Validating someone means recognizing that a person’s own perceptions are worth listening to. It is recognizing them as real human things that real humans think. When they say, “I hate myself,” or “I’m worthless,” or “I wish my mother would die,” validation is saying, “Yeah. I can see you really do. You feel this way really strongly.”
Most of what was cast in the 80s and 90s as failure to praise children was actually failure tovalidate them. When a child comes to an adult, dripping with defeat, and says, “I failed,” praise is, “No you didn’t! You did really well!” and validation is, “You’re really disappointed with how you did, hunh? That sucks.” And over time, if adults do nothing but praise, what children hear is: Your self-doubt and weaknesses are not wanted here. Failure is not acceptable, not even thinkable. I cannot accept you unless you do well.
Most of the time children respond to that message by making sure they only present their most praiseworthy selves to the outside world. The unvoiced, unappreciated parts of them get shoved aside, starved, sat on. Instead of being incorporated into an authentic self, they fester in the shadow of a facade of perfection. Hey, what about me? Where do I fit? Would they like me if I showed up? When a person tells a story of who they are that excludes a lot of their own reality, that story is meagre and fragile, and fails to fully satisfy.
So to the people who need support the most, praise is invalidation, silencing of the voice they have inside. It’s feeding that false self, that thin story. But praise feels good, and praise is what they’re used to, so they try to swallow praise to ease the ache of inferiority. It never quite sticks, never quite works, just like drinking saltwater. What they really need is to be able to tell the truth.
–Too much praise, too little validation.
Definitely go read the article, because it… encapsulates a lot of issues I see in Millennials and younger generations, I think.