Whilst at my Barnes & Noble visit, I came across an awesome book on people called Invalidators. I had never heard of that title before, but after reading some of the book, I quickly realized that I had definitely encountered people like that before. I’d like to share some of what I learned because I think it’ll really benefit you.
We all know what it means to be validated or to have your work validated. It’s like when someone gives you their seal of approval for your person or something that you did. For example, if I wore a different hairstyle to work, and my coworkers kept complimenting me, then they would be considered validators. If I turned in a report in class and the teacher kept gloating over me to my classmates, then I would feel validated by her. Validators have no problem sharing their approval or how impressed they are with you or your work. They are secure enough in themselves to know that just because they give you a compliment, it still does not subtract from their abilities or self-worth.
So we know that the opposite of that would be an invalidator. Invalidators knowingly or unknowingly always have a way of invalidating you and/or what you do. Whatever you do is never quite good enough for a sincere, clear compliment. It’s never quite worthy of the praise. One of my colleagues had a professor who said that he would never give a student an A because that would imply that they were perfect and that no one is perfect. No matter how hard you worked, you’d never be better than a B to him. That’s not the best example of an invalidator, but it just gives an example of how some invalidators go about things. The teacher thought that people should only get an A if they could be perfect; an invalidator won’t give out compliments because that would imply that you were that good at something and in their book, you ain’t that great.
I’ve been validated a lot in life, and I thank God for that. My sisters and I have always been good students, so we got plenty of praise for it. I’ve never been called stupid, and I take pride in that. But along with a lot of validation, I get a lot of invalidation. There have people I knew and know that never wanted to acknowledge if I did something well. And all of them had low self-esteem to an extent. I love this quote I made up: “I’ve never had a person with high self-esteem to dislike me.” And the reason is because they care so much about themselves that they don’t have time to try to keep me down!
Some would say that another word for an invalidator is hater. A lot of African-Americans use this term. A hater is someone who gets jealous of something you have that they want for themselves and so they go about trying to make life hard for you until you lose that thing. For example, some female might have a crush on a dude that you are dating. So she might talk bad about you to her friends to make HERSELF feel better about not having your guy. Her invalidating you does not get her the guy nor does not lessen your value in his eyes; it just makes her feel a little better to tear you down.
There are also church invalidators. Maybe they are jealous that you get to lead bible study more often than they do. So after church, while everyone else tells you that you really blessed them with the lesson for the week, that other person might have thought you did a good job as well, but will walk right past you without letting you know that. Another example is that I have a friend who’s very cute. She keeps her hair done and dresses cute daily. But to her surprise, her boyfriend rarely compliments her. When she asked him why he doesn’t compliment her efforts to look cute for him, he told her, “I figure since everyone else tells you how cute you are that I won’t so that you won’t get a big head about your looks.” He refused to share with her the compliment that he felt she deserved because he felt as if it was his duty to keep her humble. And she’s actually one of the most humble people I know! He just couldn’t dare let her think she was beautiful. INVALIDATOR!
Mark 6:1 – And he went out from thence, and came into his own country… 2he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. 4But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. 5And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. 6And he marveled because of their unbelief…
Jesus also had invalidators. Those haters!!!! They reduced the Messiah and God in the flesh to a mere carpenter even after he had done so many miracles in other towns! They wanted to keep Him down on their level. You can compare that to somebody seeing you come back to your small country town, and your neighbors saying, “Ain’t that Pookie? He was that little bad kid that stayed in trouble! You know, the town drunk Old Brown’s son.” Their severe invalidation of Him caused Him only to be able to do a few healings because of their lack of faith. They withheld faith in Him because they were so busy invalidating Him.
I Samuel 18:6And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick. 7And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. 8And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? 9And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.
David and Samuel are another historical, bible example. The women weren’t trying to depreciate what Saul had done to make him feel bad; they were simply stating the facts! And Saul got jealous. And instead of giving David props, he tried to kill him by throwing a javelin at him. That is not the same as making invalidating comments to David, but you know what I mean.
