, an adult who was invalidated as a child will fear all forms of self-expression but might also suffer from perfectionism, extreme self-criticism and self-loathing.

One client of mine who was constantly invalidated as a child grew up to become highly successful because he was driven by the desire to prove wrong his highly critical parents, and to subconsciously seek their acceptance and approval. However, even when attaining the success, he could not enjoy it because he still felt that he was wrong or stupid. The result was depression with feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and uselessness; he simply did not believe he was worthy of the success since his parents had convinced him that he was not valuable, not good enough and full of faults. (Watch my video interview of The Law of Deservedness  and the  TV segment You only get what you think you deserve ).

The key point here is that we all need validation – particularly children since it forms a program and a belief for life. In adult relationships, partners need to validate each other by praising, acknowledging and appreciating the value and significance of each other (their thoughts, ideas, opinions and contributions), and; partners need to be wary of invalidating each other by criticizing, condemning, judging, blaming, insulting or putting down each other.

Finally, it is true that I also teach that you should focus first on validating yourself, but I also promote and teach balance; therefore, validate yourself and others!

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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