Your childhood and other experiences growing up have shaped your personality and your way of dealing with things around you.
People who you grew up with, whether they’re your parents, guardians, or siblings, played a crucial role in developing the foundations of your personality. Experiencing invalidated childhood trauma may be the cause of situations the people surrounding you as a child, especially those you trust most, have put you in.
These past traumas are strong determinants of why you feel, act, think, or decide the way you do today. It also affects how you build, handle, and improve relationships with others.
To be aware of them is the best way to understand why it’s happening, so you can better deal with them as you face the world as a more emotionally healthy adult.
Signs You Grew Up Feeling Invalidated
There are so many ways feeling invalidated as a child can affect you as an adult. See if you can identify some of them.
1. You push people away
Emotional invalidation as a child creates a deep-rooted emotion that you cannot trust people, especially the ones you are emotionally attached with. You sometimes set yourself up to do something you don’t intend to do because you cannot understand what you feel. This can be a problem when building the foundation of your relationship with your partner when you continue to live in constant fear of being neglected or ignored.
2. You seek others’ validation
Chronic invalidation lets you lose confidence in yourself when no one is telling you that you are right about what you feel, think, and how you act on things. This might be the result of someone invalidating your thoughts, emotions, and perceptions as a child, or being constantly told you’re wrong. While losing confidence once in a while is normal, it can be destructive to give other people the right to affect your personal decisions and judgments.
3. You find it wrong to feel vulnerable
One of the results of the classic emotional childhood neglect is when you’ve felt emotional invalidation from your parents as a child. You grew up thinking that your feelings are not valuable and result in covering and hiding them from others. Adults who grew up from parental invalidation would oftentimes establish a ‘stronger’ pseudo persona that they want other people to see in them. Some can even control their emotional expression to keep their ‘weak’ feelings hidden.
4. You were told you’re overly sensitive
Some people are born empaths. Invalidation happens when parents start addressing it wrongly, destroying a child’s concept of it and forming a kind of emotional invalidation. If you’re one of them growing up, you’ve started hiding these emotions because your parents made it clear that it’s wrong to feel that way. As an adult, you always find yourself bottling up all these strong emotions until you feel the need to release them unhealthily. Others result in aggressive behaviors, depression, or even develop a borderline personality disorder.
5. Your parents didn’t show up
Children always need their parents to support them and be there for them when they need help, even when these children think they don’t. Childhood emotional neglect happens during certain phases in your childhood where you need your parents the most, but they failed to show up for you or support you. This kind of childhood invalidation can be an accumulation of experiences, like not seeing them at home often, not picking you up at school, or one big circumstance like harshly neglecting you when you’ve made a wrong turn.
6. You were made fun of as a kid
Bullying at school can be one of the factors, but being bullied at home constantly can have stronger consequences on your mental health as a child. Parents or older siblings making fun of your ideas, dreams and ignoring your simple wishes as a child can add to your emotional trauma and psychological distress. This can result in having self-esteem issues, borderline personality disorder, and not being able to express your feelings openly to others.
7. As an adult, you are a perfectionist
To your parents, you’re not always good enough. This forces you to work harder to get their validation. You repeatedly do things typically harder than anyone for your parents to notice and be proud of. As an adult, you find that being too hard on yourself all the time, as you strive for perfection, admiration, and validation in almost everything you do is the only way you can gain validation from others.
8. You don’t acknowledge your accomplishments
You might have grown up experiencing challenges or having accomplishments that your parents didn’t seem to care about. This emotional invalidation made you feel that you can’t count on your parents to help you solve the challenges you’re faced with. At an early age, you’ve learned to be responsible for yourself, or for others. As an adult, you’ve felt doing and accomplishing big things is something you’re expected to do. You also find it hard to be happy about your accomplishments because you don’t feel it’s something to be proud of.
9. You always doubt yourself as an adult
Doubting your decisions once in a while can be useful when putting things in perspective. But when it’s your knee-jerk reaction to everything, it might be the result of your experience from an invalidated childhood. Your parents or someone you trusted growing up might have gaslighted you in the past, that’s why doubting yourself excessively felt almost normal growing up. You always find yourself struggling when making decisions whenever challenges and daily real-world problems come your way.
10. Your parents play favorites
As a child, your parents always seem to ‘forget’ to bring you presents when your brother or sister always gets one. They make a big deal out of your brother or sister’s accomplishments, needs, and every request when your bare minimum asks usually get a big fat ‘No’. Children who have experienced this emotional invalidation always felt they were not the favored ones. They’d grow up feeling their emotions are invalidated or not important.
If you had a hard time reading all these, know that you’re not alone. While you can’t redo everything that’s been done to you in the past, remember you can still change the way you view these experiences for the better.