That has been my experience at times. I felt that I had to dumb myself down so that others would not be jealous. If I got a really good grade, I would sometimes try to hide it or make it seem like it wasn’t such a big deal because I knew how some girls could be. I even got anxiety when I felt that I was going to be put in a position to outdo others. I thought it was just safer to be average.
Now y’all females know how females can be. Men hate on men sometimes, but not as much as and not so much on women. And women don’t really hate on men. But women sho nuff hate on some women! Especially when other men come into play. They always want to compete. Just like those women in the bible – Rachel & Leah, Sarah & Hagar, Hannah & Peninnah (They had sex with the same man, and so they didn’t get along with each other.) Just like the women you see on the soap operas. Women just can’t seem to give other women credit. Before we say a singer is talented, we’ll say, “I mean she sing aight. She ain’t the best. I’ve heard better.” Before we say a model is cute, we’ll say, “Well, if you think a fivehead is cute, she’s hot. In an alien-kind of way.” Before we say a woman is successful, we’ll say, “I mean, when your husband is the mayor, of course, you’re going to have a clear way to the top. She’s got it easy. She didn’t have to work hard to get that position. She probably paid or laid her way to the top.” Women are such haters!! Invalidators!!
Another way and the most common way invalidators operate is very subtly. They know that if they’re too obvious, you’ll just cut them off. So they say just enough to invalidate you, but not enough to make you end the friendship. They might ask things like, “Are you and your boyfriend ever gonna get married? My hubby and me got married after dating a year, and y’all been together for 5.” You know she doesn’t really want to know an answer; she just asked it in that way to make you feel like you’re a loser for not having a proposal yet. They might see your new car that they know you are in love with and will say something like, “Oh, so you like little old women type cars. My grandma has a car just like that. She asked me which one to get, and I told her she should have gotten the SUV because it was cuter, but she wanted that one.” She said that so that you will always feel a little dislike for your luxury vehicle from here on out. If you ask him how he likes your bedroom set, he might say something like, “I mean, yea. It’s cute for you. It’s not my style, but it seems like something you’d like. You know how you are. You like that kind of weird stuff.” These invalidators plant little seeds in your head to make you always second-guess your decisions. And all those three comments I said are not big or bad enough to make you end the friendship. And that’s what they’re intended to do because they want you to keep them around long enough for them to water the seeds they planted and in order for them to plant more little seeds. Invalidators intend to bring down your self-esteem to their level, and they can’t do that when they’re not your friend. They figure, “I can’t beat ‘em, so I’ll join ‘em. THEN BEAT ‘EM!” They are not your real friends; they are not really for you. They are secretly against you. Betraying. Plotting. Scheming.
You’ll find out that you’re never at ease around these type of folk. You never feel totally good enough for them. You wait for them to say another thing to tear you down. I have a few invalidators. They’re nice for the most part, but they always make it their business to remind me of how skinny I am. I’ll walk by just minding my own business, and they’ll stop me and say, “Do you eat? I need to take you home and feed you. I need to give you a steak or something. You must have to run around in the shower to get wet. What size pants are those? Zero? My twelve year old wears bigger clothes than that.” Now these women all know that I eat. They all know that my butt is too big for an anorexic. They know I don’t puke up my food. But because they hate their size so much, they want to tear me down so that I will eat more and get bigger and make them feel not so bad. The ironic thing is that all of those invalidators either brag about how they used to be my size even toting around pictures of their size zero days, or they head the gym after work, or they are always asking about the next diet they should try out. They wouldn’t ask a real anorexic the questions they ask me, so I know that they are trying to sow seeds in my head to make me feel like being skinny makes me suck (just so that I will try not to suck by gaining weight).
Remember that all invalidators are jealous to some extent and that they all have some degree of low self-esteem because they feel that your success deducts from their self-worth. They see the world as a pie chart. They figure that if you get 60% of praise for your cute wardrobe, then there’s only 40% possible for them to get. They want you to be lesser than or equal to them. Another thing about invalidators is that they usually have no problem with you whatsoever UNTIL they see that you are a threat. As soon as they see that you ARE outdoing them or even MIGHT be outdoing them, they step in to plant their seeds.
