Seven Ways You Emotionally Invalidate Yourself
Have others ever invalidated or belittled your emotions? It’s highly likely. Indeed, in many relationships, including families, it’s common for one or more figures to ridicule, ignore, or underestimate how others feel. These types of dynamics constitute a form of abuse and mistreatment that we should know how to identify.
However, what if we were to tell you that you too could be mistreating yourself on a daily basis? Moreover, what if we were to add that the most frequent and widespread form of psychological aggression is emotional self-invalidation? That’s how it is. We all carry out certain strategies that we’re unaware of and that boycott our well-being.
Perhaps right now you’re feeling the kinds of emotions that lead you to an abyss of self-criticism, shame, and personal devaluation. Becoming aware of how you relate to the complex universe of emotions will allow you to gain better control over your life.
It’s difficult enough to deal with someone who hurts you, let alone to be complicit in your own self-abuse. To stop doing it, you need to first understand how it works.
Emotional invalidation is the substrate for many psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
Ways you emotionally invalidate yourself and don’t know it
You tend to pay more attention to how others treat you than how you treat yourself. That’s because it’s easier and far more comfortable. Indeed, immersing yourself in your own life is an intricate and stony path that you don’t usually choose to travel down too much. It’s there that you find the most common form of discomfort, such as emotional self-invalidation.
The denial, alteration, and contempt of individuals’ emotional states is an area that, until now, hasn’t been subject to much investigation in the scientific field. However, it often acts as the root of conditions such as anxiety and depression. There’s some interesting research available in this regard.
Doctors Regina Schreiber and Jennifer C Veilleux have developed the Self-Invalidation Due to Emotion Scale (SIDES). This instrument measures the often common tendency for individuals to perceive their emotions as ‘inadequate’. It’s important to pay attention to this mechanism because, if you believe there’s something wrong with the way you feel, you see yourself as less respectable and dignified as a person.
Knowing how you’ve come to emotionally invalidate yourself will be useful.
The practice of invalidating what you feel is a direct consequence of how you’ve been treated at certain points in your life.
1. Running away from your sadness because it makes you uncomfortable
Sometimes, when you go through a breakup, your sadness makes everything around you fall apart. You might fight with it, deny it, hide it, and tell yourself that being sad isn’t like being sick and that you must return to your life as usual. And yet you find it impossible.
Therefore, one of the ways you emotionally invalidate yourself is when you deny and displace your sadness, anguish, or melancholy. The more you avoid it, the greater its presence in your life.
2. Comparing how others react and how you react
We’ve all done this at some time or another. Sometimes, when two or more people experience the same adverse situation, each one reacts in a different way. If you tend to be the kind of person who’s more emotionally affected, you may think that there’s something ‘wrong’ with you. Why did your sister get over your father’s death sooner and you’re still grieving, you might ask yourself.
However, we all react and process what happens to us in different ways. It doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with us.
3. Silencing what you feel when something enrages, hurts, or angers you
“It’s nothing, it’s completely unimportant.” In your interactions with others, you often act by repressing what you feel so as not to contradict, confront, or disappoint them. But it’s important to keep in mind that, among the ways in which you invalidate yourself emotionally, this is the most recurrent.
In your continued attempt to ‘get along’ with everyone, you end up hurting yourself and hiding what hurts and bothers you. With this behavior, you not only gradually reinforce your own discomfort but also build unhealthy relationships. Indeed, there’s nothing more important than being assertive so that others know your boundaries and treat you in a more dignified and respectful manner.
4. Feeling ashamed for being ‘too emotional’
You might feel that there’s something wrong with you because everything overwhelms you and makes you react in specific ways. Usually, the way you relate to your emotions is linked with how other people have validated or invalidated them.
For instance, if you were raised by emotionally cold parents, you might have a negative view of how you feel. However, you must remember that you’re an emotional being and the last thing you should do is devalue what you feel. That invalidates you as a human being.
5. Instead of being compassionate with yourself, you criticize yourself
One of the ways in which you invalidate yourself is by being your own worst judge. For example, when, after a mistake or a failure, instead of hugging yourself and having compassion for yourself you self-criticize. This is a slow form of self-destruction whereby you don’t allow yourself to accept what happened.
Think of those times when you rubbed salt in your wound and called yourself ‘stupid’ or ‘a failure’. You were acting against yourself. Don’t do it, change that dynamic. There’s nothing more important than being compassionate with yourself to properly handle all your complicated emotions.
In the end, your brain gets used to invalidating what you feel. Separating your emotions from yourself and pretending they aren’t there hinders your development and jeopardizes your mental health.
6. Thinking that it could be worse so you shouldn’t complain
We’re all used to being told “It’s not that bad, it could’ve been worse”. For example, say you’ve lost your job and you’re told “At least your partner still has theirs”. The same thing happens when a woman has an abortion and someone, with little tact or empathy, tells her “You can always try again”.
Surprisingly, you also fall into this trap with yourself. You invalidate your present emotions by telling yourself that things could’ve been much worse. You must avoid these kinds of thoughts. What’s hurting, frustrating, angering, or saddening you is happening right now. Don’t underestimate it.
7. Assuming that you can handle everything
Maybe you’re the kind of person who tells yourself that nothing affects you too much and that you’re able to face anything that comes your way. However, assuming that you have a strong character and that you’re used to life’s blows can also be emotionally invalidating.
It may be the case that what you’re really doing is locking up your suffering. But, sooner or later, it’ll affect you in some way.
Finally, learn to validate what you feel. Doing so won’t eliminate the emotions you feel, but it’ll allow you to accept and manage them better in order to understand and love yourself as you deserve.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Brintzinger M, Tschacher W, Endtner K, Bachmann K, Reicherts M, Znoj H, Pfammatter M. Patients’ style of emotional processing moderates the impact of common factors in psychotherapy. Psychotherapy (Chic). 2021 Dec;58(4):472-484. doi: 10.1037/pst0000370. Epub 2021 Sep 2. PMID: 34472933.
- Martins-Klein B, Alves LA, Chiew KS. Proactive versus reactive emotion regulation: A dual-mechanisms perspective. Emotion. 2020 Feb;20(1):87-92. doi: 10.1037/emo0000664. PMID: 31961184.
- Schreiber, R.E., & Veilleux, J. C. (2022). The Self-Invalidation Due to Emotion Scale: Development and psychometric properties. Psychological Assessment, 34(10), 937–951. https://doi.org/10.1037/pas0001155