Something reminded me recently of a first session with a marriage counselor years ago when she was asking me what I wanted. I started to answer by saying that I wanted to feel valued, appreciated, respected, and so on, but she interrupted to ask me, “You want [your husband] to validate you?” That’s not what I was trying to say at all, because being valued and being validated are two different things in my mind. To me, feeling validated means feeling one has good character, good morals, good qualities, good intentions, and is worthy of having as a friend or significant other. I do not need anyone else to validate me because I already know that I am all of those things. However, having someone else recognize, acknowledge, appreciate, and value some or all of those things about me is different.
There are numerous ways to show someone you value and appreciate them. There are the obvious gifts, cards, compliments, thanking someone, forms of affection, telling someone what you appreciate about them, doing something special for someone, and things of that nature. To me, those are the easier ones because most of them can be done pretty easily and every so often, although some people find these things somewhat challenging.
The harder ones involve how you treat someone on a day-to-day basis and fall under the category of respect. How well you listen to someone, what tone of voice you use when you speak to them, whether you make eye contact when you are talking to someone, whether you are willing to give them 100% of your attention, whether you respect a person’s space and belongings, whether you consult with them before making certain decisions, whether you are willing to make compromises for someone else, and things along those lines are more challenging for many people. These are the things that let someone know that you value what they have to say, their opinion, their ideas and thoughts, their feelings, and them as a whole person.
If you can do the things on the former list but can’t do the things on the latter list, then the things on the former list can become sort of empty and meaningless and do not make up for the fact that you are not treating that person respectfully on a regular basis. I think that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. You can’t treat someone disrespectfully a good part of the time and then buy them a nice gift or take them out to dinner and a movie once in a while and think that makes up for everything. Of course, if you don’t realize how disrespectful you are being in the first place, you may not be trying to make up for anything and just think that’s enough, but for most people it is not.
Who doesn’t want to feel valued and appreciated? We all have different levels of needing this from others, but we shouldn’t rely on recognition from other people to feel validated. We should all know our own worth so that we don’t let others make us feel worthless. Most of us do need to know that there are other people who appreciate some or all of our good qualities though. We should surround ourselves with those people and let go of the people who don’t.
We shouldn’t expect that others will do all of these things for us though if we are not willing to do them in return. The more we give, the more we get in return. So take the time to figure out what will make each of the special people in your life feel like they are special, valued, appreciated, and important to you, and then make an effort to do those things whenever you can. Perhaps then you will get the same in return, but if not, don’t forget…
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