We’ve all been in a situation where we didn’t feel understood. And that’s okay.
But when someone starts saying statements like, “It’s not as bad as you’re making it,” or “It’s not that big of a deal,” we can feel even more upset and unheard. It’s as though the other person is saying your feelings don’t matter or your feelings are wrong.
This, my friends, is called emotional invalidation.
Here’s the thing: Your feelings are real—even if you’re misunderstanding another person’s intention or don’t have all the facts straight.
Not accepting another’s feelings can really throw a wrench into resolving conflict or truly getting to the bottom of why a person feels the way they feel. It can even hinder our understanding of ourselves.
So, how do you know if someone is using emotional invalidation?
What effects does this have?
And most importantly, what can you do about it?
Oftentimes, a person invalidates another’s emotions because they can’t process them. Maybe they are overwhelmed in their own life, or they are unsure how to respond.
However, emotional invalidation can also be used as an argument strategy to gain control or power over another.
If you’ve ever been emotionally invalidated, you know exactly how small this can make you feel, whether it’s intentional or not (Yes, emotional invalidation can be unintentional and doesn’t always have an underlying evil plan behind it).
So, what effects can emotional invalidation have in relationships?
Well, it can lead to a few problems, including:
When we believe our emotions are wrong, we may struggle to regulate them and struggle to develop good self-esteem.
When we are told we aren’t supposed to feel a certain way, it can inevitably create varying degrees of confusion and distrust in ourselves.
It can lead us to question (overly so! Sometimes, it’s good to question ourselves) whether we are right to feel this way or not. It can lead you to feel lost and confused as to what you’re feeling and how you should feel.
Inevitably, all of this can lead you to feel like you’re walking on eggshells and also leave you feeling anxious as to whether you’re behaving or feeling “right” or “wrong.” It can also lead to depression where you don’t feel worthy, since you feel “wrong.”
In the long-term, emotional invalidation is a route toward developing a bad self-image. You struggle to accept yourself, and it’s almost impossible to change or even enjoy the moment when you can't accept yourself.
The simple answer: yes.
In fact, this can be one of the most damaging types of emotional abuse. It can lead to gaslighting, where a person feels as though they are losing their mind and are completely untrusting of what they perceive, feel, think, or see.
It denies you of your individual experience. And as we said, it can be really impactful, causing declines in your mentality and well-being.
So, what does emotional invalidation actually sound like? Here is a list of statements:
At the same time, when it comes to emotional invalidation, context matters!
For example, if it’s close to bedtime and your spouse is tired, and you’re both winding down to go to sleep, saying, “I don’t want to have this discussion right now. Can we talk about it tomorrow?” is completely fine, as long as it’s actually discussed the next day.
Related Article: 21 Signs You're Dealing With a Fake and Toxic Friend
Getting emotionally invalidated is tough. You might be tempted to bite back and argue. This might not go over well. But there are other (and better!) ways to go about responding to the above comments.
When you hear the above emotional invalidation statements, it can send you into the fight-or-flight mode. Stress hormones start pumping through your body. You’re ready for a fight. Thus, it’s important to leave room to pause. Take a deep breath (or a few!).
Stop and think about how you want to respond.
What is your goal?
Why does this relationship matter?
Sometimes, if it’s from someone we don’t necessarily have a close relationship with, it can be easy to brush off and get that validation elsewhere.
If you feel you want the person to know (and you are close them and the relationship matters), you can try saying something along the lines of: “I feel like you’re invalidating the way I feel. I don’t need you to fix it or judge it. I just need you to listen to me right now.”
Another good way to approach it is by using “I” statements, such as, “When you____, I feel _____.”
Other ways also include improving your own self-esteem and coping skills. Knowing your worth goes a long way here! You can self-validate and show yourself some self-compassion. Another person’s opinion or statement doesn’t have to impact us. In truth, we can control whether it does or not.
Plus, you don’t have to stick around people that continually emotionally invalidate you. Find a community to surround yourself with that’s supportive and lifts each other up.
Related Article: Emotional Resilience: How to Start Building Your Ability to Adapt
Being emotionally invalidated doesn’t feel good. Your feelings are valid.
Dr Jamie Long has also said, “Validation doesn’t mean we agree with another’s subjective reality. Validation allows another person’s emotional state a space to exist.”
In other words, we don’t have to agree with one another and how we feel. Rather, we have to be able to make space for it and try to understand.
Making space for each other’s emotions allows us to bond. It allows us to be vulnerable and open with one another. Shutting someone down can lead to irreversible repercussions. So, tread lightly! Don’t stand for others using emotional invalidation. Make your life what you want it to be!
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