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It's Time You Got Your Feelings Validated (More) In Your Relationships

Your feelings matter. Here's how to make sure others recognize it.

Love & Relationships

While pretty much everything that I write is able to hit home for me on some level, this is the kind of article that is super personal because I'm someone who spent a lot of years having my feelings totally invalidated. It's a book unto itself, just why that was the case; however, I think the best way to narrow it down is I was a part of a generational curse of people who can totally relate. When you come from abuse—any kind of abuse, even neglect—your feelings have been invalidated. When you state your needs and they go ignored, your feelings are being invalidated. When you believe that you feel one way and someone tries to either manipulate or gaslight you into feeling something else, guess what—your feelings have just been invalidated.

This reality is problematic as all get out because, as you'll see in just a sec, feelings serve a purpose. It's one of the things that makes us human. We really can't process, gain clarity or evolve without them. So, if you happen to be someone who has gotten this far in this write-up and you already feel like you might tear up, please make the time to finish it all the way through. As someone who suffered for many years in this lane, I want to share with you some of what brought me to a place of pure freedom. Yes, in my feelings and in my relationships as it relates to feeling them.

Feelings. What’s Their Purpose (in Relationships), Anyway?

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OK. Before we get into how you can get your feelings validated, let's first discuss what the purpose of having feelings actually is to begin with.

As far as feelings go, many therapists say that we all have seven basic feelings—joy, surprise, fear, disgust, anger, contempt, and sadness. Anything other than these are still tied to them on some level. Keeping this in mind, regardless of what we feel at any given time, all of our feelings basically exist in order to 1) protect us; 2) motivate us to make a decision; 3) manage stress; 4) help us to better understand other people, and/or 5) help others to understand us.

So, say for instance that one of your friends hurt your feelings (or pissed you off) because they violated your trust by sharing one of your secrets. Whether you are sad or angry, based on why we have feelings, those emotions transpired in order to protect you and help your friend to better understand you once you state where you are coming from.

Another example. Say that your boo came home with your favorite meal and a dozen roses. If you felt joy and surprise, that may motivate you to do something nice for him up the road. On the other hand, if you felt disgusted, perhaps you're protecting yourself on some level because he has a track record of only doing nice things when he's totally fumbled the ball in some way.

The reason why it's important to understand what our core feelings are and why they exist is so we can get a better grasp on what to do when a particular feeling comes over us instead of just remaining in the space without any real knowledge of how to move forward. Another reason why understanding our own feelings is so essential is because it helps us to recognize when they are being validated—or invalidated. This brings me to the next point.

What Does It Mean to VALIDATE Feelings?

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It's pretty common that when a couple goes to therapy, one of the issues that comes up is poor communication. Because this is the case, something that a therapist/counselor/coach will oftentimes do is have one person verbally express a thought and then have the other person repeat back what they heard their partner say. This is an example of validating someone's feelings because validation is all about confirming something and one of my favorite definitions of confirm is "to acknowledge with definite assurance". When someone is validating another person's feelings, they are acknowledging that they definitely get—or are working to get—where the other person is coming from.

One of the biggest problems in a lot of relationships—any kind of relationship too—is people tend to spend more time either trying to get their own feelings validated that they end up ignoring the other person, or they are flippant and dismissive as hell about how someone else is feeling at any given time. Aside from either being disrespected as all get out, when you don't feel validated, how in the world can you even feel safe with that individual? This is why validating feelings is critical to the health and well-being of any relationship. Without it, there will always be some level of profound dysfunction.

Were Your Feelings Validated in Your Childhood and Adolescence?

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Now that there is some clarity on what it means to have your feelings validated, think back to your own childhood and adolescent years. Did your parents validate your feelings? I'll raise my hand in this class and say that most of my relatives did not. Even with the abuse that I experienced, oftentimes, their denial or ego mania tried to gaslight me into thinking that what happened to me "wasn't so bad" or that my memories were muddled. When you grow up that way, it can cause you to get into relationships with other people who also treat you in the same fashion. After all, your childhood is your foundation.

