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You Don’t Need Other People to Validate Your Feelings

“When you give another person the power to define you, then you also give them the power to control you.” ~Leslie Vernick

It’s coming up on the anniversary of when I left a relationship that was both my unhealthiest and my greatest catalyst for growth.

While I’m able to see that he was a spiritual assignment I needed in order to evolve, I can’t help but feel resentful. But what surprises me isn’t my anger at him; it’s my anger at myself. Let me explain.

Disastrous relationships are nothing new for me. My past is riddled with complicated, codependent, and crazy encounters. To cope, I’ve blamed my partners, I’ve blamed myself, and for a brief period of time, I thought I found the answer in couples therapy. Never before have I been more wrong.

Like any self-help junkie, I made it my business to learn everything I could about the philosophy behind what I hoped would save my relationship. I attended a lecture by Harville Hendrix, founder of Imago Therapy. He spoke on how we can change the world by changing our relationships.

That sounded interesting, so I kept listening.

He went on to explain how we strive to connect with others in order to experience a taste of the joy and love we once received from our primary caregivers. This connection is our deepest desire and losing it is our greatest fear.

And then it hit me. It’s counter-intuitive to look to relationships to fix wounds from our past. Did I really want to continue that pattern?

The belief that I might find joy in a relationship because it might temporarily quell a deeper abandonment issue is the exact reason I remained codependent for most of my life. I’d been searching for a Band-Aid to cover a hemorrhage.

Like most people, I crave the feeling of safety. Whether through touch or through words, validation that I’m worthy was like a drug. And boy, was I an addict!

So it was no surprise in couples therapy, when our therapist explained to my then boyfriend that he needed to say that he “heard” me and that my feelings were “legitimate” and “made sense” that I felt like I had finally won.

But that victory was brief. In fact, it depressed me even more. Because none of it was real.

Why? Because in the midst of a heated battle about whether he was actually going to follow through on a promise he made, a light bulb went off:

I really don’t need him to validate that my feelings are okay. The fact that I need him to tell me I have a right to feel this way is exactly what’s keeping me in a relationship that’s wrong for both of us. Whether or not another person sees it, I have a right to feel the way I feel.

It turns out there is a fine line between wanting your partner to understand you and wanting your partner to validate your feelings. For years, I wanted others to confirm that my feelings were okay to have.

And ultimately, the belief that feelings need to be validated to be valid was the cause of my codependency.

Here’s what it comes down to: If you don’t believe your feelings are genuine, real, and legitimate, nothing your partner says will make a difference. Whether or not your partner gets you is secondary to honoring your own feelings.

And while I loved pathologizing what was wrong with my ex, what you give your attention to only grows.

Taking inventory and focusing on your partner’s inability to understand you will only create a deeper void to fill. All that negativity creates anxiety, blocking your inner guidance, strength, and resilience.

After all, your partner isn't going to fix your old wounds. You are.

For the record, I’m not saying couples therapy is bad or that it wasn't helpful for me. One just needs a strong sense of self and a clear picture of what they want to achieve.

So here’s the solution: Give it to yourself. Heal your core fears and wounds and stop thinking that someone else will fix it for you. You can spend the rest of your life craving a connection with others when what you’re really searching for is a connection with yourself.

About Amita Patel

Amita is the Founder of AlignedHolistics.com, a coaching services company that empowers individuals to create lasting change from a place of self-love instead of self-discipline. Amita has been featured on CBS, NBC, and the Huffington Post. Book your breakthrough session today and download your free copy of "10 Tips To Become The Happiest Person You Know."

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  • Ayat

    “You can spend the rest of your life craving a connection with others when what you’re really searching for is a connection with yourself.” This is precisely the reminder I wanted to hear at this moment. Thank you Amita 🙂

  • Jester2012

    Thanks for the interesting read

  • Marsha

    In other words, respect myself, regain my self-confidence and move on. I just lost a friendship with someone because they couldn’t accept a decision I made. Everyone else said I was right but it didn’t convince me. Now I understand why – because I need to trust my own judgment and stop searching. Thank you!

  • humphrey

    Thank you so much. That was something I really needed to read right now.

  • So happy it resonated with you!

  • Thanks for the kind words. Sending you lots of love!

  • Yes, I’ve experienced this countless times. Until I changed that, I kept attracting the same lesson. Sounds like you did what was right for you!

  • Komal Agarwal

    I just read your article on Mind Body Green and now I read this article, and I must say that it is such an incredible coincidence that you posted both articles exactly when I needed to read something like that. Thank you so much for your words, Amita. <3

  • Unappreciated

    I had to finally let go of someone I really love, because he does not care enough to try to understand me. I know my feelings are real and valid. I don’t need to give my love to people who don’t value how I feel.

  • LosingABestfriend

    I am in the same place. I hope we can both come out of this stronger.

  • Perfect synchronicity! So happy they both aligned with you!

