One of the distinctions between resilient people and fragile people is their use of self-validation. Resilified people are able to “bounce back” from setbacks and are able to provide their own props. Resilified people don’t passively wait for others to notice their good efforts and say something encouraging. Resilified people are good at self-validation.
What, exactly, is self-validation? Here’s a couple of examples and you can decide for yourself.
Jessica is learning to ice-skate. She keeps falling down on the frozen ice. Jessica’s mother says, “Don’t give up, honey! You’ll get it!” Jessica says to herself, “This is stupid. I’d rather play video games.” Jessica takes off her skates and wants to go home.
Jeffrey is also learning to ice skate. He falls repeatedly and his brothers jeer him, “Give it up!” they say with a sneer, “You can’t rollerblade either!” Jeffrey remembers how he learned to skateboard as well as his older brother at a younger age. “I’m not going to let them get away with that! I’ll stay on the ice ‘til my blisters pop!” He imagines himself shooting a goal in a big hockey games and refuses to give up. He begs his mom to stay an extra 30 minutes so he can practice more even though she is slightly annoyed at him.
Which skater self-validated and which did not? Right. The one that showed resilience and grit self-validated. Here are some features of self-validation:
- It focuses on hope and success in the face of discouragement and setbacks.
- It is generated inside the person and doesn’t come from external sources.
- It can consist of positive self praise as simple as, “Awesome, dude!”
- It can consist of positive affirmations, “You only fail when you quit! So don’t quit!”
- It can consist of a vital vision of success in the future or in the past.
Here’s what self-validation is not:
- It is not narcissism nor conceit because self-validation motivates working towards success rather than resting on your laurels or putting others down.
- It is not wishful thinking because it motivates action and perseverance to attain goals.
- It is not “beating yourself up” as a way to shame yourself into better behavior. Berating yourself only weakens your sense of efficacy and confidence.
Some people have great difficulty with self-validation. They don’t feel comfortable affirming their good efforts. If you are one of these people, you may also feel uncomfortable receiving compliments and expressions of approval from others. You need to get over it to be more resilient! Here are the steps:
- Start Small. Choose a word or simple phrase that doesn’t sound too effusive or fake. Some possibilities: “Not bad!”, “Awesome!”, “Good Job!”
- Add your name. Adding your name seems to make a bigger impression on your brain. “Good Job, Dave!” and “Awesome, Jen!” are a nice step up.
- Don’t add self-criticism. If you add something like, “Finally!” or “It’s about time!” or “Never thought you would ever do it,” these types of thoughts cancel out the validation part! (By the way, don’t do that in your communication with other people either!)
- Say it aloud. When you become a little more confident with giving validation in your head, start saying it aloud. Eventually you can say it with gusto!
- Involve your body. Clap your hands, hug yourself, do a touchdown celebration, slam your fist into your hand, do a dance step. Football players understand the strength of partying after the play and you should too.
- Add specifics. Eventually you can validate specific efforts and successes, not just general ones. “Kudos for getting that project done early, James!” or “YES!!! I knew you could nail that basket, Tim!”
Have fun giving yourself the props you always wanted but probably didn’t get. Why wait for someone to notice? Notice your own good efforts and build resilience with self-validation.