The Impact of Childhood Invalidation

Emotional invalidation during childhood can have detrimental effects on one’s mental health, self-perception, identity, and relationships as an adult, and is often associated with stronger feelings of anger, shame, guilt, and worthlessness.

Experiencing invalidation during childhood creates beliefs in the individual that their emotional experiences are unreasonable, unacceptable, or insignificant.

Consequences of Childhood Invalidation in Adulthood

There are common consequences that adults experience as the result of invalidation during childhood including:

  • Confusion and mistrust of self. Having learnt to not trust their own emotions and perceptions, there is an over reliance on the social environment to provide ‘correct’ indications of how to respond. This is often associated with having a poor sense of self and lack of confidence.
  • Problems with regulating emotions. Having been taught to ignore, mask, or withhold their own emotions creates difficulty later in recognising, labelling and responding to emotions. This is often accompanied by views of emotions as weak, shameful, dangerous and negative.
  • High sensitivity and anxiety regarding failure, perfectionism, and unrealistic expectations. This can be due to experiences where prior behaviour and feelings were not correct or good enough according to parents.
  • Inaccurate beliefs and ways of responding to others which may be invalidating for the other person.

Signs of Childhood Invalidation

Invalidation during childhood often takes place as ‘everyday’ invalidation in the form of parents who dictate the child’s feelings, mislabel feelings, ignore child’s distress, judge the child’s emotional experience, gaslights the child, rationalises that the feelings are unnecessary or wrong, punishes the child for their emotional experiences, guilt trips, minimises the child’s experience, debates feelings, denies feelings, invalidates good feelings, responds with sarcasm, and makes the child second-guess their feelings.

Consider these statements below, which highlight examples of emotional invalidation that may have been experienced:

  • “There’s no need to be like that, you’ve got it all wrong”
  • “Get that look off your face”
  • “Stop that or I’ll give you something to cry about”
  • “You’re being too sensitive and being dramatic. Stop over-reacting”
  • “I can’t deal with you”
  • “You’re making everyone else miserable”
  • “You are not being rational, there’s no reason for you to feel this way”
  • “I’m sure they didn’t mean it like that. I’m sure they meant well”
  • “Well, it can’t be as bad as you’re making it out to be”
  • “You don’t really mean that, you love your brother”
  • “Oh, look who got out of bed on the wrong side again”
  • “You really should be over that by now”
  • “What have you got to be all happy about”
  • “What’s your problem now? Do you think that crying is going to help?”
  • “Time heals all wounds, it’s just a phase you’re going through”

Recovering from Invalidation

Experiencing validation is important as it brings feelings of acceptance, helps guide regulation of emotions, helps build self-identity, improves relationships with others, helps persevere during hardship and difficult changes. As adults one of the simplest ways to receive validation is from ourselves. Self-validation can be used to reassure yourself that your experiences, what you feel is real, important, makes sense and is a valid experience. This can be done by learning to recognise and label emotions, without telling yourself that you shouldn’t, can’t, or aren’t allowed to feel the emotions.

Further, it can be helpful to recognise the above-mentioned invalidating behaviours in others around us and look to implement boundaries to reduce invalidation from others in life, or communicate to them the necessity to change their language and approach to emotions.

It is also important to consider seeing a health professional who can help you work through self-worth, esteem, confidence, assertiveness, boundaries, and emotional regulation to learn ways to engage in more validation, and understand your own experiences.

More Information

Throughout November we will be exploring the topic ‘Validation’. We will look at understanding the term, it’s impact on relationships and childhood, why we may find ourselves craving external validation and how we can practice self validation

For more information contact us today. Please send us an email, give us a call at (02) 9929 8515, check out our LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook or find more Psych Up! resources here.