Self Validation for Emotional Healing from Abuse

emotional abuse, self esteem, self validation
the path to emotional healing

It makes sense if you think about it, that a child victim of any kind of abuse or a child, who has been devalued in any way, is likely to have a lower self esteem and self image. So if we go into adulthood with a lower sense of self, really believing that we are not as valuable as others, then it stands to reason that we will continue to accept the devaluing behavior that we have become accustomed to as children.

That is one of my most foundational messages of recovery from trauma and depressions and other mental health issues.

Realizing that our belief system is skewed in the first place, that we are not starting from a “fair” place when we are supposed to become mature independent adults, is an important truth to realize if we are to make a new beginning.

One of the most important discoveries that I have made is that so many of my problems as an adult had their foundation in the fact that I had been invalidated and discounted for so much of my life.  Because I had been invalidated (and also defined) by other people from such a young age, it stands to reason that I believed validation would come from others.  In other words, I thought that validation would come from somewhere else or from someone else because invalidation came from somewhere else. (Not from me)

A close relative of this problem is that we constantly hear statements indicating that we “should” be able to move on, and that our “issues” are the problem when in fact the ABUSE we suffered was really the problem that CAUSED the issues. There is a huge difference between these two things.

The key was actually in self validation.  I was angry at myself because I could not seem to make my life work.  I had trouble coping, I was messed up.  I had to realize that it wasn’t my fault. 

The pathway to freedom for me began when I validated myself. This was a process that can be looked at in stages.

A)   I was mistreated. Abused, Devalued.

B)   My belief system developed in an unhealthy way and it was therefore formed full of lies.

C)   I had to identify those lies

D)   I realized that I was not to blame for those lies or for the mistreatment.

E)   I had no choice in accepting the childhood abuse because I was a child.

F)    I also had to realize that I had carried my childhood acceptance of abuse with me into adulthood.

G)   I came to understand that I HAD to develop coping methods (what others often called my issues) as a child in order to survive.

H)   In realizing those lies and then validating myself I was able to understand why I needed all those coping methods.

I had been trying to skip the step of realizing that there were reasons for the way that I was and for why I had trouble and needed coping methods. I believed that I was a failure.

So the key was to go back and figure out where I was invalidated, AND what I came to believe about myself because of it and validate

A)   first the abuse,

B)   that it was wrong and I didn’t “deserve” it

C)   that it was not my fault

D)   that I was in fact valuable and worthy

This enabled me to make a beginning when it came to validating myself. It is important to validate ourselves because as I said earlier, we have not been validated by others in the ways that we needed to be validated and we have to stop thinking that others are going to finally give us the “stamp of approval” that we long to have.

We need to approve of ourselves, but we can’t because we never learned how and because we are stuck with never having been helped with dealing with the abuse, mistreatment or the way that were not valued in the first place. We have also been told all our lives (usually not in direct words) that we are the ones at fault because we can’t move on. I am referring to statements such as “are you still going on about that??” or “when are you going to move on?” or “that happened years ago”.  SO WHAT? When something didn’t get dealt with properly, it didn’t get dealt with properly! It has nothing to do with how much time went by, but we accept those statements as the truth.  Somehow we believe that the defect is ours. That we “should” be able to move on and very often we don’t even know that our depressions or other mental health struggles had to do with abuse, emotional disregard, and the way way we were not valued in the first place!

The abuse has been so downplayed that often we can’t even validate it ourselves!  For many, when they finally do tell, they are heaped with more guilt and shame or blamed for it in the first place. Some mothers will take the focus off the event and change the focus to HER feelings instead. Statements such as “how do you think I feel?” or “I can’t listen to this” are designed to throw us off and to once again make us think of someone else’s feelings before our own. They are invalidating statements. 

As with every other process, there is always more than one major issue that is in the way. We have been so accustomed to being the one to try harder that many of us myself included, got lost in a sea of making excuses for the people who devalued us in the first place ~ which makes it even easier to stay stuck in self blame. ***YES the people that discounted me had huge issues of their own, but SO WHAT? That didn’t change what happened to me. I am not suggesting that we have to stay in a place of placing blame on others; I am just saying that I had to stay there long enough to be able to validate myself.

