Why we Don’t Actually Need the Approval of Others

How would you feel if you came to the irrefutable conclusion that you no longer needed the approval of anyone else?  Like Anyone!  What would it mean for your life?  Could this change everything for you?  Would the world look different?  Feel different, maybe?

This is a personal reflection, splurged (or purged) onto the page.  This is my way of understanding what goes on in my own mind, and through this process, hopefully helping you to work through your own version. What I know is that seeking the approval of others can become a weight around our necks, so let’s look at why that is and how we can change it.

Approval Seeking Starts Early

We wait for the claps and the gleeful exclamations when we take our first steps.  Growing up, we find acceptance in nods of approval at a chosen outfit or an exam result.  It is a natural process and I totally understand how it comes about.  But, why do we let it go too far, crossing over into the negative?  How does that feeling we get from approval become less positive and more like a carrot that we can’t seem to reach?

Let’s break this down for a minute.  We are social creatures, right?  So, we want to fit in.  We want to be loved and included in the fold.  Because of this we will do whatever it takes to get that nod of approval.  When we are little we are taught to ‘be a good little girl’ which becomes our cue for life going forward.  We sit a certain way, eat a certain way and dress a certain way.

This isn’t all bad, and it doesn’t come from a bad place.  What we are being taught, on a surface level, is how to be a good human.  How to handle ourselves around others, and how to be respectful.  The problem is, the lesson that is being conveyed doesn’t land in our psyche the way it is meant to.

It’s more than Please and Thank You

As I said, the lesson is to be a good human.  We are taught our Please and Thank You.  Wonderful.  But, there’s another lesson that our pliable young minds take from this.  That is to seek approval from others.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we took the lesson of manners and didn’t distort it into something that doesn’t serve us!  Well, that would make us boring, and we humans are anything but boring!

In reality we are, well, just a bit too sensitive.  And, on top of this, we have a tendency towards the dramatic, so we overemphasize the negative!  We file away the positive lessons and fixate on the negative.  We’re a bit of a dreary bunch, aren’t we?!

So now, as fully grown adults, we sit with the challenge of retaining all the good lessons while reprogramming all the bad right out of our systems.  The lessons that keep us alert and seeking that praise constantly.  This is not easy, but if we can look at it from a logical perspective and make sense of it, it is possible.

What Would it Mean if They Approved?

Let’s not mince words here.  We’re talking validation.  Acceptance.  We’re talking being accepted into the fold.  Somewhere we belong.  These are powerful motivators and because of this it’s easy to see why approval is so important.  And, why we are easily convince that it is more important to seek the approval of others than our own.

The question is, are we looking for approval in the right places?  What if seeking approval is fine, as long as it is in the right places?  What if the approval only really needs to come from yourself?  Once we realize our own approval is all we need, we begin to attract those like minded people that also ‘approve’ of us.  In this way we are reminded that being authentic is always the way to go.  And, the irony of course is you find approval when you let go of it.

There will always be someone who has something negative to say.  A snide remark or a raised eyebrow.  What we have to decide is why it matters what they think.  Why do they frown upon us?  Chances are they are not in alignment with our choices, values, mindset etc.  It can be difficult to accept this, especially when we care about these people, but when we do we realize we probably shouldn’t be trying to force it.  Relationships should always be built on mutual trust and respect.  If you are not a natural fit, that’s ok.  Accept that.

Identify Who’s Approval Matters

Carrying on from that, one of the biggest lessons on the subject of approval is learning to recognize if you actually care about the approval you are actively seeking.  This might sound ridiculous, or even mean, but think about it.  We become so convinced that we need everyone to like us that we don’t realize that we are looking for approval where we just don’t need it.

An example of this would be seeking approval from your work colleagues.  Yes, we want their approval.  We want to be respected by them.  What we don’t want is to put their respect above our own respect for ourselves.

This is not a conversation about whether we behave in a socially unacceptable way.  We can be respectful without needing approval.  This is about not allowing yourself to be judged (or feel judged, because often it is only imagined) because of the price tag on your car or the tattoos on your arm.  We are talking about that fog we tend to slip into when someone didn’t approve.  Think about what difference it actually makes in your life whether or not this person approves.  Probably not earth shattering.