If you’re a homeless, single, morbidly obese, ugly lady, you’re AOK in their book. They won’t say a mean word to you. But the second you get a good man a well-paying job that pays more than them and then can afford a nicer apartment and get some plastic surgery and lose some weight, they hop in to do “damage control”. And by damage control I mean damage to their success.
For your new man, the invalidator might say, “Ooh, girl! You got a man now! He kinda too short for me, and I don’t go for that thug-type, but girl he is cute! Good for you! Now we can both go to each other’s weddings! I was afraid I was gonna be the only one of us two walking down the altar.” For your new place, they might say things like, “Your apartment is cute. I just don’t feel that it’s safe because it doesn’t have gates like my apartment. Plus, yours is right across the tracks from the ghetto. I just saw on the news that a woman was just raped two doors down from you.” For your nice-paying job, she might say, “I’m so happy that you have a new job! I was like, ‘Finally she gets a break!’ I had actually been praying for you, and then God answered my prayers. Like they say, every dog has his day!” For your plastic surgery, they might say, “Ooh, girl! Your rhinoplasty looks so good! You a little Michael Jackson look-a-like! Girl, you know I’m just playing. Good thing I was born with a cute nose ‘cause I couldn’t go through all that pain. I hear it can take up to a year all that swelling to go down. I only wish your plastic surgeon hadn’t made your face look so tight.”
These invalidators will take the things that bring you the most joy and sense of accomplishment, and will say one STUPID comment to make you keep thinking that maybe it’s not as good as it could be. It’s important to uproot those seeds. It’s kind of life how Satan plants seeds of doubt. God can give you an amazing promise and prophecy at church one Sunday, and then as soon as you get in your car, Satan will whisper in your ear, “You know that pastor was lying right? He’s not even living right, so why would God give him a prophecy? Besides that, God’s not gonna do that for you. When has something ever good happened for you like that?” Just like Satan, invalidators intentionally plant seeds that aren’t ridiculously obvious, but are just bad enough to make you feel sad or bad. If it was too obvious like, “Girl, your new nose is just hideous. You should have just stuck with the old one. Now your face is ruined forever,” they would know that you would snap on them, call them out for hating, and then end the friendship. What use would it be if Satan were to say, “My name is Lucifer. The reason I’m whispering in your ear because I know that God really is going to bless you in a big way within the next few days, and so I came to uproot that seed of faith by planting this weed of doubt here to choke it out”. He would know that you’d just rebuke him and have even more faith because Satan was obviously threatened by the promise. Invalidators are not going to be obvious because invalidation works best when it’s done subtly.
Like I said, they view life as a pie chart. If you go past your 49%, then they get nervous and have to yank you back down. Remember, THEY LOVE YOU JUST FINE IF YOU’RE NOT DOING AS WELL AS THEY ARE, but the SECOND you get something better than them, then they don’t like you so much.
I’ll give one last personal example to explain how invalidators are perfectly fine with you UNTIL they feel you are outdoing or can outdo them. This should make it crystal clear. I was supposed to be moving with these two young ladies to a different city. I’ll call the invalidator Susie and the third/other female Tasha. Susie was so excited about us moving together. She even said we’d be like sisters and could work at the same job and live in the same apartment complex and visit each other’s apartments. All was well. But when Susie saw my resume and some other things, she started to have doubts. While I was waiting to do an interview, she asked Tasha, “Did you see her resume?! She even had volunteer work on there! It was so full! And she even brought a pantsuit for her interview!” And also when Susie saw that Tasha & I were closer than she and Tasha were, she started to act differently towards me. When Tasha was on the phone with her the VERY NEXT DAY if I remember correctly, Tasha was saying, “Man, I hope Mistye can find a job here (because both of them had already gotten hired somewhere. Susie said, “Well if not, maybe Mistye can just move to Knoxville with her sisters.” She was fine with me until she saw that I had a nice resume and dressed professional at interviews and had a four-year degree. She was fine with Tasha until she found out that instead of all of us living in the same apartment complex, Tasha had a family member who had a fully furnished condo that she could live in rent-free and just pay utilities. She was a very pleasant female when I first met her, but as soon as she found out that she was not doing as well in some areas as me and Tasha, she tried to get me out of the move! And after pondering the fact that Tasha had a great deal on a condo, she eventually changed her mind and said she would not be moving. Invalidators!
