Motivation and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria: The Power of Validation
Author: Donna Blackwood
As a neurodivergent individual diagnosed in my late 50s, I felt like I went through the five stages of grief as I wondered who I could have been if only I had known as a child, or even as a teenager.
I asked myself what achievements might have been possible, and how my relationships would have changed if I had the ability to identify and process the feelings of RSD, feeling dumb, and imposter syndrome. Would people have seen me as assertive rather than angry? How could I have be seen and validated so that RSD didn’t manifest in ways that were judged as being an attention seeking, being over-sensitive, or any other behaviour that is not neurotypically socially acceptable?
What is RSD?
Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) is a condition that affects many people who are neurodivergent. It can be debilitating, causing them to feel intensely negative emotions as a result of even minor perceived rejections. This can also lead to motivation difficulties, as dopamine – the chemical in our brains associated with pleasure, reward, and motivation – is more difficult for people with RSD to produce. In many cases, dopamine is only provided through medication.
However, there is hope for those affected by RSD. Research has found that one simple act can help increase dopamine levels and provide some relief from RSD – validation. Validation can come in various forms and is essentially giving someone acknowledgement and recognition for their feelings, needs or thoughts. This could be offering a hug or kind words when they are feeling down, expressing appreciation for their accomplishments or listening intently when they need to express themselves without judgement or criticism.
The Benefits of Validation
Validation is not only beneficial to those with RSD, but it also helps us all find motivation. When we receive validation our brains produce dopamine which gives us a feeling of reward and pleasure. This encourages us to keep working towards our goals and push through obstacles that may have previously felt insurmountable. Receiving validation allows us to gain confidence in ourselves and trust our decisions regarding the paths we choose regardless of whether they are met with external approval or not.
Simply put, being acknowledged and validated provides the necessary catalyst for production of dopamine in those affected by RSD which in turn increases motivation levels making it easier to achieve goals or overcome challenges. Validation serves as an important tool for helping neurodivergent individuals manage their symptoms while simultaneously improving motivation levels so they can reach their full potentials despite any obstacles that come their way.
When Did Kindness Go Out of Fashion?
At a time when technology has made it easier than ever to stay connected, it feels as though kindness has been put on the back burner. As organizations push for employees to do more work with little reward or acknowledgement, burnout and low self-esteem are becoming increasingly common for those in both corporate and freelance roles.
The world of work can be a tough one, as deadlines tighten and expectations remain high. Managers often expect more out of their employees than they can reasonably deliver, blurring the lines between necessary hard work and unrealistic expectations. Though most employers still strive to reward good performance when possible, there’s often not enough praise or appreciation given out at an institutional level. It’s no wonder so many workers feel overwhelmed, overworked, and undervalued. Even those that are neurotypical and don’t suffer from RSD.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of pushing people too far beyond their limits in exchange for pennies on the dollar (or nothing at all), employers should recognise how hard their employees are working by showing support and extending appreciation wherever possible. By creating a kinder workplace climate, companies can demonstrate that there is value in taking care of those who drive their businesses forward every day.
Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said it best: “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” This applies just as much today as it did 2,000 years ago—people are simply happier and more productive when kindness is at the centre of everything they do. Let’s bring humanity back into our workplaces and foster cultures built around generosity, respect, encouragement—and ultimately kindness.
At the end of the day, validation shouldn’t just be looked at as something that works solely for neurodivergent people with RSD – it should be seen as an essential tool for everyone who wants to truly reach their goals and sustain positive energy within themselves throughout life’s journey!
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