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5 Ways to Validate Yourself: Be Part of Your Support System

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” ~Louise L. Hay

We all have techniques we depend on to lift our spirits when we’re feeling down about ourselves or our lives.

A while back I realized something about the ones I’d found most effective when struggling to forgive or accept myself: Many of them involved seeking validation from other people.

Some of my most effective mood-boosters included:

  • Reading emails from readers who’d benefitted from my writing
  • Calling people I loved and reminding myself of how much they valued me
  • Sharing my experiences and recognizing through the resultant conversations that I wasn’t alone with my feelings and struggles

These are all perfectly valid approaches to feeling better, but they all hinge on praise and external support.

Getting help from others is only one part of the equation. We also need to be able to validate, support, and help ourselves.

I’ve come up with a few ideas to create a little more balance in my support system, making myself a more central part of it.

If you’re also looking to increase your capacity for self-soothing to depend less on validation from others, you may find these ideas helpful: 

1. Make a “you” section in your daily gratitude journal.

Of course this assumes you already keep a gratitude journal to recognize and celebrate all the good things in your day. If you don’t, you can still take a few minutes every day to give yourself some credit.

Note down the things you’ve done well, the choices you’ve made that you’re proud of, the progress you’ve made, and even the things that required no action at all—for example, the time you gave yourself to simply be.

When you regularly praise yourself, self-validation becomes a habit you can depend on when you need it the most.

2. Before seeking external validation, ask yourself, “What do I hope that person tells me?” Then tell it to yourself.

Odds are you aren’t always looking for someone’s advice or opinion when you come to them with a painful story. You’re looking for them to confirm you didn’t do anything wrong—or that, if you did, you’re not a bad person for it.

Essentially, you’re looking for someone else to see the best in you and believe in you. Give yourself what you’re seeking from them before making that call. Then by all means, make it if you want to.

The goal isn’t to stop reaching out to others. It’s to also be there for yourself. Do that first.

The words you want to hear from someone else will be far more powerful if you fully believe what they’re saying.

3. Recognize when you’re judging your feelings.

If you’re in the habit of feeling bad about feeling down, or feeling bad about feeling insecure—or generally having emotional reactions to emotions—you will inevitably end up feeling stuck and helpless.

Get in the habit of telling yourself, “I have a right to feel how I feel.” This will help you understand your feelings and work through them much more easily, because you won’t be so deeply embedded in negativity about yourself.

Once you’ve accepted your feelings, you’ll then be free to seek support for the actual problem—not your self-judgment about having to deal with it.

4. See yourself as the parent to the child version of you.

I know this one might sound odd—bear with me! Many of us didn’t receive the type of love, support, and kindness we needed growing up, and this may have taught us to treat ourselves harshly and critically.

When you’re looking for that warm, fuzzy feeling that emerges when someone you trust tells you, “Everything is going to be okay,” imagine yourself saying it to your younger self.

Picture that little kid who tried so hard, meant no harm, and just wanted to be loved and cherished. This will likely help in deflating your self-criticism and fill you a genuine sense of compassion for yourself.

Once again, this doesn’t need to be an alternative to seeking compassion from others; it just provides a secure foundation from which you’ll be better able to receive that.

5. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “What do I need right now?”

Oftentimes when we’re feeling down on ourselves, we feel a (sometimes subconscious) desire to punish ourselves. When we reject or deprive ourselves in this way, we exacerbate our feelings because we then feel bad about two things: the original incident and the pain we’re causing ourselves.

If you’re feeling down, or down on yourself, ask yourself: “What does my body need? What does my mind need? What does my spirit need?” Or otherwise expressed: What will make you feel better, more stable, healthier, and more balanced?

You may find that you need to take a walk to feel more energized, take a nap to feel better rested, practice deep breathing to clear your head, or drink some water to hydrate yourself.

This is validating yourself in action. Whenever you address your needs, you reinforce to yourself that they are important, regardless of whatever you did or didn’t do previously.

One more thing has helped me tremendously in validating myself: accepting that it’s okay to need reminders like these. There was a time when I saw this as something shameful—an indication that other people who seemed self-assured were somehow better than me.

I wondered why self-kindness didn’t always come instinctively. But when I stopped judging myself, I remembered all the experiences that helped shape my critical inner voice. It wasn’t a sign of weakness that I needed to put in some effort; it was a sign of strength that I was willing to do it.

It’s one of life’s great ironies, that it feels so natural to feel bad about feeling bad. All this does is keep us stuck. When we stop blaming ourselves for having room to grow, we’re free to focus our energy on doing it.

Do you have any techniques for validating yourself?

Photo by Jo Munday

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook series, Tiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself, and Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions. She's also co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you get unstuck and change your life. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • http://www.mazzastick.com/ Justin

    So true Lori. Too many get caught up in helping others that we forget to take care of ourselves. Asking for help is a big one and also turning down the critical internal voice of negative self judgement.

  • Mike

    Hey Lori,

    Every time I get an email from tinybuddha and see your byline I read. You really have a gift for sharing and helping others with your writing. I just wanted you to know that I suppose. Keep on keepin on and doin what you do. You are making a difference in ppls lives and I think that is cool.

  • http://everlutional.com/ David Hamilton | Everlution

    Great stuff Lori – we all need a little self-validation sometimes. I like a little self talk a a la “I have self-worth without seeking validation from others”. Been using that when I get down, and helps me out!

  • http://www.facebook.com/joy.c.holland.9 Joy Christin Detor Holland

    Beautiful, Lori…thank you :) I hadn’t thought to add a “me” section to my gratitude journal..I will add that in today. One technique I have to validate my self (and the whole idea of validating myself is quite new to me so I am learning) is to celebrate my steps as I take them. To slow down enough to recognize and appreciate the step as I take it, and celebrate that movement.

  • th0ughtbubbles

    I’ve been silently reading this blog for years. This article is particularly relevant and helpful for me right now. As someone going through a stark change and some pain currently, I can attest to the fact that reaching out to friends and family is extremely helpful. I also have learned to forgive myself, listen to my needs, and be my own best friend. Thanks Lori, for your continuously amazing work.

  • http://www.thebounceblog.com/ Bobbi Emel

    Lori, these are all so great and spot on. It’s very much like the self-compassion practices I’ve been studying – especially about treating yourself like you would your best friend.

    But the one that stood out for me here was your first suggestion to set aside time to give myself credit for what I’ve done well that day. Too often I find myself totaling up all the things I did wrong or that I didn’t get done. I am going to be more aware now of recognizing the positive things I’ve accomplished or just allowed to be each day.

    Great post, Lori! Will be sharing for sure!

  • lv2terp

    Lori, these tips are wonderful and extremely beneficial, thank you for this post!!!!!!!! :) I appreciate you and your website so very much!

  • Joice

    Today, a person I admire so much who is retiring gave a speech. He quoted one of his own poems in which he says (more or less) that “as time passes, the need of being recognized by other people gives place to the need of being recognized by himself in the things that he does”. When we approve of ourselves, the outside recognition comes naturally. Thanks for another lovely post, Lori. :)

  • http://twitter.com/AuroratheRose Aurora Rose Truth

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sharing this today! I have been on my way to this point of self-gratitude, appreciation, self-care and self-love, and this post clarifies and enhances, gives more structure and direction what I am already doing; yay confirmation :D TY! <3

  • Jeanine Nicole

    I love this post, Lori. I can relate to all the methods of external validation you cited,and am going to aim to incorporate the internal cheerleaders you suggested! Thanks for this amazing insight and for sharing your wisdom :)

  • http://optimalternative.com/ Mark B Hoover

    “I have a right to feel how I feel.”

    I’ve always had a problem with that. Even now, I am working to feel free of the need to work. To simply “be”. There’s always this feeling within that deprives me of the joy of having gotten here and not needing to be elsewhere. I suppose it comes from a life of struggle and never having “enough”, no matter what the objective was.

    Besides, I really DO want to be elsewhere.

    I’ve turned my hours upside down and indulged in nonactivity that would have at one time driven me off the deep end. I am trying to adopt Lao Tzu’s “Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place.” Try that with a deadline mentality and you’ve got a built-in conflict ready to wage war with the sensibilities.

    I don’t have a support system, other than my dialogue with other bloggers and long-time distant “social” friends. I don’t divulge. I’m still gun-shy from my last close encounters. I am open, vulnerable and ready for interaction yet…yet…I feel this is my big chance to plumb the final depths of myself and extract from the shadows the last culprits of sabotage. To do it on my own, to be entirely authentic with myself.

    “Get in the habit of ask yourself, ‘What do I need right now?’”

    Yes. Yes. I have been doing just that. This is the precise thought I render unto myself each day. I have the practical answer, as well: “Nothing at all”. I want, really want, to feel at ease, accomplished. But the wants start piling in, unwanted, the moment I open the door to that first want. It is one thing to have defined a higher purpose; it is another to rest assured that the foundation will support the building to come. I “need” to know I am rock-solid before I take off on another flight of “wants”. The needs of a tree are for roots so deep they push the branches ever farther toward the sky.

