Approval: An acceptance of something as satisfactory, favourable attitude or opinion, formal consent or sanction.
Take a moment to look around- I bet you we will find people striving for approval in nearly every aspect of their lives. Goodness, its normal isn’t it? We want our employers to approve of our work, we would like our significant other to look at us in a favourable light and we want our friends to like us – but should we actively seek approval to the extent that we are untrue to ourselves?
“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” Lau Tsu
People who have an insatiable need for approval may depend on others to give them a sense of worth, will do almost anything to avoid hurting others’ feelings to the extent of hiding or denying their own feelings. Some perhaps fret over consequences so much so they never make a decision or stand their ground. Most are poor at problem solving, lack self-confidence, tell lies if they think conflict will arise from telling the truth, will work very hard at keeping the peace in any relationship and are people pleasers. Often they have unrealistic ideals that if they can be a ‘good’ adult, spouse, parent or worker they do not have the freedom to be themselves, in case it’s not acceptable.
Why? What happened? Well, usually it stems from a lack of positive reinforcement and/or fear of rejection or abandonment as a child. Perhaps a too restricted upbringing resulted in them never becoming emotionally independent or they felt like they never fitted in and now they are dependent on affirmations from others all the time. Could be that as teenagers they felt the need to succumb to peer pressure to measure their worth or sense of belonging. Do you see yourself in any of these examples above?
So what are we going to do now? How can we overcome this constant feeding frenzy on the approval of others that make us dance till we drop? Well, for one, we have to realise that others can take advantage of us, make us work harder at being what THEY want us to be. On the other hand they may be overwhelmed by our neediness and move away or they might be concerned in case they say the wrong thing and get tired of ‘walking on eggs’. Either way, we stand to lose that which we crave the most.
We need to get rid of the irrational belief that we need others’ approval to feel good about ourselves. We have to acknowledge our fear of rejection and disapproval and understand that we have allowed this to overtake our lives to such an extent that we are essentially not living our own lives, but we are someone else every time we meet with people in different spheres of life. We are living a lie, pretending to be what we are not.
This weekend I would like you to make a list of all your positive traits, ask friends and family too. Define what things are important to YOU and plot a plan of action of how you are going to tell others. List the benefits of being honest with yourself and your feelings and what you stand to gain. It may be unchartered territory but let us begin somewhere