Tag Archives: praise

Validation & Praise

Growing up with abusive parents is a truly horrific experience.  The abuse takes a deep root inside of you & does a tremendous amount of damage.  One common way that damage manifests is the need for validation from other people.  If you think this doesn’t describe you, then please read on anyway.  You just might learn something about yourself.

External validation is great.  It’s always nice when other people praise you or say that something that was done to you was wrong.  However, adult children of abusive parents often take the desire for such things to an extreme.  It is quite clear that is what is happening when a person displays certain behaviors.

Someone who drops hints about something good they have done or a good quality they have may be seeking external validation.  The praise that other people give them in such situations is very welcomed since it tells this person that they really are OK, good, smart, attractive, valuable, etc.

Similarly, exaggerating a person’s good deeds or qualities is another cry for external validation.  As the saying goes, you don’t see commercials for Rolls Royce cars because they know their worth & value.  They don’t need to convince others they are great.  Anyone who feels they must magnify their good qualities is doing so in the hopes of gaining praise & external validation.

Excessive posting on social media can be a sign of someone looking for external validation.  Someone who shares a lot about their life on social media may be seeking “likes” & positive comments as a way to gain some external validation.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying a person who mentions something positive they have done, a positive quality they have or who shares on social media is completely dysfunctional.  Not at all!  I’m simply saying these things when done in excess can be a sign of someone who is seeking external validation & that is unhealthy.

External validation is great, but it truly shouldn’t be extremely, over the top important to anyone.  If it is, this is a sign of something wrong, such as low self esteem or envy.  It also can be a sign of a personality disorder.  Narcissists clearly take this to an extreme since they demand approval & praise from others, but those with Borderline Personality Disorder may also seek external validation frequently.

Being hyper-focused on external validation can be truly disruptive to a person’s life.  It can damage or ruin relationships with its neediness.  Even the most patient people get tired of feeling as if they constantly must reassure someone at some point. 

If you feel a strong need for external validation, you can fix this problem!  I know, because I once felt that need but no longer do.  I hope what I did helps you too!

The first step for me was to turn to God.  I asked Him for help, to show me what I needed to do to be healthier & to help me understand who He says I am.  I also studied what the Bible says about believers.  There are a lot of Scriptures about what God thinks of His children!  It’s very eye opening!

I watched my behavior, too.  If I realized I was starting to seek validation from other people, I stopped myself.  I asked myself why I felt this was necessary.  I also asked myself why I felt I needed the approval of this particular person.  If that person was dysfunctional, I realized that their approval truly wasn’t important.  They naturally would only praise dysfunctional behaviors so why would I want their validation?!  I also realized that those who are functional won’t make me feel I have to beg for validation.  They offer it freely.

Rather than turning to people for validation, I turned inward.  I acknowledged my feelings & thoughts.  If I felt that I did something well, I praised myself.  If I recognized something I’ve been through was wrong or bad, I told myself that.  My validation became good enough for me.  That took some time but it did happen & was well worth the wait!

I hope if you are seeking external validation in excess, you can change your ways.  People are fallible human beings, which means they will fail you sometimes.  Constantly looking to them for validation is setting yourself up for disappointment.  Instead, turning to God for it & learning to validate yourself will be much more fulfilling for you!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism

What Complements Are Like For Victims Of Narcissistic Abuse

I have yet to talk to one victim of narcissistic abuse who doesn’t struggle with receiving complements on some level.  I certainly am one of them.  You may be able to relate to my story.

Growing up, my overtly narcissistic mother was very critical of me.  She said it was for my own good but it really didn’t feel that way.  My self esteem was about non existent. 

Just before I turned 17, I met my ex husband.  At first, he showered me with constant praise.  Eventually that stopped, & he became very critical.  Of course, he denied that because he didn’t say words like, “stupid” or “fat.”  He implied them by saying things like, “I’m surprised you don’t know that” or, “well, you certainly aren’t small…”  By the time that marriage ended, I had no self esteem.

For most of my life, if people complemented me, I would tell them why they were wrong.  Eventually I realized this made people uncomfortable, so I started to smile & say thank you.  I was still cringing inside, & thinking of how wrong they were, but at least they didn’t realize that.  I was more or less satisfied with this arrangement for a long time. 

Eventually though, I decided it was time to consider complements rather than blindly shoot them down.  I realized that people don’t usually say things with an ulterior motive or to hear themselves talk.  When they pay complements, they sincerely believe what they say.  I still struggle with trying to believe them, but knowing this helps.

