When you feel like you shouldn’t feel the way you do, it becomes impossible to heal. Your experience is your experience–dismissing it only keeps you from finding the right solutions. So when the people around you guilt, shame, or invalidate you for being impacted by trauma, it becomes even more important to validate yourself.
Validate yourself when others dismiss your trauma, so that you can develop trust in your gut and move forward according to how you really feel.
1. Ask yourself who has more information about your experience.
You, or the person judging or dismissing what you went through?
This doesn’t mean you should ignore everyone else’s thoughts or professional advice about your trauma. After all, trauma can cause tunnel-vision that others’ perspectives vitally reduce.
But the takeaway is that you should take others’ opinions with a grain of salt. And if they don’t seem to understand the full picture while discussing your experience, you have a right to gently clarify or explain.
2. Remember that comparing trauma is like comparing apples and oranges.
“Most of us have an understanding that physical pain is relative. Some people have higher pain tolerances, and some people have lower pain tolerances. We don’t tend to place much judgment on that. When it comes to emotional pain, however, people are quick to judge.” Read more about comparing and measuring trauma.
3. Know that not all sharing is “trauma dumping.”
You may have seen the Twitter debate in which a (wrong) therapist complained about her clients “trauma dumping” on her. This sparked debate about what actually counts as “trauma dumping” and when it is and isn’t ok to talk about your trauma.
To be clear, it’s always ok to talk about your trauma with your therapist. And it’s also ok to talk about it with people in your life, as long as you remain considerate about the other person’s emotions, too.
If you’ve been through trauma, you might worry about burdening others by disclosing your experience. Of course, it’s not always the right time to talk about trauma, but you’re not a bad person for wanting to confide in someone else.
4. Set boundaries about the types of judgement you’re open to.
If there’s someone in your life who routinely offers unsolicited opinions or makes you feel crazy for your post-traumatic stress, it may be time to create a boundary contract together. They clearly love you and want to help, but if that’s true, they should welcome feedback on the kinds of help you’re open to accepting.
5. Create an internal ally to help validate yourself.
6. Remember why you’re doing this work.
When people in your life tell you to stop thinking about the past, to move on, or to forget about what happened, remember why you’re engaging with your trauma. You are learning from the past. You are doing the hard work to break cycles of hurt.
7. Don’t expect the triggers to go away. But notice how you get better at handling them.
8. Write a letter to your younger self.
This is also sometimes called an “inner child letter,” and is a way to give yourself the messages you’ve needed to hear. View the template below, or download and print the worksheet here.
Sometimes you don’t get the validation you need from those around you. That becomes less of a problem if you learn to validate yourself (where appropriate, of course).
Give yourself some credit, trust your gut, and use your firsthand perspective on your own trauma to heal.