5 Ways You Can Heal From Invalidated Childhood Trauma
What happened to you is never your fault. That’s why you shouldn’t blame yourself for it. If you have experienced emotional invalidation before, it’s time to focus on your healing rather than succumb to its effects on you.
There are many ways you can heal yourself from invalidation trauma. Here are some ways you can do it:
Recognize and acknowledge
The best way to deal with any kind of trauma is to acknowledge that it has affected you, and has changed something within you. Learning to accept invalidation first would lead you to find out why you feel or react to things a certain way.
By knowing and accepting that you have experienced emotional invalidation as a child, you can also express yourself better to people you want to create lasting relationships with. Doing this can not only help yourself but also the people who want to love you understand you better.
Change your community/environment
No one can outgrow their environment. If you believe that you are in a place where people are making you feel the same bad things you’ve felt as a child, it’s time to get away from it. You can start by moving to a new city to start a new life, changing jobs, or breaking up with a toxic relationship. Do whatever you need to change an environment that won’t let you heal.
Surround yourself with people who support you and naturally validate who you are as a person. Be in a place where you have authentic friendships and people who can accept you for who you are, not who they want you to be.
Everything starts within you. Be able to work on accepting and validating yourself. Remind yourself of your own worth, regardless of what others may think. Believe in your capabilities as a person and build a strong foundation of your personality.
You cannot control other people and the world around you. What you can control is the way you feel about things, and how you act on them. You must refrain from giving others the power to emotionally validate you, more than you do yourself.
Set healthy boundaries
Learn when to say “No” and be comfortable with it, while also learning how to say “Yes” with reservations and setting conditions around it. Giving people boundaries increases your self-worth, at the same time it allows them to see your value too.
Chronic invalidation that started as a child may feel like you need to work twice as hard to gain someone’s attention or recognition. Acknowledging that you matter allows you to not be dependent on others’ validation but on yourself.
Invalidated Childhood And Its Effects On Relationships: Gottman’s 3-Step Method
Having to deal with this childhood trauma of feeling invalidated may have destroyed your trust in people, especially in those people you’ve expected more from. Different people have developed their own ways to heal themselves from this trauma as an adult. However, when it comes to relationships, it can get more complicated.
While being in a relationship with a good partner can help you heal from this emotional abuse, sometimes, it can also bring back your feelings of emotional invalidation in your marriage. If your partner keeps messing up with your trust over and over again, it can get damaging for you. In the same way, being invalidated as a child can also give you the ability to ruin a good relationship.
This is why you should have a steady system that can help you and your partner heal from emotional invalidation. Drs. John and Julie Gottman have studied couples who want to heal from invalidation and emotional trauma that happened in their relationship. Here’s how Gottman’s 3-step Trust Revival Method can help.
Phase 1 – Atone
In this phase, you or your partner should work on accepting his or her mistake. The guilty partner should have the willingness to right those mistakes. Atonement is making continuous efforts to right the wrong, and being able to understand that forgiveness is gained over time, and not given as a reward of just one gesture.
Phase 2 – Attune
This can be a challenging step for a partner who’s been healing from invalidated childhood trauma. If you’re the victim of invalidation in your relationship, this part needs your strong self-validation to be able to decide what to do next. If you believe that your relationship is worth saving, this step suggests giving full forgiveness to your partner so you’ll be able to work towards the next stage.
Phase 3 – Attach
This is the phase where both partners will work together to bring back each other’s trust through different things they love about each other. It may be physical intimacy, creating new routines in your relationships, knowing more about each other deeply, or changing ways how you do certain things. It’s important that both partners are willing to work together on this part to be successful.
You’re not alone in this
Some would say it’s normal to compare your childhood with everyone else’s but it’s important to consider that no childhood is perfect. We all have emotional baggage that we consciously or subconsciously carry with us up to this day. If you grew up feeling invalidated and you’re still in the process of healing from it, know that you’re not alone in this battle.
Parents and guardians we grew up with are the very first ones who had instant access to our emotions and minds. They have taught us what to do and what not to do. Growing up feeling invalidated through them has different effects on each person. While it’s important to help yourself heal from this childhood trauma, there are wounds that can keep you from totally forgetting about it. Talking to these people, and telling them you forgive may also be the best way to forgive yourself in the process.
Working on yourself first is the best way to deal with invalidated childhood trauma. Your healing shouldn’t be the responsibility of your partner or any person but yourself. Even if they’re willing to help, they can only do as much. Strengthening your relationship with yourself is key to creating better and lasting relationships with others.
Relationships are a two-way street, but certain conditions from childhood trauma can affect individuals in the relationship differently. Couples should know how to acknowledge these within themselves to be able to heal and improve their relationship. Our experts can help you understand these things better. Talk to us.