Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist who specializes in helping clients deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
Abby was talking with her husband, Ben, about her day. She told him how she had handled a difficult situation at work.
“I really took control here,” she said. And then she went on to describe stress due to deadlines that needed to be met and how she jumped in and helped organize the workflow to get the tasks completed on time.
“I was the hero!” she exclaimed.
Ben listened as she talked, and then smiled and said, “You always work well under pressure. Glad to hear you did it again.”
And then Ben changed the subject. He had a couple of household finance concerns he wanted to discuss.
“By the way,” Abby said, “It’s my turn to cook tomorrow night and I’m making that meat loaf you love so much.”
“Please don’t,” Ben responded. “I really need to watch my weight.”
At this point, Abby felt totally deflated, and she wasn’t sure why.
We all need to feel validated!
The next morning, she called a friend during her break and told her about the conversation she had with Ben the night before.
“It sounds like you needed some validation,” her friend said. “And why not? You have so much going on in your life. You work hard. You have a family to take care of. You have a chronic condition that you have to think about and do something about every day. And some days are pretty rough for you, but you push ahead anyway. So why wouldn’t you want some validation for all of that once in a while?”
Abby felt ashamed. “I know I’m appreciated by Ben and the kids, no doubt in my mind.”
“Sure,” her friend answered. “But some days we just need to hear it.”
What about you? Validation is another word for recognition. Knowing your efforts aren’t being overlooked, ignored, or discounted as if they were no big deal.
Like Abby, if you’re living with a chronic condition, you have a lot on your plate. And, also like Abby, a lot of what’s on your plate is what you do for other people, at work and at home. It’s only human to want an “attaboy” or an “attagirl” once in a while. It helps to hear that your efforts for toughing it out during a rough time were actually noticed. Maybe with some encouragement.
We all need validation. On some days more than others. When you hit one of those days, here’s what you can do:
Give yourself permission to need validation. As I said, it’s human to need validation. But I talk to so many clients who feel they shouldn’t need validation. They have been told once too often that needing validation is being whiny or weak or just plain needy. But it’s not. We all need to feel like the efforts we make in our daily lives are not just fading into the vapor, but that they are being noticed by others. And we want to hear that they are noticing. A compliment and a little encouragement sure wouldn’t hurt either.
Ask yourself why you need validation and from whom. Be aware of times when you feel especially in need of validation. For example, is there something you did that was risky or difficult, and you want someone to acknowledge your success and what it took to achieve it? And is there a specific someone you most need to hear it from? Doing some self-exploration to understand this will mean that you are less likely to appear overly needy.
Don’t beat around the bush. Ask. It’s always best to take the direct approach. If you have done your homework and know what you need and who you need it from, you will be more likely to speak with confidence and clarity. It’s as simple as saying something like, “I accomplished something today that I’m really proud of. It would mean a lot to me if you let me know you see how I am working hard to push through. I just need to hear it from you.” Or, “I know this isn’t a big deal but I made an effort to do this for you. I didn’t do it so that you would thank me, or pat me on the back, but I have to say it would be nice if you did.”
And keep in mind that your partner may also need some validation. One of the things I often hear from the partners of individuals living with a chronic condition is that they don’t feel very validated, either. They talk to me about how they do everything they can to be supportive but don’t always feel like their efforts are appreciated, or even noticed. Validation works both ways. And when you give it, you may also experience more validation coming your way.
Create an environment at home where everybody feels validated. You might want to sit down with your partner and talk about how you can encourage each other. Be straightforward about what you need to be validated for. This could be both what you do for yourself to manage your chronic condition and what you do for the people around you. And then ask your partner to be clear about what they need to be validated for.
Remember that validation starts from within. So validate yourself first. This is what I always say to my clients. Sure, we need to know that we aren’t invisible to the people we care about. But we have to be able to give ourselves recognition too. That starts in your own mind with what you say to yourself. Self-talk is important to our mental health. If your critical inner voice speaks up, talk back to it. Make it a daily practice to give yourself the recognition you deserve: “Good work.” “You’re doing the best you can.” “You’ll make it happen. Just keep at it.” And do things that you enjoy, that keep you calm and centered, that enhance your well-being. Another great way to validate yourself.
You and your partner. It’s only human to need validation. So be clear when you need to feel validated. Look for ways to validate your partner. That’s teamwork!
Add a comment below to tell us about a time when someone said something that validated you. How did it make you feel?