I had to believe that I was worthy and valid before I could stop expecting someone else to tell me that I was.

Please share your own experience, struggles or victories with me and the other readers.

Exposing Truth, one snapshot at a time;

Darlene Ouimet

Inspired by comments from posts; “How do I recover from emotional and other abuse?”

 “that” Makes me Angry

63 response to "Self Validation for Emotional Healing from Abuse"

  1. By: Val Posted: 22nd November

    I was brought up by an aggressive father and a passive mother and at a very early age I was scared of asking for help as I felt like I was being a pest. I have a brother and sister and we were all belittled, yelled at, ignored and starved of any proper emotional support from my dad. My mother was full of love but it’s not until more recently that I wondered why it was when things got out of hand with my dad that she never stood up for us, never a single word of support was uttered. At a young age I had a perforated ear drum, very painful but cried in my pillow because my dad had s guest round and I was scared to interrupt him. I had severe stomach pains and doctor said to get someone to take me to hospital and my dad said could I not wait the hour for the ambulance to arrive. He’s physically abused me a few times and still my mother had said nothing. When I broke a bone in my spine and had moved out into my own place, he said as much and I spent 5 weeks on my own with no help from either my mother or father. They visited me once. I was always so angry with my dad but recently because of other incidents wonder why my mum
    did that how could she leave me on my own with a broken back. I of course which is often the case married a man who also bullied and abused me. When I eventually plucked up the courage to tell my family as things had gotten really bad, neither my brother or sister believed me. My mum was recovering from a heart op and my sister had become quite ill so it was difficult trying to get the help I so badly needed. After telling my siblings three times I had been hit by my husband and more or less been cut off saying anymore, my brother stated ‘how good it was that in bad times we all rallied together’, I stood in disbelief and said ‘oh really’ and suddenly he was shouting at me that I was attacking them and before I knew it I was shocked my sister was in shock and not well and I was the witch from hell and no matter how I tried to explain (as per usual my brother was not listening) I spent three hours in the car on the way home and he wouldn’t let me talk. I thought about opening the door and tumbling out onto the motorway as I felt so numb and so low. I spoke of traumatic past events my ex’s suicide) that he may understand and was rebuked as ‘it’s in the past, what do you want me to do, just get over it’.was the response. I was practically sent to coventry and forced to apologise for ‘attacking them’ but couldn’t understand how such a comment and (a cry for help) was an attack it was he who ‘lost it’. I had to go back to my home and my unstable husband and into a situation I was frightened to be in and to run salt into the wound my family all went on holiday without me, I wasn’t allowed to go and I was completely crushed. Recently my mum has backed my brother again on something big and I had what I think is a trauma trigger and found myself to be unbelievably angry, emotional and hurt to the point that my head hurts and my gut is in knots and I cannot get past that, I’ve become completely distressed as my thoughts have come back to that time as I wrestle with how they could invalidate me in such a cruel way and put me back in such a bad situation. I don’t know how to get past this terrible feelings of hurt I have now! Can anyone give me some advise. Thanks

  2. By: luisa Posted: 28th May

    This just totally opened my eyes to something I do everyday without even realising it. I know I’m broken, I know what I had to do to survive, basically eradicate all signs that I was an individual with free will, keep my head down, not speak up and live in fear. But I constantly beat myself up about my coping methods. Thank you a million times for putting down in black and white that I HAD NO CHOICE. That my coping methods saved my life. That there is no need for me to feel ashamed of behaviour that was forced onto me by my abusers. From now on I will be kinder to myself. Thank you for showing me this vital step I am taking today. I feel scared and somehow not worthy of gentle feelings towards myself, so I know this is the right thing to do.

  3. By: Amber Posted: 7th September

    Excellent article, one of my favorites! I appreciate the different stages and viewing the list, I can see certain stages where I got stuck. And I can also be at differing stages of the process in different situations. I am in the process of identifying many many lies and actually feel relief as I discover them. There was so much I blamed myself for and tried to alter myself to be what someone else wanted, and that was never the answer! I have a ways to go but am feeling better and better as I discover the lies, look at them and realize the truth. Thank you so much for this article!