ARE YOU AN INVALIDATOR?
After reading so much of this book (and without even buying it!), I of course had to turn on the searchlight of my soul. I searched myself to see if I was an invalidator. And I can be at times. Not much, but I was a little. For example, I also USED to invalidate black men who dated other races. I said USED to. If I was driving by in my car, I would do the little scrunched up face of disdain at them behind their backs. I just refused to acknowledge that they were a happy couple in love who were not concerned with color.
So why don’t you guys examine yourselves? I was honest about myself to you all! See if there are some humble people who do things really well that you just refuse to compliment. See if there are people to whom you intentionally try to say little comments to make them feel not as good about their accomplishment. See if you scrunch your face up at couples you’d rather not be seeing each other. See if you get jealous of people who are doing things you wish you could do.
HOW TO DEAL WITH INVALIDATORS
Matthew 18:15 – Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Luke 17:3 – Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
According to Matthew 18, the best way to handle an invalidator who will not stop hurting you even after you tell them to stop is just to cut them off. Go through the steps (you, then 1 or 2 others, then the church). If you want to salvage the friendship if it is at all possible, you should confront an invalidator by being straight up. I’m a Christian, so I believe 100% in forgiveness, so according to Luke 17, if the invalidator is sincerely asking for forgiveness, then forgive them. But notice that it first says in Luke 17:3 to REBUKE him. Let him know that he’s done wrong. It’s not like they don’t know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. They know they are trying to bring down your self-esteem. So why should you play their dysfunctional little game with them? Call them out!
You know what your style is. Some people are more professional than others. Make it your own. But one way is to say something to the effect of, “Linda, I noticed that ever since I got that promotion over you, you’ve been making little smart comments to me. It’s childish and unnecessary because at the end of the day, I still have the promotion. If you don’t stop, then we can’t be friends anymore. I’m not going to tolerate any disrespect from someone who claims they’re my friend. I don’t need you in my life, and you don’t need me in yours, so there’s no reason why you have to pretend to like me. So if you try to invalidate me ONE more time, we will no longer have a personal relationship. It will be strictly business between us. Kapeesh?”
But hopefully, they will feel convicted and will apologize and try to reconcile the friendship. It’s hard to keep invalidating subtly when someone addresses it. Invalidators really only work subtly, so when it’s been flashlighted and cornered, it doesn’t work quite the same. So remember, address them by rebuking them, if they don’t listen to you, explain it to 1 or 2 people, if they don’t listen to you 2 or 3, go to the church about it, if they don’t stop, cut them off as a sinner. But if you rebuke them and they apologize for invalidating, forgive them!
SO WHAT’S THE CURE FOR THE INVALIDATOR?
The cure for the person doing the invalidation is this. The cure for the invalidator is their realization that instead of the world being a pie chart, there are no limits. The sky’s the limit! We can both get plenty of compliments. We can both be successful. We can both be cute or handsome. We can both get a woman or man. We can both have nice jobs, apartments, and cars. It’s not like God has a set number of blessings we can get and that if one person gets 90, then there will only 10 left for you. We can all live the blessed life! We can both have a ministry! We can both have different talents! We can both go to school to get our Master’s and Ph.D.’s! When you stop seeing life as a pie chart, you won’t be so greedy and stingy with your compliments for others. A dude might think Halle Berry is cute, but another dude might think she’s too old and might like chocolate better. Your boss might brag on a coworker, but if you do something to stand out, he can brag on you next! Stop hating, and start validating!