All ADHD adults need and deserve validation — a sense of being heard and seen.
But you may feel shame when you don’t get as much as your non-ADHD peers. You may also feel shame because you’ve internalized the common wisdom that you shouldn’t need to look to others for validation. But you do, don’t you?
According to the belief that you shouldn’t look outside yourself for validation, you will do damage to your sense of self-worth and self-efficacy if you rely on others for this. Conversely, relying only on self-validation will give you a better sense of self.
This understanding of validation is just wrong! Sure, self-validation is important, but we also need validation from others. No doubt, it’s a balancing act — getting what you need from others and giving yourself what you need.
Let’s see why both types of validation are important and how you can have more in your life.
What Does Validation Look Like for ADHD Adults?
First, let’s get clear on the definition.
When someone validates your experience as an ADHD adult they recognize and accept your thoughts, feelings and behaviors as understandable. That is, they get you and how your ADHD may impact what you do and say. And self-validation is doing the same for yourself.
Validation does not mean you or others accept your “ADHD behavior” regardless of the consequences. So, while validation is always important, you may still strive to manage those ADHD symptoms that get in the way of reaching your short-term and long-term goals.
Another way to think of validation is having the sense from yourself and others you matter. And anything you say or do, perhaps because of your ADHD, cannot change this. When this is true you feel heard and seen. Sometimes this is from an acknowledgment of your accomplishments and efforts.
Even when you fall short! This point is really important to emphasize. So, I’m going to do that. 🙂 You matter. Even when you say or do things you would rather not because of your ADHD symptoms. You deserve to be heard and seen even when you goof up.
Besides, knowing this and having others confirm this will help you do what is essential to you — be productive. Remember, though, you are enough even when you are not as productive as you’d like. Yet, you want/need to get stuff done. I know. And feeling validated will help you do this.
The Opposite of Validation
Unfortunately, as an ADHD adult, you may be all too familiar with the opposite of validation — lack of recognition. Sometimes this is a byproduct of your “ADHD missteps.” That is, others may decide based on how you present yourself what you say, or think doesn’t matter.
You can almost feel invisible in some situations.
For example, this can happen for ADHD adults when they express themselves strongly. Rather than trying to understand the underlying message, others may just “shut you down.” Because they think you’re overreacting. Subsequently, you may either retreat — give up — or become even more frustrated/angry.
If emotional regulation is a challenge for you, you may want to work on being more even-tempered. At the same time, it is helpful to have people in your life who can “hear you,” even when you are a bit more emotional than you’d like. And work with you to give you the space and time you need to regain your composure. If that’s what you need in the moment.
Don’t I just have to force myself to do what I know I need to do?
I know, like some ADHD adults, you may have come to believe the way to manage your ADHD symptoms and follow through on your important work is to use force. And, you may also think, if you can’t do this for yourself, you need someone else to force you to do what you need to do
I know this because I’ve heard it all too often from people who are interested in coaching who tell me, “I just need someone to make me do…” Fortunately, that’s not my style. It’s fortunate because, even if I tried to be heavy-handed, it would not work. They would Resist okay and end up wasting a lot of time energy and money!
Think about it. How do you respond when people in your personal and professional circles try to make you do something you don’t want to do? I bet you resent it and resist their efforts, right?
Similarly, what happens when you try to force yourself to do something? Think of all the times when, whether conscious or not, you use the following self-talk to try to force yourself to do what you think you should do:
- “I have to…”
- “I should…”
- “I must finish…”
It rarely works I bet. In fact, if you pay attention to how you talk to yourself, you’ll find this type of forceful self-talk often contributes to your procrastination.
Won’t validation just make me lazy?
If you’re with me so far and trust that force is not the answer, you may still be uncertain about the effectiveness of validation.
Because, like other ADHD adults, you may think validation will make you “soft.” That is, you will stop trying to manage your troublesome ADHD symptoms. Because you think validation means that you will internalize the belief that, “I am what I am, and I don’t need to change.” While this may have been true for Popeye, it does not need to be true for you.
It really is possible to be validated and work on changing those ADHD behaviors that get in your way. In fact, when you receive validation, and feel good about yourself, you will have more time and energy to do what’s important to you. This can include doing the hard work of learning how to work with your ADHD.
Whereas, what happens when you’re in a shame spiral because you don’t have the validation you deserve? Much of your cognitive and emotional energy may be taken up by managing these thoughts and feelings of shame. This drain on your time and energy means you are not as productive as you’d like to be.
Can you think of a time when has this been true for you?
How do I get the validation I need?
While you absolutely need validation from others, you know it is unrealistic to expect validation from everyone, right? And, therefore, it’s a waste of your time and energy to try to get this from everyone. The key is to seek out your people and surround yourself as much as possible with people who get you.
This is especially important when you have no choice but to be in environments, like work, where there may be people who do not validate you. If you are in such an environment right now, seek out validation from other environments — partner/spouse, friends, support groups, therapist, coach, etc.
At the same time, it is also important to practice self-validation, which may include:
- practicing self-compassion
- reframing your self-talk to be less forceful
- be willing to use strategies that work with your ADHD, regardless of what your neurotypical friends and family may do
- not equating your productivity with self-worth
- create a story about your ADHD that helps you move forward, rather than holding you back
ADHD adults need and deserve validation
Not only do you deserve validation from yourself and others, but it will help you do what is important to you. So, it’s important to work on getting the validation you need.
And, if there are people in your life who don’t give you validation, you have two choices. One, you can decide they’re just not your people. That’s a good tactic if it’s possible. If that’s not an option, then doing therapy together and/or learn how to communicate your needs more effectively might be helpful.