Why we need to learn to self-validate

Last weekend, my 5 year old son was badly stung by a jelly fish.  When he ran screaming from the ocean, he was covered in blue tentacles which I had to pick off his tummy and arm while he screamed “I don’t want to die” and “ruuuuun Mummy!  Get Daddy, ruuuuun”.  My 8 year old daughter was with us, and she was extremely worried about her brother, and also crying.  The tide had gone out at the time, and I had a good 5 minute walk back to shore, wading through thigh high water, whilst trying to deal with both children.  It was scary and upsetting.

When we got closer to shore, I sent my son’s friend to ask my husband to run and meet us.  He did, and promptly took over, so I was able to relax a little.

After another 45 minutes at the beach, soaking him in vinegar, rinsing him in the shower, gathering our stuff and paying the restaurant bill, we finally got him home and settled on the sofa (where he fell fast asleep and the stings raged on). 

As I began to unpack our bags, I found myself avoiding eye contact with my husband and feeling…… well, pretty pissed off!  I was cross with him for not checking in on me, for not asking more about what happened or giving me a chance to talk about it.  For not asking if I was okay.  I didn’t know what else to talk about or say because this was all I could think of!  If he wasn’t going to ask me about it, did that mean it could just be forgotten and brushed under the carpet?  Should I be feeling any need to discuss it?  In my head (big mistake right there), I could hear him saying “it’s only a jellyfish sting Vici, get a grip”. 

These thoughts were making me angrier by the second!

I knew I wasn’t thinking rationally.  My emotions were taking over after everything that had happened, and I really did need to get a grip – on the ideas running through my head!  “Are your thoughts really justified?” I asked myself “If you lose it now, you’ll probably regret it.  There’s more to this than what you think, calm down”.

At almost that exact moment, he came up behind me and asked “Are you okay, that must have been pretty scary out there?”

That one sentence gave me permission to let it all out, to cry and tell him how scared I’d been.  To be grateful for everything that went right.  I felt acceptance – my reactions and feelings now seemed justified. 

Now I wasn’t so emotional, I could dig a little deeper into this whole experience and try looking at things from a different perspective. 

First and foremost, of course he had better things to worry about than me – our son.  I wasn’t the only one who was worried about him.  I wasn’t the only one trying to deal with his screams, his tiny shaking body when he went into shock or the relief that everything was okay. 

So, what had really aggravated me about my husband’s (as I thought at the time) lack of concern?

I knew it wasn’t a novel feeling, I’d felt it many times before, and that’s when it suddenly became clear. 

I wanted recognition and validation of my feelings.  I wanted him to tell me that he completely understood why I was so overwhelmed by it all, and to ensure me he (and everyone else) would have felt the same. 

I’d felt like this so many times in the past, and I wondered why.  Where did my desire for recognition come from?  That’s when I decided to look up the definition in the dictionary:

Recognition If you are given recognition, people show admiration and respect for your achievements. Cambridge Dictionary

I wanted validation because of all the times I’ve felt alone during my time as an expat Mum.  My husband travels a lot and, as is usually the case for expats, my family live in another country.  There are so many difficult situations that I’ve had to deal with alone (a real bone of contention for me), and I want recognition for them! 

After my son got stung, I subconsciously thought to myself “I’ve done it on my own again.  No-one to say “job well done”.  No-one to see how traumatic it was.  No-one to appreciate what it’s like being in a foreign country, with no family around.  Trying to do your absolute best for everyone, while at the same time contending with things like earthquakes, jellyfish stings, power cuts, sick children, pneumonia and everything else”.  I was craving recognition! 

It all sounds very selfish now.  The guilt is trying to creep in.  But, as I said in my last blog “How Inner Kindness and Self Awareness provided the support I didn’t know I needed“, I’m being kind to myself and recognizing that I was frightened, nervous, insecure, anxious, fearful, vulnerable and whole lot more.  It was horrible. 

Needing recognition is not a bad thing, it’s nice to feel supported and encouraged.  It only becomes a problem if we can’t self-validate as well.  If we can’t recognize and accept our thoughts and feelings as being accurate and understandable.  I always tell my children “the way we feel is never wrong, you’re entitled to feel however you want, it’s how you manage those feelings that matters.”  I need to take my own advice.

I’ve been trying to manage this all week, and there’s been at least one occasion while writing this blog that I’ve been in tears.  Digging deep and really dissecting what we feel isn’t always easy.  However, in this globally mobile life that we lead, relying on our own self-awareness is key.  Validating the way we feel is essential. We can’t always rely on others.

Self-Validation – the feeling of having recognized, confirmed, or established one’s own worthiness or legitimacy. Merriam-Webster Dictionary

“Validating your thoughts and emotions will help you calm yourself and manage them more effectively. Validating yourself will help you accept and better understand yourself, which leads to a stronger identity and better skills at managing intense emotions. Self-validation helps you find wisdom.”

Dr Karyn Hall, Ph.D.

In order to support my clients, I have learned about validation and how important it is.  This experience has convinced me just how true that is.


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