  4. By: Michele Posted: 29th July

    So many great comments! I really am just starting to SEE how deep the lies I’ve believed have gone. It is truly freeing to “de-program” that old garbage that was fed to us by people who were very likely fed the same garbage from the generation before. I don’t have to believe something just because it seems like “everyone else in my family does”. A lot of people believed Hitler and look where that ended up! It may sound like I’m being extreme or dramatic but seriously, people stop thinking for themselves, stop listening to their gut, and just kinda go with what everyone else thinks. I know because unfortunately I too kinda got swept into that thinking (as a result of the victimization. But, I am now starting to replace these lies with God’s truth, which for me is monumental. I used to be so angry at God for allowing this to happen to me and at times there are parts of me that still are angry at God, but as I’m healing, I’m healing that little child inside of me who was brainwashed. I have had to cut off contact from my abusers, my parents, so that I can clear away the wreckage and see the truth. This past year has been so difficult to grieve the loss and the betrayal that the people who were supposed to care about me the most, inflicted upon me the most hurt and pain and damage that has carried on into my adulthood. But I am determined that by God’s grace, evil will NOT prevail and I will be free from the grip this abuse has had on my life. Thanks so much to Darlene for having this site.

  5. By: johanna weiss Posted: 29th July

    Thank you to all the brave and honest women out there helping others by sharing so honestly, this has me helped me enormously to know how familiar the story is and that it is not “me” that caused or imagined the abuse.

  6. By: Michelle Posted: 19th May

    I was touched by your story. It echoes so much of mine. I too had to learn to trust myself and validate my own feelings. My ‘mother’ certainly never did. I was the same as you, I’d open up to everyone, thinking they could see how damaged I was, and that I had to explain why. It’s taken me a long time to realize I don’t have to do that, and that you can’t trust everyone. Funny how some people lose their trust in people and others trust almost anyone, even their abusers. How very sad, that I tried to get validation from my abusers. To try to get them to comfort me after everything. Well, that’s a slippery slope, and put me even more into their manipulative sick ways. They didn’t deserve it and never will. Because they are not sorry for what they have done, only sorry they were exposed. In the end I had to ‘sever’ the enmeshment I had with my ‘mother’ and trust in my own instinct. No mean feat when you’ve been called a ‘know it all’ and criticized everytime you try and assert yourself, for every choice you make in life, even simple ones like which music to listen to… Anything that differed in what she thought was best or that ‘belittled’ her. She always used to say ‘ you’ll never get one up on me’ , what the hell is that supposed to mean? Let alone to a child? How awfully confusing. But I found my way out by trusting my own instincts, and gathering tidbits of wisdom from decent people, counsellors, and especially this website. I put together my own reconstruction of self, and I’m happy to say I am now more aware and confident of my own identity and direction. We all have it in us to comfort and strengthen ourselves, others help us to tap into that.
    Sending you a big hug…

  7. By: Mike Posted: 17th May

    @Debbie – you sounded just like the old me. Its very painful…and difficult to find someone who understands and listens..criticism and invalidation can easily trigger the deep wounds..not to mention the confusion, self doubt and being a victim. The root of all these is low self esteem and its a big problem that pervades every area of your life, it sucks big time. From my experience, you may need a lot of healing work on this.

