How do narcissists invalidate you and what to do about it

How do narcissists invalidate you and what to do about it

Narcissists use a number of manipulation tactics to erase your identity and get your total submission. Out of all these tactics, emotional invalidation is particularly cruel and insidious.

What is emotional validation and why do we all need it?

As humans, we all have a deep-seated desire to be accepted. Regardless of our race, gender or age, we all want to feel seen and heard. We want to connect to other human beings. This feeling of connection makes us feel that we belong.

These emotional needs are as essential as our survival needs, like the need for food or shelter.

When we are validated we feel that we matter, we feel that there is a place in this world for us with our own unique talents, interests and personality traits.

When we feel validated, we feel that our thoughts and emotions matter. We feel accepted. Emotional validation is at the very core of healthy relationships, personal and professional ones.

What is emotional invalidation?

Emotional invalidation is the exact opposite. People who invalidate you state that your emotions, thoughts and experiences are not worth even noticing. Such emotional abuse is extremely hurtful and debilitating to the human psyche.

Not only do you lack emotional safety, but you also feel worthless and almost invisible. Gradually you even start doubting your sanity.

Invalidation comes from the lack of empathy and lack of empathy is one of the main traits of narcissism. If you are not sure if you are suffering from this emotional abuse, read the below example and ask yourself if it sounds familiar.

You are in a group of people and suddenly your partner makes a comment suggesting that you put on weight. It is an awkward moment. You know that you had put on weight a bit and your partner also knows that. You would never expect anyone to make this comment in public though. You are not sure what to say. Seconds pass and your partner starts laughing and says that they were only joking.

Later in the evening, you are trying to have a conversation about this and explain to them that that was not nice. You felt embarrassed and hurt by their comment. Unfortunately, your partner has no intention of discussing the situation and your feelings. All they have to say is “I was only joking! You are overreacting as always.”

You feel that there is no space for you to express your feelings. The other person doesn’t seem to care to listen to you and to understand how their words or actions made you feel. You are left feeling invisible and hurt.

Why do narcissists invalidate people?

Narcissists are deeply insecure people who cover their fragile ego behind a thick mask of confidence, arrogance and entitlement.

The need to protect themselves from seeing their true self makes them obsessed with hiding behind that mask. This mask is their safe place. It is their illusion and delusion that they are perfect.

Anyone or anything that is perceived as a threat to their safety automatically becomes their enemy. Their existence is fueled by their constant obsession to protect their make-belief world of illusions. As Maggie from Narcwise says:

“This results in the fixation to constantly source supply. For the narcissist, this is their validation.

Unlike emotionally healthy people, however, the pathological narcissist’s version of validation is not contingent on acceptance and understanding. Letting things & people be without the need to change them is not something the narc can do.

Rather, validation (and by this, I mean validating them, your needs are completely irrelevant to them) is all about controlling and manipulating you into giving them the hit of supply they constantly crave.

Because supply is needed for their survival, they will score it at any cost. The hunt for validation is an obsession for the narcissist.”

Therefore the narcissists’ validation becomes your invalidation.

What strategies do narcissists use to invalidate you?

1. Gaslighting

One of the most common strategies that narcissists use to invalidate you is gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where an individual tries to manipulate you into questioning your perception of reality and recollection of events and experiences. Such abuse will not only invalidate you but will also make you question your own sanity.

2. Denial

Narcissists hide behind their mask of assumed perfection. You and I know that there is no such thing as perfection so you can only imagine how much hard work a narcissist must put into keeping up the appearances of perfection.

Since you are either perfect or not, narcissists create a very black and white perception of reality, events and people. You are either right or wrong. Someone is on their side or not. There is no space for shades of grey. Everything is either/ or. There is no place for nuances.

According to this perception of reality, they put themselves of course in the category of the good ones and you will be there too as long as you keep validating them. The moment you dare to disagree with them even in the most gentle way possible, they will label you as the “bad guy”.

