Is Invalidation Behind Your Lack of Confidence?

by Catherine Pratt


Emotional Needs

In order to understand invalidation, you first need to know that everyone has basic emotional needs. You're probably aware that humans have physical needs like food and shelter but you may not realize all humans have basic emotional needs as well.

Some of these needs include the following: (list from

"In various degrees, each according to his or her own unique nature, we each have a natural emotional need to feel:

approved of
believed in
cared about
clear (not confused)
in control
listened to
productive / useful
safe / secure
treated fairly

If you don't get these emotional needs met then you will feel invalidated. And not feeling validated will lead to anxiety, lack of confidence, self-doubt, frustration, anger, depression, etc.

If you've been chronically invalidated by others, you may find it hard to feel a sense of self-worth, go after your dreams, or even have a complete sense of who you are.

You'll also find you have a constant craving for approval from others or neediness. This invalidation will drive all your decisions including the friends you have, the jobs you take, and even your intimate relationships.

How Does Invalidation Happen?

EQI has a great definition of invalidation:
"Invalidation is to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge, or diminish someone's feelings. It is an attempt to control how they feel and for how long they feel it."

"We regularly invalidate others because we ourselves were, and are often invalidated, so it has become habitual. Below are a few of the many ways we are invalidated:

  • We are told we shouldn't feel the way we feel
  • We are dictated not to feel the way we feel
  • We are told we are too sensitive, too "dramatic"
  • We are ignored
  • We are judged
  • We are led to believe there is something wrong with us for feeling how we feel"

So, here's an example of how this might happen. You feel worried that if you walk home at night that it might put you in danger. You tell your mate this and his response is that you're over reacting and stress about everything and to relax and stop worrying so much.

Does it make you stop worrying? No, because your mate has invalidated your fears. You'll now also wonder if he's right and you're wrong. You'll think, "Am I over reacting? Do I stress about things for no reason?"

His comments will make you feel very confused about the situation and most likely you'll feel like your only option available is to withdraw inside yourself.

It kills part of your soul inside when it happens all the time.

If you can at this moment realize that your feelings have been invalidated then you can change the entire situation.

You don't have to say anything back.  You just don't have to let it in.  And you'll discover that when you stop letting others invalidate you, the approval of someone like that suddenly becomes unimportant.  You could also choose to say something like, "My feelings about this are important and I need to listen to them. What I'm feeling is a valid concern."

You can also use the Weekes Method. This means that when you don't receive validation from those you're seeking it from, you don't fight those feelings or try to keep yourself together in the face of it. You just float past those distressing feelings that rise when you're not validated. If the words don't meet your needs, you can decide to not become entangled with the comments. Just let them float on by.

Inadvertent Invalidation

A lot of parents invalidate their children's feelings without even realizing. For example, when you were a kid you might have told your parents you had a bad day at school. If they laughed and said, "Wait until you get a real job then you'll know what a bad day is," this has invalidated you because they've completely dismissed your feelings.

This doesn't mean that you now need to blame your parents or your mate or whoever for invalidating your feelings and causing all your life's problems. No, the solution is the opposite. You need to realize you needed validation at that time and for whatever reason you didn't get it. It will explain to you your inner turmoil and from there a perception shift will happen. Once you realize you've been desperately seeking validation, you'll no longer need to seek it. You'll be able to give yourself the validation you need. 

It's the most amazing perception change when you can suddenly see why you've been acting and reacting the way you have and then understand that you have the power to change it all.

Check Your Unmet Needs

If you want to see whether your emotional needs are being met, provides a short 11 question survey you can take.


Gaining the awareness that you've been seeking validation from others means you no longer need validation from others.

This doesn't mean that you still won't want love and appreciation from others. What it means is that your life won't be controlled by this unmet need.

An interesting realization about invalidation

If a person endures chronic invalidation, they may overcompensate in other areas. For example, someone might hurt others or try to control them as a way to feel secure or feel worthy.