  • I find that the more I honor and love myself, the more the Universe gives it to me in return!

  • Sending you love, strength, and self-compassion!

  • Santha Nantha

    Beautiful beautiful beautiful
    As I was just asking the Universe if others love me , there comes the reminder Love yourself first and then everything falls into place . Thank you thank you thank you

  • Kimberly Miller

    This is an awesome blog site. I am a life coach and also have a blog. I am currently looking for people I can feature in my blog and add to my list of blogs to visit. With your permission I would like to add yours. Keep up the great work.

    Kimberly Miller

  • Thanks so much! Email me at info@AlignedHolistics.com
    Much Love,
    Amita

  • Absolutely! Self-love is the cornerstone of everything!

  • Validation can be so addictive. With social media it is an easy trap to fall into. Relying on others to make you feel good is such an endless spiral. It’s so good that you found your way out. 🙂

  • sachin

    I recommend http://www.anthony-robbins-eur… for great life coaching. Anthony Robbins is one of the best life
    coaches worldwide.

  • Ahana Sinha

    Hey well I have something that I have been struggling with all my life and I really need help, which unfortunately I’m not getting. Ever since I was young, I feel as if I could never connect with my parents. My dad and I had a very rocky relationship and I was really afraid of him. Whenever he used to punish me, my mom used to do absolutely nothing to help me so I could not connect with her either. This lack of attention still continues, and only during rare times do they come to help me. Which I find disturbing but it is not their fault because they grew up that way (I’m full indian). But because of this I always try to find someone that would give me attention like a boyfriend or a best friend. These kind of relationships would always go in the ditch and in the end I realized that I do not love myself, and I am always hard on myself. I want to love myself but I don’t know where to start.. please help? And sorry for the long post.

  • crys

    this was a very good article. I found it to be exactly where I am presently.

  • Snowflake of the Month

    Dear Ahana, I am Asian also and grew up a lot like you did. My mother did nothing to protect me from my father’s violence and punishment, either, and I never received attention or love from either of my parents: just obsessive observation and cruel control. Today, at 46, I’m still reeling from relationships that did the same thing. Here is what helped me at least a little. Maybe it can be the first step towards healing for you, and you can fly beyond it, find the healing tree, then come winging proudly back to others with its olive branch in your beak and news of wholeness… and then show us the way.

    I began asking myself, when others mistreated me, “Would you allow others to treat your daughter this way?”

    I imagined myself with a daughter. Her face. Her name. Her laughter, skills, hobbies, favorite music, favorite clothes. I imagined her mistreated by people the way people were currently mistreating me. This made me very uncomfortable with the mistreatment and very fierce about wanting to protect that little girl. Then I realized: I should be protecting myself this exact same way.

    No matter how unfamiliar it felt, how far it pushed me out of my comfort zone, I took the exact same steps and said the same uncomfortable, firm “no” to the people mistreating me that I would have taken or said to people mistreating my daughter. This taught me assertiveness.

    Later, I moved back to New York City where I had spent childhood years, and allowed living in NYC to teach me even more assertiveness – because it will: as a New Yorker you learn within days you must be assertive, outspoken and self-confident, or you will not survive life in that city. These two steps boosted my self-esteem and now I not only say no to bad people faster, I recognize them MUCH faster ahead of time.

    You do not have to move to New York, but perhaps watch films and read books about New Yorkers. Study how we move, speak and behave. Notice the strong assertiveness and sense of self-protection. But most of all, love and protect yourself as you would your own future daughter.

    Somehow, at least for me, that made it easier. Love and light to you.

    – Snowflake

  • Supriya Rao

    Beautiful thoughts Amita 🙂 Thanks . . Came at a time when I was looking for it most

  • J C

    I couldn’t disagree more. You missed one crucial point. As children, validation of their feelings is critical. It leads to a grown adult that doesn’t need other people to validate their worth. If this gift hasn’t been given as a child , codependency is born along with a host of other potential character ” flaws “. You are then are left with adults who have to study and relearn these things. It’s funny, some of the most well rounded people are naturally good at validating because that was their model.

    The healthiest relationships involve endless amounts of validation. There is nothing that’s creates intimacy better than saying to someone ” I understand how you could feel that way “. Validation stops bitterness and resentment and emotional isolation dead in its tracks. There isn’t a human being alive that’s bulletproof.

    In relationships we have to communicate. Sometimes we have to expose our weaknesses. Validation is at the heart of this. It’s letting someone else know that it’s okay and that what they are feeling is very human.

  • Gray Matter

    Except the article doesn’t contradict what you’re saying.

    Point is, if you’re not surrounded by people who validate you, then your only option is to go inside, because our perception and reactions are the only thing we can control. And once you start validating yourself despite what those around you think, they’ll either start to change their approach or you’ll naturally start to seek people who validate you. Outer reality follows inner reality. It’s two-fold, but for those who had no validation to begin with, it must start inside.

    You’re not entirely wrong, but neither is the article.