Then I read about shame & suddenly things made sense!

When a person is subjected to narcissistic abuse, they develop a deep root of shame thanks to the gaslighting.  Being told how terrible, ugly, stupid, flawed, mentally unstable & more they are over & over does this.  So when someone complements this type of person, one of two things may happen..

Cognitive dissonance can happen.  That is the term for the very uncomfortable feeling of receiving new information that clashes with one’s core beliefs.  Being told you are something good after believing that you are nothing but bad creates a very painful cognitive dissonance.  The automatic reaction to cognitive dissonance is often to reject the new information immediately.  That isn’t always wise though.  That new information should be questioned!

Another possibility is the complement triggers shame, because the person feels they have somehow duped this poor person.  They feel shame because they believe they were being deceitful.

If you experience these feelings when someone gives you a complement, I would like to encourage you to challenge this.  I can’t promise you’ll become completely comfortable with complements, but at the very least, you will learn to feel better about them.

Remember what I said – most people don’t have any ulterior motive for paying someone a complement.  They’re simply being nice & sincere. 

Consider the complement.  I would bet the same thing someone praises you for is something the narcissist was quick to criticize about you.  Narcissists are quick to tear down anything good they see in their victims, so that alone should prove that it’s true. 

And never forget to pray.  God will be more than happy to help you to heal in every area!  Let Him do just that!

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Why Complements Are So Hard For Victims Of Narcissistic Abuse

When you grow up with a narcissistic parent, you can’t help but to have a root of shame.  This is because shame is a very powerful weapon to help a person control another, & narcissists are incredibly talented at using it to their best advantage.

One of the many problems that shame causes is the lack of ability to accept a complement in a normal, healthy way.  I admit to struggling with this to this day, although much less than I have in years prior.  In my younger years both as a child & younger adult, if someone paid me a complement, I would tell them why what they said was wrong.  Anyone could have done that thing I did, so it’s nothing special & I’m not smart.  Or, I’m not pretty because I’m fat & ugly.  You get the picture.  I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, you have behaved in much the same way.

While this may not appear be the biggest problem shame causes or even a huge interruption in life, it can be an incredibly annoying problem.  It also can compound the shame that is already there.  When you don’t know how to do something so simple as accepting a complement, it makes you feel stupid.  Most of us have been told by the narcissists in our lives how stupid we are, so feeling stupid validates their cruel criticism & adds to the shame they have made us feel.

So why do people do this?  Is it really that hard simply to say “Thank you” & go on with your day?  Honestly?  Yes.  Yes it is that hard for some people.  The reason is that complements go against our sense of self that we learned from the abusive people in our lives.  Parents in particular have a great deal of power over their children’s sense of self because they are there during their children’s formative years.  Anyway when a complement goes against that sense of self, & it triggers shame.  It goes against that sense of self, & causes a person to feel as if they have tricked someone into believing they are much better than they really are.

This is a very difficult habit to overcome, especially after a lifetime of functioning this way.  It is possible though.

As always, pray.  Ask God to tell you the truth about yourself & listen to what He has to say.  Let Him help build up your self esteem & to help you to see that the narcissist in your life lied to you.

Remember too, when people say something genuinely complementary, they aren’t doing so from a place of selfishness.  They are saying something they truly believe, something that comes from their heart.  You can trust what they say.

Consider what the person has said too.  Why do you think what they said is wrong?  Is that something you honestly believe yourself or is it because you were told to believe it by the narcissist in your life?  If it’s because of the narcissist, ask yourself why you would continue to believe something told to you by this person.  Narcissists lie & try to destroy their victims.  They don’t do constructive criticism, so what they said was clearly NOT meant to help you!

If you’re still struggling, ask God to tell you the truth about this complement.  Is it really true or are you whatever bad thing you’re thinking you are, then listen for His answer.  You are going to be very pleasantly surprised by what He has to say to you.

I know it can be hard, but please try to remember simply to say “Thank you” the next time someone complements you.  Countering their complement makes them feel uncomfortable & adds to your shame, so why do it?  Instead, simply thank the person who was kind enough to complement you.  The more you do that, the easier it gets to do.  And, the more you argue in favor of the complement & against the criticisms of the narcissist, the more accurately you will see yourself.  You might even start to like what you see!

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Filed under Abuse and the Healing Journey, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mental Health, Narcissism