Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/19/2023
Wondering how to get past emotional invalidation? You’ve come to the right place.
“You shouldn’t feel that way.” “I’m sorry you feel that way.” “It could be worse.”
When someone says these things, they may have good intentions of trying to relieve you of whatever negative emotions you’re feeling. But oftentimes, the phrases actually discredit or invalidate how you’re feeling.
We might all experience emotional invalidation at one point or another. When someone we love or care about doesn’t validate our emotions, it can make us feel bad and even affect our health and well-being.
Learning how to recognize emotional invalidation can help you learn how to cope with and overcome the invalidation of feelings.
Emotional validation is accepting someone’s thoughts, feelings and emotions as they are.
Emotional invalidation, then, is denying or invalidating someone’s feelings. Invalidating feelings can be someone telling you your emotions are unreasonable, irrational, invalid or should be hidden.
People can invalidate feelings either intentionally or unintentionally. For example, a friend trying to cheer you up might tell you your situation could be worse. Or they might make you question your feelings or whether you’re telling the truth by saying, “It probably wasn’t that bad.”
There can also be nonverbal signs of invalidating feelings, such as eye-rolling or ignoring the person who’s talking.
There are a few potential causes of invalidating someone’s feelings. A person may not have introspection on their own painful emotions, which causes the invalidation of feelings.
Those who emotionally invalidate may also have a deep feeling of being inadequate or shame regarding past psychological distress. Hearing a friend or partner talk about their emotions might trigger unresolved or painful feelings they have.
Emotional invalidation may even come from a place of not knowing how to respond, being preoccupied or going through a difficult time in one’s own life. Knowing the proper emotional response isn’t always easy.
Invalidating feelings can lead to uncertainty and self-doubt in our relationships and within ourselves. Emotional invalidation is even considered a form of emotional abuse, as it can cause a power imbalance in relationships.
The effects of emotional invalidation may lead to:
Distrust in your own emotions or not having emotional validation for yourself
Having trouble with low self-esteem and personal identity
Developing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
Emotional invalidation can happen at any point in someone’s life. But childhood emotional invalidation can have lasting effects into adulthood.
Parental invalidation experienced as a child, as well as environmental invalidation, is even thought to lead to borderline personality disorder (BPD). Those with a borderline personality disorder may have:
Trouble managing emotions
Feeling empty all the time
Problems with self-image
Intense mood swings
Parental invalidation may also lead to self-harm in teenagers and adolescents.
One of the best ways to overcome getting your feelings invalidated and cope with emotional invalidation is to practice emotional validation.
Emotional validation may give you the space and respect that your (or another person’s) emotions deserve. Learn to listen to your intuition and trust it by practicing affirmations that support believing your emotions.
If you’re in the habit of invalidating someone’s feelings, be sure to give the conversation your undivided attention and really listen to what the other person is saying.
Our relationship with ourselves is often reflected in our relationships with others. Understanding that you or the other person may have unresolved issues — such as low self-esteem or self-doubt — can show up in how you talk to one another.
Emotional invalidation is the denial or rejection of someone’s feelings by being told they’re overreacting or that their feelings or emotional experiences are invalid. And the impact of invalidation can be very real.
Invalidating feelings can happen at any time in someone’s life, although parental invalidation in childhood can have a lasting effect. Emotional invalidation can negatively impact a person’s self-esteem and self-worth and even cause mental health issues.
Overcoming emotional invalidation starts with building up your own self-worth and listening to your intuition when it tells you your feelings are valid.
One way you can address self-esteem or other underlying issues that may be making emotional validation difficult is through therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy.
If you struggle with emotional invalidation, talking to a mental health professional can help you learn how to cope with the invalidation of feelings.