Greetings of the season!
December, for me, is a time for contemplation, reflection and introspection. It is a time when I take stock of the year that has passed. It helps me make a note of my learnings from situations, experiences and people. It also helps me make a mental note of what needs to be learnt, which in turn becomes my motivation to set goals for the next year.
As I have been contemplating about the body of my work this year, I realize that not just this year, but every year, there has been something common amongst most of my clients, if not all. It is the need for validation. In simple words, it is the need to feel understood. It could be a student who feels the pressure of his parents’ expectations that he is not able to fulfil for different reasons. It could be an unhappy and frustrated employee who feels her potential is being underutilized by her boss. It could be a person or couple seeking improvement in relationship, where one or both are feeling lack of understanding and appreciation.
Validation, to some extent, is a human need, that varies in proportion from person to person. When we receive validation at the right moment, it can make us very happy and the lack of same, at times, can make us feel sad, frustrated, dejected and rejected too. Relationships would be better if everyone understood the importance of validation.
How can Validation help in a relationship?
- Validation can convey to the other person that they are important. That you care for their thoughts, feelings and experiences.
- To belong to a family, society, group, organization is a basic human need. Validation conveys acceptance to others; their presence is acknowledged. That they are not alone.
- Life can often be difficult and confusing. At such times, validation can help the other person feel understood, a feeling that their fear, pain, frustration is normal. Validation helps in boosting confidence at times when there is self-doubt.
- Validation is like a reflection of oneself, one’s thoughts and behaviour by another person. It projects one’s choices, values, behaviour pattern, which in turn helps see one’s own personality more clearly. Validation can be a means to self-growth.
- At times, self-approval is easier when approval is received from others. This could especially be true in case of children. Children’s self-esteem depends a lot on whether they feel approved or disapproved by their parents/caregivers. When conveyed as approval, validation can help boost self-esteem.
- People connect better with each other when they feel accepted. Thus, validation can help build relationships.
- When one feels understood, that person is more receptive and willing to understand the other. That helps both of them understand each other’s perspective, which is the key to good communication.
As important as it is to understand how validation can help in a relationship, it is equally important to understand that seeking validation regularly can affect our self-esteem adversely. Often, people around us may not have the sensitivity, empathy or time to validate our thoughts and feelings. It is possible that they may not feel the need for the same. At such times, we may feel frustrated or have self-doubt. If we are always seeking validation from others, we may start feeling we are not good enough. Constant need for approval, appreciation and recognition from others to feel good about ourselves may lead to losing sight of our own strengths and worth, thus converting into low self-esteem.
To help my readers feel strong, worthy and positive about themselves without seeking external validation, I would like to share a simple exercise that I ask some of my clients to practice. I call it the “Validation Journal”. Every time you feel that you have done a task well, be it a good communication, finalizing a deal or gone through a rough day, make an entry in this journal. You can start with “well done” or end with “proud of you”. Only you know how hard you have worked on that particular issue and how well you have performed, nobody else knows that. Hence, you can be that person who validates you. “You are enough!”
Wishing you a happy, healthy, successful New Year 2024!