  8. By: Debbie Posted: 16th May

    It took me so long to get where I am today. Can’t believe how confused I’ve been all of my life and Im still trying to escape what emotional abuse did to me as a child. For some reason my mother never loved me or treated me that way. I will never understand her or how someone could treat her own child that way. But she has definitely had an aversion toward me all of my life. I have recently had memories that until now were suppressed, of her locking me in a bathroom and other things too. This happened when I was tiny…. like 2 or 3 I would guess. I think I was labeled a “BAD” kid. I was just a little girl who needed her mothers love and she rejected me. I remember even then feeling a deep sadness and like there was something wrong with me. My mother had the problems, but instead of feeling any kind of remorse she made ME the problem. To this day I am STILL the “problem”. The woman will never EVER acknowledge that maybe SHE was the problem. I still have contact with her, and have spent my life trying to get her love and approval. I now have a HUGE degree of HATRED for her…. but I also love her, which is REALLY confusing. I married a man who has done the very same things that she did. I raised 3 very remarkable children. Being a mother was REAL hard for me….. I had no idea how. I DIDNT want to hurt my children the way my mother had hurt me. I could NEVER do what she did,still with depression and just trying to deal with life, it was hard. I havent been a perfect mother. But I refuse to invalidate my children the way she invalidated me. And when I have hurt my children I have suffered for days beating on myself for it. I love them too much… dont want them to go through what I have been through. Also, I have began to set boundaries…. my mother is still in my life… but I have distanced myself a great deal. I get guilt trips dropped on me for that by people who dont understand. They say HOW could you do that to your mother. My mother has a way of putting on that she is SO SWEET… she isnt… she is a monster in disguise. She cares A LOT about what others think…. her image…. it makes me ILL!!!! There is no way that ANYONE could understand because it has all been so COVERT….. I feel so alone with it…. Im working real hard at trying to validate myself…. setting boundaries… I was so abused that now Im ultra sensitive…. people can kill me with a word… I hate it… I dont want others to have so much power over me… the other thing I do, is I put myself out there…. tell people too much….. trust too much…. I guess that is called weak boundaries….. there are a lot of really ignorant and cruel people in the world that dont care about me… I have to learn to love and care for and protect me…. I deserve it… I dont need anyone elses approval…. I only need to learn to approve of and love myself… I know that… its hard to stay on track though…. I keep getting sucked back into it… the old tapes of abuse play… self doubt and fear are my enemy…. depression comes and everything filters through that….. I know all of this, so I have to sometimes keep reminding myself… that this too shall pass… I just wish I didnt have these feelings all of the time…. I also try to pay attention to my thinking…. I have tended to withdraw and go inside of myself.. I know now that I need TO LIVE…. in spite of the pain…. I want to be the kind of person who LISTENS…. so many of us listen… but not many truly hear…. anyway… I found this site… and decided to tell my story…. my heart goes out to all of you who have suffered emotional abuse…. Debbie

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th May

      Hi Debbie
      You nailed it when you said that you had to learn to approve of myself etc. That was key for me. The way that I did that was to see where my self esteem got so damaged in the first place. I have written so much about the ‘how’ part of this in my site. There is hope! Please keep reading.
      Welcome to emerging from broken!
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Rosa Posted: 5th March

    Thank you for sharing this. It helped me see i am too hard on myself. i went through emitonal and verbal abuse growing up as a small child. I recived Christ as my saviour and i belive He has began a process of healing in me. The thing i find hardest though are other people in the church who judge me for being who I am. For my bizzar and embarassing responses to what I percive as rejection.-When i read rejection into stuff without even being aware of it; to my ‘issues’. leaders have implied that as a ‘mature beliver’ I should not be ‘so sensitive’ etc. When i feel pain they react angrily because i should not feel pain. etc….just ‘read what the Word says about you.’ Well I do. I know the Word of God I even spent 3 years in Bible school. That hurts because I know it’s a lifelong process.I feel there is a whole new and free level of living life that I have yet to tap into…. I will I am sure, but I get impatient with myself…. Your article reminded me to keep working at deliberately changing my thinking.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th March

      Hi Rosa
      Welcome to EFB
      Oh yes, the old “mature vs immature believer crap”. I hate that. It’s so sad that they won’t consider hearing you instead of pointing out your faults. Christ would listen. Christ never invalidated anyone’s pain. Iam glad that you decided to keep going forward!
      Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Sandra Posted: 13th December

    Thank you so much for your story Darlene. I’ve always known that the majority of the problems I am having in my adult life stem from the emotional abuse I experienced as a child. However, it’s only recently that I have realised that it was not my fault, and it’s also not my fault that I have been unable to heal myself fully. I have been feeling bad for years, partly for being damaged and then partly for being unable to completely undo that damage. Recently I started realising that this is unfair to me. I should be applauding myself for surviving my childhood, for picking up the pieces and getting on with my life, for contributing to society, being a great friend and a supportive family member. It does make me sad that the majority of people don’t understand the effects of emotional abuse. It makes me sad too that my mother is in denial that my father’s behaviour affected anyone other than her, and my sister believes she is OK and doesn’t understand why me and my brother are not. (Perhaps she had a different experience – she was my dad’s favourite.) Reading your post was like hearing my feelings come back to me with clarity. Thank you so much for what you’re doing. It’s great. I’m sure you’re steps will really help me.