    Thank you, Lori, for another spark.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks so much Mike. I appreciate the kind words! I’m glad to know you enjoy the emails. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks David! That sounds like an empowering affirmation–simple but powerful!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. That’s a great idea, about recognizing and celebrating your steps as you take them. I will add that to my self-validation list as well. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. I’m glad this was helpful to you. Thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s nice to connect with you. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome–and thank you so much!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I thought about that as I was writing it Bobbi–that self-compassion and self-validation are two sides of the same coin. I’ve done the same thing, about totaling all the things I think I’ve done wrong. I can definitely notice a big difference when I consciously total up the things I feel proud of instead!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. Sounds like it was an empowering speech! Thank you for sharing his quote. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Aurora! I’m glad this came at a good time for you. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome! Incidentally, your posts have really inspired me. I love knowing that mine was helpful to you as well!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Mark. I can relate to what you wrote. I sometimes wonder when it will stop feeling so instinctive to strive; and then I wonder if that’s really what I’d want. What would life be without the feeling of growing, expanding, and reaching toward something in the future? But I guess the question is: What does it look and feel like to do that while being fully present in the now?

  • http://twitter.com/fox_sara Sara Fox

    #4 isn’t weird at all. I talk to my inner child especially when I’m feeling bad. I give her hugs and tell her I love her and it’s ok. I also write myself letters as if I was writing to a friend. The friend being myself. I put uplifting messages and advice.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s wonderful! I love the idea of writing yourself letters. =)

  • http://optimalternative.com/ Mark B Hoover

    None of us really knows what it looks like. I wish I did, but that would take the edge away. I lapsed into complacency for a decade, feeling I had arrived. Misfortune struck and one incident after another resulted in my having lost everything. I feel it’s crucial to maintain that edge, to expect change and, if it doesn’t happen, to make it happen. May as well face the inevitable on my terms.

    Getting off one’s laurels and drawing first blood from something new may not be a comfortable view of a warm and fuzzy future. That future will come, though, and maintaining an edge is the only way to cut through it cleanly without having dead weight to drag through the oncoming currents of change. I feel adopting this attitude creates a sense of ease in the long run. One goes from apprehension to a sort of subtle expectation of an oncoming shift.

    Again, it’s Anais Nin’s “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I have been teetering around these ideas over this past year, actually. I love what I do here, but I’ve been looking to push myself for something new. I think it’s a natural instinct to live as if we’re becoming–even while we’re learning to just be. It’s a tricky line to walk, but I think both are crucial to feeling truly alive.

  • http://twitter.com/PennieNotPenny PennieNotPenny

    This is great :) especially because it’s succinct ;) I don’t have a gratitude journal; maybe it’s time to start one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristin.maiorano Kristin Maiorano

    Thank you for this post, Lori. It really resonates with me where I am in my life right now. My entire life it has been hard to avoid “feeling bad about feeling bad.” I am learning ways to keep my spirits up on my own, but need to recognize it’s okay and I am a good person no matter what I’m feeling. Thanks for being a place I enjoy learning from day after day :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad you found it helpful Pennie!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Kristin! That’s been a lifelong challenge for me as well. “I am a good person and I don’t deserve to feel bad” is such a simple affirmation, but I find it so empowering and helpful.

  • Simona

    I just love you Lori. Especially for this post. <3

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thank you so much Simona! =)

  • Emily

    Lori,
    I stumbled upon this post after my husband had been asking me why I needed outside validation so much. I’ve always known that I had a self-esteem issue from when I was younger (critical mother, teasing at school, etc.). I never really thought that as an adult the reason for my self esteem being low is that I don’t validate things for myself until what my husband said really resonated. I fell in love with him because of this wonderful confidence that he has no matter what he does or who his is with and I’d always wanted to be more like him. So, tonight, after thinking about his comment and reading your post, I’ve realized that I can’t base my self-esteem on how others judge me and my actions. I need to grow up and do this for myself and I’ll use these tools as a starting point to get me there! Thank you so much!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Emily! I was attracted to my boyfriend largely for that same reason. He doesn’t let other people’s opinions sway his confidence or belief in himself. For me, it’s taken time and effort, and I’m still a work in progress. I’m glad to know these suggestions will help you as you move forward!

  • Katherine

    Thank you for such a wonderful post.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • Drummergirl

    Hello; glad that I stumbled upon your website today. At over 50, I am finally on a quest to begin to value myself. I am so critical of myself, self talk is toxic and I had a flash of that a few days ago. Thinking I’m all powerful and all knowing about myself and ‘who’ I am…but I am not. I continuously measure myself against others and my life situation against theirs, I judge myself as I imagine that they are judging me. I think that this has come about by a child I have who is severly addicted; so much of his addiction and suffering I take on guilt for because I’m his mom and never wished him to suffer as he chooses to (classic co-dependent, another issue that I must deal with). I raise his daughter, now 5, and my wish for her is to be a strong, smart, bold woman who values herself and takes care of herself. I need to live that life, she is mirroring me already so I need to be that person who values myself and treats myself well.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Drummergirl~

    Welcome to Tiny Buddha. I think it’s great that you’re trying to make these positive changes for yourself and also for your granddaughter. She–and your son–are fortunate to have someone in their life who cares as you do. =)

    I know how instinctive self-criticism can be. Have you ever listened to guided meditations? You can find a ton on YouTube with positive affirmations that will help you change your inner voice to be kinder. These have helped me a great deal.

