There’s a Price to Pay for Emotional Validation
It’s easy to ask someone else for permission. A therapist explains how to grant it to yourself.
Lately, many of my therapy clients have asked some version of the same question: “It’s okay to not have it all together, right?”
It’s a question I’m seeing plenty of in my personal life, too. I’m on a group text with friends where we regularly send photos of towering laundry piles and chaotic kitchens, or confess that we had tater tots for dinner again. It’s cathartic to read their messages, to see the mess of other peoples’ lives instead of the tidy lies posted to social media. And, of course, it’s comforting to seek — and get — validation for our own perceived shortcomings.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting that validation. We all want to feel understood and supported when we’re in distress. But it’s worth asking ourselves: What’s the trade-off? What do I lose when I need a text from a friend, or a nod from my therapist, to justify my own decisions?
Many of my clients look to me for permission to make the decisions they want to make, and I’m usually tempted to comfort them by granting it. But when I feel myself about to fall into that trap, I remind them that my thinking is not more powerful than their own. I challenge them to think about how they use their relationships to manage anxiety and self-criticism, and about how this dependence can inhibit their own ability to evaluate themselves.
The solution isn’t a pep talk from me, or from anyone — it’s paying attention to how you use your relationships to calm down.
Use This Time to Let Go of Your Pseudo-Self
A therapist explains how to ditch other people’s values, and find your own
We often trick ourselves into feeling confident
When we’re distressed, we want to feel calm and confident as quickly as possible. And often, the fastest way to accomplish this is to borrow reassurance from those around us. This is called “borrowing self,” and it allows us to pretend to be more put together than we actually are.