Finding your Place and your People

Then there are the people who ‘get’ you.  Who have the same values and interests.  They see the world the same way and appreciate you exactly as you are.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to seek approval from the people that share your values?

Ironically, the ones who don’t share your values and views are the ones you fight to impress while the one’s that do already approve of you.  Think about why you’re seeking approval and then decide if you’re looking for it in the right place.

And, ask yourself this question.  Why do I value the opinion of others that don’t put the same value on me?  Putting someone on a pedestal means putting yourself below them.  Take your power back by respecting your own opinion of yourself.

What Would it Mean if They didn’t Approve?

This is your standard case of misplaced fear.  We become like Chicken Little, waiting for the world to fall on our heads!  But, the world won’t come to an end, and we won’t die, if someone doesn’t like the way we dress, sing, dance etc.

What we need is to toughen up a little.  Grow some thicker skin.  But, we’re worried no one will like us anymore.  I am so guilty of this!  I am realizing that this kind of thing takes dipping your feet into the water of distaste.  Lol!  I mean, you could just jump in, but I personally need to build up my courage first.

It’s like getting into cold water.  You tense yourself up, bracing yourself for ‘impact’.  Slowly you allow your skin to make contact, and it feels like genuine pain.  Your mind does it’s thing, telling you all the stories about how bad this is going to be.  But, once you get over the initial shock you realize it ‘wasn’t that bad’.  The fear of disappointment works exactly the same way!

Why we Don’t Actually Need the Approval of Others

When it comes right down to it we don’t need their approval because they don’t decide our worth.  In plain terms, we are worthy just as we are, with or without the approval of others.  Yes, we need to ‘get along’.  We need to keep the peace.  And, yes, it is a good thing to consider how others view the world.  We just don’t want the way they see the world to overshadow our own views and values.

We all live our own experiences.  This is a ridiculously difficult truth for us humans to comprehend.  Somehow we all think everyone else needs to know, and even predict, how we are going to feel.  But, this is just not reality.  What we need to do is only what we can do.  We can be considerate, compassionate and aware.  Other than that, we need to make our decisions for the only one who’s experience we are living: ourselves.

Caring about everyone else is wonderful, until we forget to take into account how we feel.  The next time you feel like wearing something you love and that thought pops up ‘what will they think’, remind yourself that it really doesn’t matter.  Your truth and your joy is what matters.  Be strong in your own identity and truth and dip your feet in the water, it warms after a while!

Approval and Respect

The thing to always remember, from both sides of the coin, is respect.  Releasing the power of other’s approval is never an excuse to be disrespectful.  This is where you have to show inner strength.  This is where you really have to show what you are made of.

You have an opportunity to a) stand true to your values and worth and b) be the better man.  This is when you decide how you want to live your life.  How much does it matter to you to express your individuality?  Would wearing something that doesn’t reflect who you are but gets all the ‘ooh’s and aah’s’ make you feel good enough to allow your very essence to be diluted?

Do you believe it is as serious as I’m suggesting?  Try being your authentic self and see how that feels! I am not suggesting that this is an easy thing to do.  In fact it is likely to be difficult or we wouldn’t be using approval as a crutch.  But, I am saying that there will never be anything more honest and freeing in your life than to live a life true to yourself and your values.  Is it worth it?  Yes, I believe it is.

Reframe and Seek your Own Approval

Let’s finish this off with a new lesson.  A reframe on the original well intentioned lesson of approval.  Let’s seek our own approval!  Be honest, the only reason you don’t have your own approval is because you’ve been so busy seeking the approval of others.  You’ve gotten stuck on a hamster wheel of approval seeking.  It’s time to free yourself.

Stop for a moment and think about whether you are guilty of this or not.  If you are (hint: you are!), then consider how it would feel to shift the approval from everyone else to yourself.  That feeling of validation you’ve been looking for will increase a hundred fold!

Make a commitment to approve of yourself.  Of who you are as a person.  Every tiny detail including what you wear, what music you enjoy, what your hair or your waistline looks like.  There is true freedom in approving of yourself just as you are.  It’s called Self-Love!  When you really love yourself what others think means a whole lot less than it needs to.  You are able to step confidently into your future knowing your approval is all that you need.

Thank  you for reading!

Steph x

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