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Balancing Validation of Others and Self-Worth



In our interactions with others, we often strive to be supportive and understanding, especially in moments of difficulty or distress. However, there's a delicate balance to maintain between validating others and invalidating ourselves. It's important to remember that we don't need to sacrifice our own well-being to make others feel good.


 

Why We Invalidate Ourselves

Several psychological factors contribute to the tendency to invalidate ourselves in order to validate others. Low self-esteem can make us more likely to seek validation from external sources, leading us to prioritize others' needs over our own. Codependency can also play a role, as we may fear abandonment or rejection if we assert our own needs. Past experiences of invalidation can also create a pattern of self-doubt and self-criticism, making it difficult to prioritize ourselves.


The Pitfalls of Self-Invalidation

When we prioritize others' needs and emotions over our own, we can fall into a pattern of minimization and personal invalidation. One of the key pitfalls of self-invalidation is the erosion of our own self-worth. When we consistently prioritize the needs and emotions of others over our own, we send a message to ourselves that our feelings are less important. This can lead to feelings of resentment, as we neglect our own needs in favor of others'. Additionally, constantly suppressing our own emotions and needs can result in burnout, as we expend energy caring for others without replenishing our own emotional reserves.


The Role of Standards and Boundaries

Setting standards & boundaries is the first step in creating healthy relationships and resourcing ourselves with the internal power we need to maintain our own value while supporting those we love. Standards are the criteria we use to determine what is acceptable and unacceptable for us and the way we want to live. By setting standards that reflect our vision for our lives, we establish a baseline for the kind relationships, experiences and work environments we will or will not choose to interact with. 


Boundaries, on the other hand, are the limits we set to protect our standards. They define how we will respond when our standards are not met, and they help us maintain the health of our day-to-day lives.


 

Standards and Boundaries: A Quick How-To

Setting boundaries and standards that are effective is not difficult, but it isn't easy either (or everyone would already be doing it). Below are the four steps you need in place to ensure you do not sacrifice yourself or invalidate your needs in the pursuit of supporting others.


  1. Identify areas where you may be compromising your self-worth.

  2. Set Standards: Define the criteria by which you will or will not invite something into your life. Check to ensure they address the areas you listed in #1.

  3. Define Boundaries: Once you determine your standards, establish clear boundaries to maintain them.

  4. Implement Self-Care: Ensure you have the mental and physical resources in place to maintain your standards & boundaries. Prioritize/implement self-care practices that nourish your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.


1. Identify:

Take time to reflect on your standards and boundaries. Identify areas where you may be compromising your self-worth to validate others. Consider journaling or talking to a trusted friend or therapist about your thoughts and feelings.


2. Set Standards:

Define what you will and will not invite into your life. This includes how you expect to be treated by others and the kind of experience or work environments you will engage with. Setting standards for who and what you will allow into your life sends a message that you value yourself and makes your expectations crystal clear to those around you.


Example: Sarah sets a standard for herself that she will only engage in relationships where there is mutual respect and understanding. Before forming new friendships, Sarah assesses whether the person values open communication and empathy. If she encounters someone who does not meet these standards, Sarah respectfully declines further interaction, staying true to her values and beliefs. 


Example: John sets a standard for the kind of work environment he wants to be a part of, where collaboration and respect are valued. Before accepting a job offer, John thoroughly researches the company culture and asks questions during the interview process to ensure alignment with his standards. If he discovers that the company does not meet his standards, John respectfully declines the job offer, prioritizing his well-being and values. 


3. Establish Boundaries:

Once you've set your standards, establish clear boundaries to maintain them. Communicate your boundaries assertively and respectfully, and be prepared to enforce them if they are crossed. Boundaries are essential for maintaining the health of your interactions and protecting your self-worth.


Example 1: When Sarah's friend continuously makes degrading comments about Sarah's religion each time that friend is upset, Sarah sets a boundary by calmly but firmly telling her friend that she understands her friend is hurting and that she is here to support her, however such comments are not acceptable and she will not engage in conversations that belittle her religion. In this way, Sarah is able to validate her friend without feeling put down or minimized.


If Sarah’s friend continues to belittle her, crossing this boundary, Sarah could decide to step away or distance herself from the friendship knowing it no longer met her standard of respectful communication. By paying attention to her boundaries and using them to maintain her standards, Sarah ensures that she is able to act respectfully to others AND honour her own needs.


Example 2: John sets a boundary with his boss by telling him that he cannot work late and proposes alternative solutions to meet deadlines without compromising his well-being. If John’s boss refuses to work with John to create solutions in alignment with John’s standards, John would know this was an indication for him to look for another work environment. By upholding his standards, John empowers himself to engage with employers who validate and respect his needs, or to find those who will.


4. Self Care:

When setting standards and boundaries, be sure to prioritize self-care practices that nourish your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. This could include exercise, healthy eating, mindfulness, and seeking support from others. Self-care helps us stay true to ourselves, recognize when our boundaries are being tested or crossed, and take action to protect our well-being. 


  • Stress Reduction: Self-care activities such as meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature can help reduce stress levels. Lower stress levels can lead to improved mood and better overall emotional well-being.

  • Improved Self-Compassion: Engaging in self-care practices can help cultivate self-compassion and self-acceptance. This can lead to greater emotional resilience, as individuals are better able to cope with setbacks and challenges.

  • Increased Energy and Vitality: Taking care of oneself through proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep can lead to increased energy levels and a greater sense of vitality. This can improve mood and overall emotional well-being.

  • Enhanced Coping Strategies: Engaging in self-care can help individuals develop healthier coping strategies for dealing with stress and adversity. This can improve emotional resilience and help individuals navigate difficult situations more effectively.

  • Greater Sense of Control: Self-care can provide individuals with a greater sense of control over their lives. This can lead to increased feelings of empowerment and resilience in the face of challenges.

 

Nurturing healthy relationships requires a delicate balance between validating others and maintaining our own self-worth. It's not about turning people away or neglecting their needs; rather, it's about recognizing that we can support others while also prioritizing our own well-being. By setting standards, establishing boundaries, and practicing self-care, we can create lives that are supportive and fulfilling.


Remember, it's not selfish to prioritize your self-worth; it's essential for creating healthy and sustainable interactions with others.


xo


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