You may find that with your knowledge of invalidation, you may suddenly have a new understanding of why others act and react the way they do. Certain conflict might be avoided or reduced simply by providing the validation that the other person needs.

Know Your Rights

Along with having basic emotional needs, you also need to be aware of your basic mental rights.

Dr. Jonice Webb describes this as the following:

"Your 11 Assertive Rights

  • You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts and emotions and to be responsible for them.
  • You have the right to offer no excuses or explanations for your decisions.
  • You have the right to judge whether you’re responsible for solving other people’s problems.
  • You have the right to change your mind.
  • You have the right to make mistakes — and be responsible for them.
  • You have the right to say, “I don’t know.”
  • You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others.
  • You have the right to be illogical in making decisions.
  • You have the right to say, “I don’t understand.”
  • You have the right to say, “I don’t care.”
  • It is your own fundamental human right to want, ask for, and have things your way.

She then goes on to say that if you grew up being constantly invalidated then you may believe the following instead:

  • You don’t have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts and emotions, but you still must be responsible for them.
  • You always must offer excuses or explanations for your decisions.
  • You are responsible for solving other people’s problems.
  • You don’t have the right to change your mind.
  • You don’t have the right to make mistakes — but if you do, you are still responsible for them.
  • You don’t have the right to say, “I don’t know.”
  • You are dependent upon the goodwill of others.
  • You don’t have the right to be illogical in making decisions.
  • You don’t have the right to say, “I don’t understand.”
  • You don’t have the right to say, “I don’t care.”

If you believe the list above then you're dealing with invalidation. The good news is that by becoming aware of this then you can start to dismantle all the beliefs that have kept you from living to your full potential.

Invalidation Examples

Invalidation isn't necessarily someone being purposefully cruel. It happens in daily life far more than you may realize. In fact, you may invalidate others yourself.

For example:

  • Do you dismiss other people's concerns? Saying, "You're too sensitive", "you're overreacting" or "Suck it up". Or make a joke like, "Do you want some cheese for that wine (whine)?" while you pretend to play a violin with your fingers.
  • Do you really listen when others are trying to tell you how they feel or are you thinking about what you want to say?
  • Do you instantly try to cheer someone up when they're feeling down without allowing them to express their feelings by saying things like, "Cheer up, it's not so bad"?
  • Do you take the time to pay attention when others may need validation?
  • When someone tells you something bad that happened to them, do you instantly say something like, "could be worse" or "think positive" or "be happy". Or you might try to explain it away or take the other person's side by saying, "Maybe they were having a bad day...", "Maybe you just misunderstood..." Or using a cliche, "There's a reason for everything".
  • Do you turn it around to be about yourself, "Why don't you think about my feelings?"
  • Do you tell someone they "should" do something. For example, they should forget about it or they should stop worrying so much.

These are all invalidating behaviors. You could very easily be invalidating someone when you think you're being supportive. You know how painful it is when it happens to you so let's start being aware of when we might be doing it to someone else.

The other benefit of learning to validate others is that you'll develop far better relationships with other people. You'll also become aware of what you need from other people and will be able to let them know or in certain cases, you'll know you'll need to avoid certain people when you're needing validation.

By developing your own self-validation though means that you'll no longer search for it in others. You'll cease looking for approval in others. It's the most freeing thing you can do for yourself.

A final thought on invalidation

I'll leave you with one more quote from

"Invalidation undermines self confidence because it causes self doubt. This, in turn, diminishes our self esteem. Invalidation is a serious violation of our true selves. I believe it is one of the worst crimes one person can commit against another without ever lifting a finger against them yet it is neither illegal nor even identified as a serious problem." - Steve Hein

More Information has a lot of great information on this topic plus a book you can download.

If you grew up with invalidation, a valuable book to read is: Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents (#ad)

Trans4Mind discusses this topic in their A Journey To Self Discovery online course (no fee required). The first lesson is all about invalidation and how it causes fragmentation of your identity. It's an excellent course and well worth reading through.

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