You Can Validate Yourself After Heartache

Lisa Martens

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As social creatures, we often seek input from those around us. We ask friends and family for advice, to listen to our stories, and to comfort us. We all seek some kind of validation—Are my feelings and reactions appropriate? What should I do? This is all normal.

However, there are times when someone close to us does not give us validation. This can be particularly hard if that person is an ex, a relative, or someone we hold in high esteem.

For example, we may have a parent or relative who never seems to validate our feelings. “That’s silly. You shouldn’t feel that way.” “You’re overreacting.” Or worse, we know someone who did us wrong who never apologizes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I never did that.” “That was a long time ago. Get over it already.” "I never promised you anything."

What do we do when an important person never validates our feelings? How do we begin to validate ourselves?

Accept that you may not get what you want.

This might be the hardest part, but it’s essential to realize that even if you feel a person “owes” it to you to validate your feelings, they might not.

If you’re waiting for a cheating ex to come back crying and apologizing, or a negligent mother to suddenly realize the error of her ways, etc., then you’re giving them the power over your healing. This is far too much power to give to a human being who did you wrong in the past.

If you’re waiting for a reason, apology, or a grand gesture, you might not receive it.

It’s a harsh reality, but sometimes people do not change or see the error of their ways. Or maybe they do, but they’re too stubborn to admit it. If you’re waiting for someone else to have an epiphany before you move on, you might be waiting forever.

Nobody else owes you closure, and this is a miserable trap that can keep one from healing for years and years. Releasing the expectation is a great...though painful...step toward healing.

Releasing expectations means giving up a piece of how you think the world is supposed to work, and that's what can make this tricky and painful. If you think the world is going to give you a movie ending and closure, it's heartbreaking to realize that may not be so.

Feelings are feelings, not facts.

Many times, people try to equate feelings with facts.

They feel a certain way, and then use logic to tell themselves why their feelings are “correct.”

But feelings don’t need to be supported by logic. They don’t need to be objectively “right.” If you’re mad, you’re mad. If you’re annoyed, you’re annoyed.

People try to talk themselves out of feelings all the time. Someone is miserable at work? “I shouldn’t feel sad. Lots of people don’t even have jobs!” This is an example of arguing with a feeling. It’s okay to dislike your job and still recognize that it’s good that you have one. The fact does not make the feeling go away. The two can coexist.

People try to do this when they are heartbroken as well. They feel so badly, that they feel something “must” come and make them feel better. “I gave them so much energy and time, so they must marry me.” “I grew up to do everything my parents wanted, so they must approve of me now.”

Unfortunately, none of those things are true. Sometimes we are simply left holding the bag.

When we accept our feelings of heartache, anger, and sadness, instead of trying to squash them with logic and storytelling, we can express them instead of pushing them down.

Feelings are also not “wrong” or “bad.” It’s okay to express them.

There’s a tendency to try to sweep “bad” feelings under the rug. But we cannot move on until we express them. It’s okay to make sad poems no one else will read. It’s okay to write a letter you’ll never send. Get the feelings out of you, even if you don’t ever share those feelings with another person.

That other person may apologize or validate you one day. But they might not. Assuming you’ve tried to communicate and they haven’t responded in a positive manner, it might be better to let out your frustration in a way that doesn’t involve them, and start moving on.

Expressing feelings does not mean you’re giving in to that emotion. It means you’re simply letting it out so you can move on.

Plan what you can do that does not involve another person.

We sometimes imagine what we want the other person to do. But when our plans involve other people who have their own feelings and motivations, we may be disappointed. We cannot control what others do, in the end, and if it’s not a priority for them to make us feel better, then it’s a lesson in futility to expect it.

However, we can always make plans that do not involve the other person, whether it’s learning something new, taking a class, meeting new people, etc. We can take actions that make ourselves feel better and build our self-confidence instead of relying on someone else to make that happen for us.

We cannot control what others do. If the action was criminal, we can seek legal action. However, we cannot make someone sorry for what they did. We cannot get validation from someone who does not want to give it.

That part we sometimes have to do on our own.

Seek real opportunities instead of imagining outcomes.

Instead of hoping or imagining what could happen, seek out different opportunities that will satisfy the emptiness. For example, if it's parental validation, maybe seek a mentor in your career, or volunteer with kids. Find active, productive ways to heal that do not involve the person you are seeking validation from.

Once you start receiving the validation from yourself and from other people, you'll need that person less and less. Their opinion will become less important to you as you build something new, and you can release the resentment you have.

Eventually, you may look back and wonder why you ever begged that person for validation to begin with.

As we go through life, we will all encounter times where a person does not validate our experiences. They may hurt or even belittle us. Some particularly harmful people intentionally withhold validation so that we chase it, and chase them.

This hurts us, but we all have the power to begin healing and validating ourselves the moment we stop giving that power away.

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