Having someone tell you that you should not feel a certain way sucks. I pray this blog post provides a little insight into how you can manage invalidation.
Examples of Invalidation
Have you ever had someone tell you one of the following or a variation of it?
- At least it’s not….
- It could be worse
- All moms feel this way
- you are too emotional
- Try not to think about it.
- This is how motherhood is
- Don’t sweat the small stuff
- You shouldn’t feel like that
- Calm down, it’s not that serious
- Well, dads have to do so much more
- You must be confused. It didn’t occur that way
- I’m not discussing this with you. It doesn’t make sense.
When someone says one of these to me, most of the time, they are trying to be helpful, but they are actually telling me my feeling are not valid or welcomed. At the core of the statement, it could mean the person is trying to help me adjust and deal with my emotions, the situation, or how I am processing something. But again, what is actually happening is, the person is trying to weaken my claim or account.
According to Pyschology Today, “invalidation is the process in which individuals communicate to another that their opinions and emotions are invalid, irrational, selfish, uncaring, stupid, insane and wrong.” When I say something, I want someone to hear me and not try to make me feel better by saying I should not feel the way I do. This actually teaches suppression which can lead to feelings of unworthiness and self-doubt.
In my opinion, mothers are invalidated way too often. We have been socialized to believe that a good mother is one with superhuman qualities. One who is the ultimate cheerleader who is always busy and continuously sacrificing self as a means of providing the best for her children and family. Throughout media, our upbringing, and other mom communities we are are often judged on how well our children behave, how many extracurricular activities the kids are in, and what letters are printed on the report card. This propels many of us to put on the armor of motherhood and negate other areas of our selves so that our kids will turn out okay. And don’t get me started on the shame that comes when the kids are not doing some of these things. This all plays into us being burned out and overwhelmed and why we may need to express our frustrations with mothering.
Then, when we try to squeeze in a little time for ourselves, it is met with objections and statements indicating that we have it “made,” are not viewing things accurately, or are ungrateful. That is bullshit.
If I am tired from all the ripping and running, that is it: I am tired. I don’t need to hear, “Well, at least you get to spend time with your kids. Some moms don’t even get to run their kids all around town and involve them in things.” That can be true. Actually, both statements can be true. But if I am continuously telling myself that I am not really tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, etc., that is really going to lead to more anxiety, guilt, and shame.
A more appropriate response may be something like, “You did a lot today. I would be tired too. What do you need right now?” By asking that question, the person validated your feelings and appears to be willing to support your next request. So, what do you do when there is not someone willing or able (perhaps they are dealing with their own traumas and don’t have the bandwidth to help) to clearly hear you?
Empowering yourself is a great way to manage invalidation. It all starts with your mindset.
Believe in yourself
Before you even enter into a conversation, know that you do not need anyone to agree with you. Your feelings, opinions, and emotions are valid. No one has to see it your way. You feel the way you feel and that is worth exploring. So trust that your feelings are real and worthy.
Know Your Truth
I love a good set of affirmations. I use them to retrain my way of thinking. Instead of thinking of a deficit within me, I think from a “glass is half full” mentality. Affirmations help me start to believe I am worthy of and welcome more. Repeating statements like the following to yourself can help retrain the way you view yourself. Here are a few of my favorite around validation.
- I matter.
- My feelings are valid
- I know my feelings aren’t wrong.
- I respect and listen to my feelings.
- I choose to be around people who uplift and support my healing.
- As a mother, I can feel (any emotion) and still love and appreciate my kids.
State Your Needs
Before entering into a conversation, think about what you need from the interaction. Do you need someone to listen, give you space, discuss, give you time to do something, etc.? Think about that before you engage in a conversation that involves opinions, emotions, and/or feelings. By being clear in the beginning, this can provide parameters around how you want the person to respond to you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes people are not in the right head space to have an open conversation. You will have to continue to try to find the optimal time to engage.
Gather Your Talking Points
I am a huge proponent of journaling. Journaling is so therapeutic and allows me to say it all without having to say it to someone. This help me get my thought together so I can be clear and concise. So, before engaging in a conversation, take five to ten minutes to have a personal chat that happens between you and your paper. You don’t have to control anything while journaling. Grammar can be off. You can use the most colorful language. The best part is no one is there to invalidate your feelings. For me, journaling allows me to channel anger (if that is what I am experiencing) so that I am not hurling insults or timidly stating how I feel.
Once you have journaled, you can quickly scan your entry for themes (what you keep talking about in the journal entry). These themes could easily become what you need to discuss.
Lastly, try to keep the talking points low. One or two items is plenty (especially if the person is used to invalidating your views and feelings.
When engaging in conversations, it is not always easy to state how you feel (if you are like me) if you are constantly told to think differently. The most important component of managing invalidation is the first one: believe in yourself. When your mindset is set to trust yourself, you have started to turn the corner on Self Love Avenue.
Try not to let culture and media make you keep that armor of motherhood cloaked. You are more than that and are deserving what ever it is that you seek. You deserve it not because you earned it, but because you are human. All humans have feelings and should be granted the right to feel all emotions without ridicule.
Lastly, keep in mind this will take time. Having one conversation or completing one journal prompt, does not mean you will not have to address the issue again or that the person or yourself will try to invalidate you. Just keep trying and always consult with your therapist.
Now, go steep you a cup of Mothering Tea and just be. Remember, you don’t have to busy yourself, cheer everyone on, and sacrifice your sanity, interests, passions, and time for the sake of raising great kids. You can keep your sanity, explore your interests and passions while raising great kids. It just takes a different kind of targeted effort.
How do you work to validate yourself?