On Oprah’s final episode of her wildly popular TV show, she highlighted the importance of validation. “I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show and all 30,000 had one thing in common. They all wanted validation.”
Validation. What is it? It’s getting feedback from others that “what I do and what I say matters to you. You hear me. You see me. You think of me. You thank me. You acknowledge my accomplishments. You appreciate my efforts.”
The opposite of validation? Non-recognition. “I don’t give a damn what you want, what you say, what you think. Who cares? You’re over-reacting. You’re nuts. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
One of the great things about being in love is how often you receive a boatload of validation. “You’re so beautiful, so caring, so thoughtful, so smart.” Such recognition makes you feel terrific about yourself and your loved one who is so appreciative of your best attributes.
In contrast, one of the depressing things about a relationship going south is how often you now receive a boatload of non-validating comments. “You’re so needy, so selfish, so thoughtless, so dumb.” What a downer! No wonder your self-confidence plummets along with those loving feelings.
Do we always need to receive validation from others? Or, can we give it to ourselves? First and foremost, you need to give it to yourself. When you recognize your good traits, you are not being narcissistic. When you praise yourself for your accomplishments (provided you don’t go overboard), you are not being self-centered. Indeed, if you don’t praise yourself, you’ll have a tendency to negate the validation you do receive: “Oh, he’s just saying that; he doesn’t really mean it.” Or, you may end up being so hungry for validation that others will perceive you as excessively needy: “If I don’t notice every little thing she does, she’s on my case.”
So don’t shy away from praising yourself and let the praise you receive from others be the icing on the cake. An extra bonus to self-praise is that you can acknowledge what you didn’t do. Others will not be aware that you resisted the temptation to stop for a candy bar. Or that you didn’t have to get the last word in when you were tempted to. Or that you restrained yourself from buying that expensive item in order to stay within your budget. But you will know it. So, do remember to validate what you do and what you don’t do.
In my own life, I am generous with praise for others and for myself. And I’m blessed to receive frequent positive feedback from family, friends, clients and readers. Hence, I surprised myself by being overjoyed with the validation that I recently received from the American Psychological Association.
Last week the APA honored me with the status of “Fellow” of APA. What does that mean?
In their words, “Fellow status is an honor bestowed upon APA members who have shown evidence of unusual and outstanding contributions or performance in the field of psychology. Fellow status requires that a person’s work has had a national impact on the field of psychology beyond a local, state or regional level. A high level of competence or steady and continuing contributing are not sufficient to warrant fellow status. National impact must be demonstrated.”
This new recognition reminds me that the work I do, both as a therapist and an author, makes a difference in people’s lives. My columns, my books and my media work have enhanced people’s understanding and well-being, not only in my local community but nationally and even internationally.
This is validation of the highest order. I feel terrific and it’s a pleasure to share my joy with you.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior.