What Is Self-Validation?
Showing yourself kindness after experiencing an event that brought about negative emotions can be difficult. If you struggle with silencing your inner critic, your self-talk may sound like, “I did a terrible job on that test–I’m not smart enough to be in college;” or “I can’t believe I forgot my line–no amount of practice is ever going to make me a better performer.” The good news is that there is something that you can try in order to help yourself nonjudgmentally accept your uncomfortable feelings and let them go. This is known as self-validation.
Self-validation, which originated from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), is a skill that allows you to observe your feelings objectively and refrain from inserting harsh opinions. It can help you to identify the factors in a situation that led to your negative feelings, rather than labeling yourself as the problem. By doing this, you can move past the situation without your self-esteem taking a blow. The practice of self-validation leads to greater self-acceptance and is a foundational building block for the development of self-love (Hall & Cook, 2011).
Here’s The Situation
You are preparing for a speech class presentation, and you have a fear of public speaking. You’ve practiced this speech all week long–in front of the mirror, in front of a trusted friend–you even have recorded yourself rehearsing. Still, you are feeling anxious about giving the presentation.
You go to your speech class and find out that the order of presenters has been randomized by your professor. You are told that you will be the second-to-the-last person to present, which means you’ll be sitting and marinating in your anxiety for the entire class.
You start presenting. It’s going well at first, but then you forget the evidence to support one of your main points. You panic and end your speech early. You now feel embarrassed, disappointed, and frustrated. As a result, you begin to engage in negative self-talk.
How to Start Practicing Self-Validation
Let’s take the situation above and apply it to the principles of self-validation outlined below:
- Nonjudgmentally and objectively name your feelings and identify what contributed to them: “I was feeling anxious before and during my speech, so I wound up forgetting some of it. I feel embarrassed and frustrated with myself, because I practiced it many times.”
- Express understanding and acceptance toward your feelings: “It is okay that I am feeling this way. It feels uncomfortable right now, but my feelings toward my performance are valid and deserve to be acknowledged.”
- Normalize your emotional experience: “A lot of people struggle with public speaking. I understand why forgetting part of my speech, despite taking steps to prepare for it, is making me feel disappointed, but this does not mean I’m a disappointment. I have felt embarrassed and frustrated before, and the feelings have always passed with time.”
- Affirm yourself – “I am feeling frustrated and disappointed, because I believe my speech could have gone better. I am going to be kind to myself, because I know I struggle with public speaking, and I did my best to prepare. I will have more opportunities to give speeches in class before the semester ends, so I will learn from this experience and keep improving.”
Fruzzetti, A. E., & Ruork, A. K. (2018). Validation principles and practices in dialectical behaviour therapy. In M. A. Swales (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, 324–344. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198758723.013.50
Hall, K. D., & Cook, M. (2011). The power of validation: Arming your child against bullying, peer pressure, addiction, self-Harm, and out-of-control emotions. New Harbinger Publications.