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    HomeNewsWeHo Therapist Michael Pezzullo on Gay Men and Validation Dysphoria

    WeHo Therapist Michael Pezzullo on Gay Men and Validation Dysphoria

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    As a psychotherapist in West Hollywood working primarily with gay men, there are certain themes that I see over and over in my practice. Perhaps the most prevalent is the incessant need and unending pursuit of validation.

    This theme has become so pervasive in my work that I’ve coined my own term to describe it: validation dysphoria.

    Symptoms of this experience include:

    • Constant craving for the approval of others.
    • Dependence on external validation to maintain self-esteem.
    • Chronic feelings inadequacy and low self-worth.
    • Social anxiety.
    • Lacking authenticity in personal relationships.

    Folks with validation dysphoria hold the belief that they are not worthy unless they receive constant praise from others. They simply confuse positive attention from others as proof of their self worth.

    Most gay men can relate to the origins of this struggle. We’ve grown up believing that who we are inherently is not enough. As out gay men, we’ve been conditioned to believe that our self-worth is entirely dependent on how we look, how successful we are, and how impressive we are to others.

    Attempting to sustain self-worth becomes a never-ending chase for more and more validation. However, with a hole at the bottom, the cup is only ever full for a fleeting moment before one is left feeling empty and depleted again. Validation provides a momentary fix, a temporary high, but it quickly fades. The truth is that any validation we receive is only temporarily potent. You might receive lots of attention at your local gym on a Tuesday, only to be met with barely any notice at all on Wednesday. As validation comes and goes, so does your self-worth. If several handsome guys flirt with you, you are worthy. If they don’t, you’re not.

    While this experience is most pronounced among gay men, validation dysphoria can manifest in various aspects of life, such as work, friendships, and family.

    The best way to debunk validation dysphoria is to realize that the ultimate validation you need can only come from yourself. Once you are clear that you see and value all parts of yourself — both good and bad — you’re free. You no longer need validation from others to feel good about yourself. Will validation still feel nice? Of course. But it will just be icing on the cake, not an essential ingredient you need to survive.

    Convincing ourselves to give up long-standing belief systems about our self-worth is no easy feat. Although validation-seeking is a very unsuccessful way of sustaining self-esteem, it is a method. I’ve found that, although it’s torturous, many people don’t want to let this strategy go.

    I’ve found that the most confident, secure people I’ve come across simply don’t depend on others to feel worthy. They’ve already found a sense of self-acceptance from within. That’s the task that all of us must do to finally be free of validation-seeking for good.

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    Michael Pezzullo
    Michael Pezzullohttp://www.michaelpezzullo.com
    Michael Pezzullo (He/Him/His) is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He earned his Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University. Michael works in private practice in West Hollywood, CA. He specializes in LGBTQ+ affirmative psychotherapy, substance use disorders and trauma. Learn more at www.michaelpezzullo.com Find him on Instagram at @the_weho_therapist


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    2 months ago

    Glad to see there is a therapist to help our fellow gay men with their issues and problems. The descriptions of the issues gay men face nowadays were things I faced when I was younger.You just could feel being undervalued and unappreciated.

    I am retired how,so there is not the immediate and desperate need to be validated.I still get those feelings now and then,but they soon go away.I wished there was someone like Mr. Pezzullo to talk to when I was younger.

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