How to Self Validate

Mar 13, 2024

Hailey Goldberg

how to self validate infographic

What is validation?

Validation is the recognition that another person’s experience (or our own) makes sense, is logical, fits the facts, and is reasonable. We can validate actions or internal experiences like feelings, thoughts, opinions, desires, and beliefs. Validation makes us feel heard and understood, which not only can provide us with reassurance, but also helps to regulate our emotions. A validating statement could be as simple as someone saying, “It makes sense that you feel that way”, or “I would have totally reacted in the same manner”. It’s someone offering us a blanket when we are shivering cold and it’s also someone listening attentively when sharing a personal story.

What is invalidation?

Invalidation is just the opposite. It is the dismissal, rejection, disapproval, or disbelief of another person’s experience. It is when someone communicates either directly or indirectly that our actions or internal experiences do not make sense. Invalidation can be communicated through someone’s words (e.g. “You’re overreacting! You don’t need to worry so much.”); through body language (e.g. eye rolling, scoffing); or through actions (e.g. interrupting or changing the subject).

Whereas validation provides us with a sense of safety and helps to regulate our emotional responses, invalidation can have the opposite effect. Validation makes our experience seem acceptable and therefore makes US seem acceptable. Similarly, when feeling invalidated, we can sometimes generalize the invalidating experience to mean that we as people, not just the pieces of us being invalidated, are not acceptable. In response, we could feel a host of unpleasant emotions and negative self-judgments (or judgments towards the person who invalidated us). Both put us at risk for unskillful behavior.

Coping with Invalidation through the Power of Self-Validation

Self-validation is necessary for everyone and is of utmost importance for those of us that have been subject to invalidating experiences repeatedly. It is a helpful coping strategy to combat the effects of invalidation, but also an extremely useful tool in response to general life stressors and challenging emotions. If the invalidating person in your life is yourself, listen carefully😉

Before getting into the steps of how to self-validate, first let’s talk about the why. Studies have demonstrated that validation produces the following benefits: Lowered emotional arousal, improved emotion regulation and increases in positive affect. Additionally, applying self-validation (and reducing self-invalidation) will result in increases in positive self image.

Ways to Self Validate

  1. Pay Attention to YOU

When experiencing invalidation, take pause. Give your emotions your full attention. Notice what you are feeling even if you don’t know what it is and even if it is unpleasant. Being validated by someone else often starts with them giving us their full attention. When we are ignored, we feel worse. The same applies to the self. Ignoring your own experience or minimizing it as unimportant is going to do the same. Paying attention is simply taking stalk of what is going on for you. It is giving yourself the time of day. It is approaching your experience with openness and interest.

  1. Describe your experience without judging it

This involves putting words to your experience. Remember, by “experience” we mean emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, and actions. This could be saying to yourself, “I am feeling sad” or, “I am having the thought that I didn’t do so well on that presentation”, or “I am experiencing tightness in my chest and an urge to cry”. We don’t need to know what we are feeling or even have a clear articulation of our thoughts to do this. It can also look like “I don’t know what I am feeling right now but I am know it is a lot”. What’s really neat about this step is that the simple act of observing and describing our feelings can actually serve to regulate our emotions! It provides with just enough distance from our experience to help regulate our responses as well.

  1. Tune in

Ask yourself, “What might my emotions be trying to communicate to me?” Get curious about what your emotions might be trying to tell you about what you need. If you were feeling sad, perhaps crying, and someone offered you a hug, that would be validating right? This step is similar. Your tears communicated to someone that you were sad and in need of soothing. What can you do to honor your emotions that would have a similar effect? Self-validation could look like drawing yourself a warm bath or tucking yourself into your favorite blanket. And it could also include offering yourself a kind, encouraging statement.

  1. Acknowledge the causes

Ask yourself, “What makes sense about my emotions, thoughts, or actions based on what I know about myself and my history?” It is important to consider our experience within the context of our entire life and our learning history. For example, if as a child I struggled with homework tasks and was frequently punished because of it, it would make sense that I feel a surge of emotions when my therapist assigns me “homework” at the end of a session. Perhaps I feel a strong urge to avoid the task due to this negative association. I can acknowledge that fear makes sense given my negative experiences attached to homework (while also recognizing how the current situation is different).

  1. Normalize your experience

Highlight for yourself that any person in your situation would think or feel or behave similarly. You are not alone in your responses. Stand up for yourself and the validity of your experience, even in the face of invalidation. For example, let’s say you had a vacation booked for April 2nd, 2020. You are planning on going to a place you have always dreamed of. You saved your money, you banked your vacation time, you spent weeks, maybe even months, planning this trip. But, uh oh, COVID happened. Naturally, you are incredibly disappointed that your vacation plans have been cancelled. You may have the thought, “I don’t deserve to feel sad or angry about this [invalidation] because there are people going through worse things in the world”. Yes, there are people suffering AND, yes, you are entitled to feel disappointed. Both can be true. Any person would feel disappointed if they were looking forward to something so intensely and that something was taken away from them.

  1. Treat yourself with respect

Talk to yourself the way you would a loved one. Treat yourself the way you would treat anyone else going through a similar experience. In this step, you are validating the person as whole, not just your experience. As mentioned, invalidation can make us as a person feel invalid. The inverse is true of validation: Validating our experience is going to increase our own sense of personal validity. This might be in direct contrast to how you feel or have been treated by others who consistently invalidated you, which is also why this last step is essential towards healing. If you are feeling stuck, consider what you might tell a loved one going through something similar and then send that message right back to you. The rules are not different for you – you are just as deserving as this validating message.

Disclaimer: Self-validation takes patience, practice and may involve acting opposite of your emotion urges. If it feels uncomfortable to do, perhaps you can start by simply validating what makes sense about your discomfort around self validation! (E.g. “It makes sense that I would feel uncomfortable with self-validation as I’m not used to doing it”.)


Fruzzetti, A., & Ruork, A. (2018). Validation Principles and Practices in Dialectical Behavior Therapy of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy). Validation Principles and Practices in Dialectical Behavior Therapy Oxford Handbooks Online.

Linehan, M. M. (2015). Dbt skills training manual. Guilford Publications.

‌Linehan, M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets (2nd ed.). The Guilford Press.