Without getting too deep into my own past—because you don't have the time and I don't have the energy…trust me—I think a really common example of invalidating a child's feelings is spanking them and then telling them not to cry. WTF? Let someone hit you multiple times and see how you feel. Pain hurts. Crying is a natural response. Telling a child that they cannot feel what they feel is invalidating them. And that is abusive.

So yeah, if you feel like you are currently in a cul-de-sac where either your feelings are constantly overlooked and/or, quite frankly, you don't know how to feel, reflect on when you were a kid and when you were a teenager. Did your parents and the other people around you honor you as an individual by letting you (respectfully) express your feelings? Did they acknowledge them without manipulation or unnecessary judgment? If so, consider yourself blessed. Those are the kind of individuals who end up being very self-aware; they tend to have healthy boundaries in their relationships too. Let's keep going.

Do You Express “Big Girl Emotions”, Now?

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Some of you may have caught an article that I wrote for the platform a few years back entitled, "What GROWN Women Consider Great Sex To Be". A part of the reason why I wrote it is because, hopefully, as we age, we also mature. So yes, the way that we process sex in our 20s should be very different once we hit our 40s (whether we are married or not). Well, the same thing applies to our emotions. When my almost two-year-old goddaughter is aggravated, she's gonna cry, yell and/or attempt to throw something. She's not old enough to understand that there are other ways to convey emotions. It's awesome that her parents are mature enough in their own development that they get that because there is nothing worse than seeing a child at a grocery store throwing a temper tantrum as their parents do the same in return. The child and the parent should be responding very differently because one should be way more self-aware than the other.

Same thing applies to how we express our feelings as adults, regardless of the person we're expressing our emotions to. Matter of fact, wisdom teaches that as we continue to evolve, we should definitely know the difference between having feelings and being an overly emotional kind of person.

I'll give you an example. One of my former clients? She used to wear me all the way out because whenever someone disappointed her, she would spend a lot of her time cussing and yelling at me, as if I was the source of her disdain. When I would ask her if she shared her feelings with the actual cause of her issue, her answer was either that she acted like nothing was wrong or she simply cut them off (check out "Why I Don't "Cut People Off" Anymore, I Release Them Instead"). As I dug deeper, I realized that she was so emotionally stunted and used to her feelings being disregarded that she didn't even know how to go about getting her feelings validated. She would rather just run through relationships than do the work to establish healthy connections.

This is one example of what it means to be overly emotional. When you don't understand feelings, the purpose of them and how to express them in a productive kind of way, you end up being all over the place and oftentimes, ultimately, alone.

How Good Are You at Validating the Feelings of Others?

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Something that I am a huge believer in is the importance of "taking inventory" in friendships. The reality is that just like married people grow and change over time, friends do too. That's why it's poor form to assume that needs and expectations will always remain the same. Matter of fact, one of my closest friends and I had a chat about this very thing not too long ago. She semi-recently signed a deal that is going to take a lot more of her time which means we both have to make adjustments in order to still engage one another. We used to talk constantly, so I've had to be intentional about paying close attention when she shares how tired she is or how she needs time to herself. Even when she says that she's fine being on the phone for an hour, I've had to "love her enough" to sense when she's beat and initiate getting off of the phone myself—whether she says she's good with staying on longer or not.

Honestly, 10 years ago, I probably wouldn't even think this deeply. It goes back to my childhood angst because when folks are invalidating your emotions, you don't really care all that much about validating theirs. Yet the more I heal, the more important it is to definitely acknowledge where others are coming from. Trust me, the more you tap into other people's emotional needs, the more inclined they are to return the favor.