  11. By: Simone Posted: 14th October

    I get so tired of people telling me I should be able to ‘move on’. What they really mean is the issues caused by the years of emotional, physical, and financial abuse I suffered are inconvenient for them to look at. I’m not asking them to deal with them. I not asking them to cure them. I’m just asking them to understand that they don’t understand, and that they should thank heaven above that they don’t.

  12. By: Nick Posted: 2nd July

    Darlene, great article. I am a thirty year old male. I have always had trouble with anxiety when it comes to making new friends building new relationships. I reached the point around 6 months ago when I decided internal conflict had reached a boiling point, decided to talk with a Therapist. Within 30 minutes of talking the therapist had uncovered issues I had with my parents. It was a shock, a bit of a tough admission, but I felt relief when it came.

    The way I came to understand the situation was they could not self validate, decided therefore needed to take their validation and self esteem from demonizing, devaluing others. This, I have discovered, is not regular but narrow mindedness, complacent and cowardice behavior.

    In the six months since I have embarked on a journey of reorganizing the puzzle in my mind. I have been angry, frustrated, upset and, at times downright dejected by the whole thing. That being said, therapy was something i will never regret. I take encouragement from your article and congratulate your determination and resilience.

    All the best on your journey.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 3rd July

      Hi Nick
      Welcome to EFB
      Thank you for your comments and please share often
      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: mike Posted: 29th May

    I understand this perfectly..I was harshly criticized and invalidated as a young child up to adulthood by my mother, you can imagine that enormous amount of pain and rage built up inside me. There was plenty of self doubts, neediness to be accepted and approved and mental confusion, needless to say self esteem was rock bottom, took me years of energy work to clean this up and still cleaning..Thanks for sharing this article, well done.


    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 30th May

      Hi Mike,
      Welcome to EFB!
      Thank you for your comments; It certainly is work to clean it up! Glad that you are having success with that too!
      Hugs, Darlene

  14. By: EmberRising Posted: 26th January

    This was exactly what I needed to read tonight. Thank you.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th January

      Welcome to EFB EmberRising,
      Glad that you liked the article!
      Hugs, Darlene

  15. By: Laura Posted: 15th November

    I am back in therapy with a therapist I saw 2 yrs ago. She is the one that has been able to help me open my eyes to some things. Not that it is easy…not at all. I am feeling a lot of Emotion during and after my sessions…but I have also been doing a lot of avoiding afterwards until my next session. We are visiting my childhood past, that as many was not very good. I did not get physically abused it was more of being lost in the family. My Mom died when I was 5 1/2 and I think my Dad and family fell apart. I was the youngest.

    Well I was great prey for a man 8 yrs older than I. Problem was, I loved him. I am now trying to face that I was abused by him and it continued into my 20’s and he was able to get back into my heart and mind again in the present. I have been told that the hold he has on me is because of the abuse and victims want to please our abusers. I have never dealt with that and I think my mind is more clear than it’s ever been now and I am ready to accept and work through this. It hurts so much but I am ready to get him out of my head and my life. thanks for reading.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 15th November

      Hi Laura
      Good for you! Thanks for sharing with us!
      hugs, Darlene

  16. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 10th September

    Hi Laura,
    Thank you for sharing your story with me. This is a very big issue, not something that I could address in one comment back. There is a lot of information/articles in this blog about how I got my life back from abusive people who controlled me and people who made me feel bad about myself or people who made me work very hard for a small scrap of their attention and I also look back and see how I was drawn to those people. Uncovering all this was a process. I invite you to read more of this website; you might get more insight that way, into the ways that we get so hooked into this stuff and the ways that we can get our lives and control back.
    I am glad you are here. Please share often.
    Hugs, Darlene