    Sending good thoughts your way,
    Lori

  • chickadeevic

    I absolutely love this site! I found it because I was doing some work for one of my psych class and your thoughts so closely match my own that it felt natural to read. (Though I usually phrase it a little differently. I say “They call it ‘self-esteem’ for a reason. You have to be willing to do at least half the work. Opportunity knocks, but you still have to get your ass off the couch and be willing to answer the door.” Love it, I’ll come back to this site over and over!

  • Dena

    Hi there. I enjoyed reading the original post and subsequent commentaries. As I am approaching 40, the notion of realizing my own value is new and a struggle; decades of self-criticism and societal brain washing can truly be detrimental to the female psyche, no matter how accomplished and/or beautiful she may be. From the post, the idea that is lingering with me is …showing myself compassion. I always do this with others but never with myself. Realizing such, I will make an effort to direct a warm compassion…inward. I deserve that as much as anyone else.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad you enjoyed this Dena! Like you, I also find it easier to offer compassion to the people I love.

    This may sound a little odd, but I sometimes add the word “sister” to my self talk, because that’s what I call my sister–and I am always loving, kind, and understanding with her, especially when she’s hurting. Seeing myself as her helps me a great deal when I’m tempted to get down on myself because I love her unconditionally and would never be mean to her.

    Like you, I now know I deserve warm compassion too!

  • Naman

    Thanks for this post Lori. Your site is really a refreshment and an avalanche of much needed positivity :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. I appreciate the positive feedback! =)

  • Ben

    Lori,

    I firstly must say that reading your articles especially have been so so close to how i feel about my self. i have buried my feelings for most of my life. avoided reality, avoided letting people close to me and it has built up and i am only just starting to reveal myself to myself and to my friends after breaking up with my girlfriend of 5 years. we didnt talk about the future and whilst we still love each other, we just made each other sad.

    this site has just provided me with the positivity to be able to stay afloat. even if its just whilst i read the articles, sometimes in other parts of my life, i remember fractions of what has been said in them and im able to slightly adjust my way of thinking.

    i have been having counselling as well and trying to figure out my complex nature which includes perfectionism, always putting myself down, a lack of self worth, lack of belief in myself and a basic misunderstanding of how to feel emotions without hijacking them with anxiety and fear.

    thankyou for this site. it is one of my shining lights.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad my articles have been helpful to you, Ben! It sounds like you and I have a lot in common, as I’ve struggled with all those same things. It means the world to me to know that Tiny Buddha has been a shining light for you, so thank you for taking the time to write and share a little of yourself. =)

  • suwarna

    Hi Lori, this is wonderful post, i was just going through the google and found this post useful, because some thing i was finding , and i got here. I think self concioudness and being a good friend of self is more important, because everything start with self, if we don’t value our feeling, no one will value your feeling. If the inner world is happy , outer is always happy. so to support self is the first step to follow our own walk to look ahead and stand firmly.

    Thanks a lot dear..:)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. I absolutely agree–it all starts with valuing ourselves. Glad this was helpful to you!

  • HHPDA

    I really need to work on this and learning that if I do something for others not expecting even a little back…. As someone once said to me don’t give away my power….. I can’t help it though I wear my heart on my sleeve…. :/

  • HHPDA

    Fed up of people letting me down and using me…. I don’t do things for people hoping or expecting I will receive something back…. I just ask for compassion and sensitivity towards how I feel :(

  • Vinay Babu

    good

  • Anthony
  • Nadine

    I kept telling myself that my feelings weren’t logical. That I shouldn’t feel bad for something someone did by accident. But the harder I tried to push my feelings down, the worse I felt. I tried to think about why I felt so bad in the first place and I realized it’s because so much of my self esteem relies on others. I’m constantly seeking approval and validation and love from others when I should be looking for that from myself. So if anyone ever criticizes me, my self esteem drops when it shouldn’t. I’m going to try to follow some of these great suggestions. Thank you for making me feel like I’m not the only one and that I can empower myself.

  • Caitlin

    I stumbled upon your article after doing some internal reflection and googling :) It was beautifully written and gave me wonderful solutions to start validating myself instead of using others! Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks so much, and you’re most welcome!