5 Steps Towards REQUIRING That Your Feelings Get Validated More Often

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I know this was kind of a lot. I do hope that it helped to provide a few ah-ha moments, though, if you happen to be someone who wonders why your feelings don't get validated (acknowledged) as much as they probably should. That said, I think it would be pretty irresponsible of me to break all of this down and not offer up a few tips for how you can start getting your feelings validated in your relationships more often, moving forward.

Step 1: Make sure YOU know how YOU feel first. 

It's next level maturity to be able to control yourself enough that when you feel certain emotions (like anger or disgust), you take a moment (or 10) to get a hold on why you feel that way and what that feeling is give you a heads up on. For instance, if your boss has you wanting to throw something straight at their head, why is that? Did they not keep their word? Do you feel taken for granted? Are they dismissive of your requests? Remember that feelings can help to protect us and get people to better understand us. Knowing why you feel what you do and the purpose that it serves can help you to communicate your emotions better.

Step 2: ​Express your feelings in the way that you would like them to be expressed to you. 

I've said it before and I'm sure I will say it a million more times before I transition on—I can't stand to see men or women put their hands on someone. I also think it's ridiculous to hear men or women yelling at each other.

Regardless of how you feel at any given time, remember that feelings are to bring about a level of understanding. No one is trying to get what you're saying, sympathize or empathize with you or even make a real connection with you if you are wilin' out here.

It's always important to remember the Golden Rule in the sense that the way that you want someone to express their feelings to you is the way that you should express your feelings to them.

Step 3: ​REQUIRE that your feelings be validated. 

Some people struggle with requiring things of others because they feel like it comes off as being a demand. Shoot, I don't because a requirement is a need and if someone isn't willing to meet your basic needs, why are they in a close proximity when it comes to your life in the first place? Another example. There is someone from my past who constantly reached out whenever they were upset with someone else or, in hindsight, needed their ego stroked. Because I was still wounded from having my own feelings invalidated, I kept rising to the occasion. Yet whenever I would bring to their attention something that they did (or didn't do) that hurt me, they would literally act like I said nothing at all.

I took this for years until one day, I wrote them about the pattern and how I wasn't going to tolerate it anymore. In true "them" fashion, they didn't respond and when I ran into them months later, they acted like I never said anything. "Old Shellie" would've probably cussed them out right there in the mall. "New Shellie" greeted them, had small talk and walked away knowing that they didn't deserve for me to be a close friend to them; casual acquaintances is more than fine. The same thing can apply to you. Your need for folks to acknowledge where you are coming from isn't asking too much. If they are don't want to meet the need, make adjustments in your interaction with them. For your own protection and well-being.

Step 4: ​Avoid over-indulging your feelings. 

You know how sometimes a child will continue to scream until either you give them what they want or they wear themselves out? A lot of adults are the same way. It's a harsh reality but you can't make people do anything that they don't want to do. Once you're in touch with your feelings and the purpose behind them and you share that with someone else, it's up to them to validate you—or not.

If they couldn't, say, care less that you are sad, staying sad changes nothing. All it does it make you feel worse. Be intentional about honoring your emotions and working through them rather than wallowing in them. Again, already being sad and then getting sadder because someone doesn't choose to see you is futile. Besides, you deserve better.

See things for what they are and then move on to my final suggestion.

Step 5: ​Be solutions-oriented. 

You know something else that self-aware people do? They find a way to validate their own feelings while working towards how they can find a solution within them. Folks who lack self-awareness will just stay in their feelings with no plan or goal for shoot…ever, if they can. It took me a long time to break the cycle that I grew up in and was surrounded by. But man, I don't have one relationship now where I am not able to express my feelings and not feel heard/validated. I try and make sure that everyone in my world—personally and professionally—can say the same thing about me. Because when the "problem" of me feeling some type of way comes up, my peeps and I work together to find a solution—even if it's just to understand where I'm coming from.

Bottom line, you have feelings for a purpose and they deserve to be validated. Settle for nothing less, sis. No relationship works, in a healthy way, when you settle. Straight up. I would know.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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