Staying in denial gives them paradoxically a sense of power. Their divide and conquer strategy gives them validation when they need it (which is almost always) and lets them invalidate others when it suits them.

3. Taking no responsibility

Denial goes hand in hand with taking absolutely no responsibility for their actions or words. Narcissists cannot tolerate even the slightest suggestion that they may not be right and they will go to great lengths to protect their fragile ego.

When you try to suggest that some of their words or actions really hurt you, your feelings will certainly be invalidated. They will ignore you or even question your sanity.

These are the three most common strategies that narcissists use to invalidate you. Below you can find some typical sentences that suggest that your feelings and thoughts really don’t matter at all.

What emotional invalidation might sound like?

    • You are overreacting.
    • Just let it go.
    • You shouldn’t be so angry.
    • It could be much worse.
    • Stop making things up.
    • I have never said that/ done that. It is all in your imagination.
    • You are too sensitive. It was just a joke.
    • No one else is bothered by this, only you. Just stop it.

These are some examples of verbal invalidation but invalidation can be also non-verbal. Examples of non-verbal invalidation include rolling eyes, playing with their phone when you are trying to have a conversation, refusing to talk to you at all or leaving the room in the middle of a conversation.

Do any of the above sentences sound familiar? Remember that invalidation is different from a regular fight with someone who generally cares about what you think and feel. To be able to recognise a narcissist in your life, you need to look for patterns in their behaviour.

Invalidation can be intentional or unintentional. When someone ignores your feelings but later apologises and is ready to listen to you, then their action was unintentional. They realised their mistake, they apologised and they were ready to make up for it. If it is not a constant pattern, then the invalidation was an example of unintentional, albeit hurtful behaviour from a person who generally cares about you.

If you see that someone regularly diminishes your feelings without even bothering to carefully listen to you, then they intentionally invalidate you. It is also important to notice how you are feeling when you are in this person’s presence. Are you tense and scared of expressing yourself freely? Are you worried that if you express your feelings, especially the feelings of hurt, you will hear that you are oversensitive or that you don’t know when someone makes jokes? If that’s the case, then it is a red flag that you have been a victim of invalidation.

How can you handle invalidation?

Dealing with emotional invalidation is usually not easy, especially if the person who invalidates you is someone really close to you, like your partner or your parents. But if you feel that you are scared to express your opinion every time you meet this person or you feel that your self-esteem deteriorates the more time you spend with them, it is worth learning to deal with such abusive behaviour in a more healthy way.

To choose the best strategy to cope with this toxic person in your life, ask yourself these questions:

Does their opinion matter to me?
Are they really interested in understanding my feelings?

If the answer is “no”, simply leave this abusive relationship. If the answer is “yes” you can do a few things that will help you manage this relationship in a more healthy way.

1. Stay calm

Before you respond to them, stop and take a few deep breaths in. Manipulative people love pulling you into a fight. Don’t let them have that satisfaction. Stay calm and don’t get into any discussions with them.

2. Validate yourself

It is always important to remember that your self-care should be your priority. When you are going through emotional abuse like invalidation, it is even more important to remember to validate your feelings. Your feelings matter, even if others don’t appreciate them.

Dismissing your feelings is very destructive. It disconnects us from our internal world. It also makes us lack compassion towards ourselves and others.

How can you validate yourself then? Acknowledge what you are feeling without judging yourself. Let yourself feel whatever emotions are going through you. They are neither right nor wrong. They are just feelings that came to visit you. Acknowledge them. Look at them with curiosity. Ask yourself why you are feeling like this.

The more you understand yourself, the more compassion, kindness and mindfulness you will have for yourself and for others.

3. Surround yourself with supportive people

Another important element of managing invalidation is support from other people who really care about you. Make sure you stay in touch with your true friends. Tell them about your problem. Most probably they will validate your feelings and make you feel visible and heard again.

Navigating an abusive relationship is never easy. If you are still unsure what to do with the emotional invalidation that you are experiencing, message me and we will see how I can help you.

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