Let's be honest, sometimes we can get bogged down with our own struggles and our hot mess of a life that we forget others have their own hidden pain. I'm a big fan of the saying, "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."
This is especially difficult to remember when people are struggling with mental illness because it's something we often can't see. And when we can't see the illness we often don't empathize when it's needed. People who endure invisible illnesses often feel invalidated by others because those people lack the understanding, empathy, and awareness required to validate someone.
Invalidation includes rejecting, ignoring, judging, denying, blaming or minimizing someone's feelings or experiences. It can imply that the person is wrong or lying and can cause strain and emotional distance in a relationship.
Here are some examples of invalidation that should be avoided:
- You make a big deal out of everything.
- I'm sorry you feel that way.
- You'll get over it.
- It could be worse.
- Don't be so dramatic.
- I know exactly how you feel.
- You're overly sensitive.
- Let it go.
- Don't think too much about it.
- Just get on with it.
- You're making that up.
- You shouldn't let it bother you.
- Everything happens for a reason.
- I'm not having this discussion.
- You shouldn't be angry (or fill in the blank with another feeling).
Few people would deny that they would intentionally invalidate someone else. Yet many well-meaning people may be uncomfortable with intense emotions or believe that they are providing support when they're actually doing the opposite. The best way to stop invalidating others is to repeatedly practice validation. Recognize and accept another person's feelings, thoughts, sensations, and behaviors as understandable. Remember validation can also be a way of communicating that a relationship is important even if there is disagreement on the issue. You don't always need to see eye to eye with the other person, but you do need to be self-aware of their struggles and understanding of their needs.
How do you think you could demonstrate more validation in your life with those around you who are struggling?