  17. By: Laura Posted: 9th September

    I have struggled my whole life feeling invalidated, less important than most. I have a difficult time expressing what I really fee, unable to let the listener really understand the pain I had endured. I seem to tell it as if someone else went through it as if it wasn’t that bad. That seems to be the way people have responded. My story is of a lost child. Youngest of five. Mom passed away when I was 5, and Dad withdrew not knowing how to deal with his own pain by working. No one expressed their feelings. I learned to keep it inside. I was very shy and withdrawn as a child. I felt alone and as if I did not fit in anywhere. I grew have dysfunctional relationships, I turned to alcohol, not knowing that not everyone drinks to get drunk. My Dad remarried when I was 13. I thought it would be great to have a mom figure in the house. It wasn’t the fantasy I had hoped. She was manipulative, selfish, vindictive, and not a very loving person. But of course as a child I longed for her affection. She had a son, and a daughter from previous marriage. They were older than I. Life became so difficult and I wasn’t even aware at times. I was depressed, I recall most of my childhood. I wanted to be loved and to fit in somewhere. My step brother noticed this, and after I mentioned I had a crush on him and he found out things changed. At 13 I had a 21 yr old flirting with me. I loved the attention. By the time I was 15, he had gotten hold of my heart I could not get it back. He also had my innocence. I could not understand why he played mind games with me after that for yrs. I was beat up by my step sister,(while my step mother watched) because she found out her boyfriend hit on me. At that same time she yelled out that I was screwing her brother!!!! As if I were the perp.!! I did not tell anyone about this or my relationship with step brother. I loved him and had no idea what was going on. Something that I thought was wonderful at first, him showing me attention turned into something dirty, and wrong, something I was not to share with anyone. Every relationship I have had, he has been in emotionally. I sought out counseling, groups, therapy, thinking it was all the dysfunction of my family. But I still feel the pain from him. I have troubles with trust and intimacy to this day and I am in my 40’s!!!

    I made the mistake of looking for him on the net 4 yrs. ago. I thought I just needed to contact him for closure. I got things out and questions answered. But he sucked me right back in with sharing the feelings he had but never could tell me stories. I let him get into my heart and my head again! (I am married to a wonderful man, who loves me more than I could love myself) And yet I felt the need to contact him and allow him to come into my life. I just feel empty inside at times as if I can’t love someone back that loves me.

    I continued speaking with him and it turned into more than closure. Although he lives 2,000 mi. away. I felt something again, as if I were alive! Until his games began again. Responding to me once in awhile, or telling me an excuse why he couldn’t talk. This has gone on for 2 yrs. now. At the end of June this summer, he tells me he had planned to come up this way and wanted to see me but wasn’t going to be able to. The next thing I know he is telling me he has had a gf for months and shouldn’t have kept it from me. I of course respond, that I had a feeling….because I do not show Anger in the right places!!!! I text him the next day and the day after with no reply so I was getting a bit flustered. When he finally replied, he said his phone was off, what did he do? I told him that I thought he was ignoring me again. I felt like I was back at the beginning feeling all the pain all over again…..while he was off with his fling. I said that to him and it seemed to upset him a lot. Only the fling part, he had no regard for what I was feeling!! He then told me not to text again!!!!

    I have been a wreck this whole week. I am sick to my stomach, I don’t want to eat. I cried for 2 days after that and now I just feel like I am nothing again!!!! The things he told me over the past few yrs. was everything that I wanted to hear when I was 15. He even picked out our song!!!! Then he throws in my face he has a gf and doesn’t want me to text because I said fling!!!!

    I know I have a problem here. I just don’t know what to do. I have confided in my husband and he is supporting me because he knows what i went through as a child and with him. But he is having a hard time knowing that I continued to talk with him and I am being affected like this. I have been told I was abused by him. Sexually and mentally. I guess I never agreed with it, because I loved him. The mental part of it I knew hurt the most. I just can’t believe he did it to me again!

    I hope I explained it well. I really need any kind of help you can offer. How do I take control back and not allow him to continue to destroy me!!!!

    Thank you for reading,

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