Do you constantly seek approval from others?
Most of us have at some time in our lives. I know I certainly have.
We find ourselves afraid to disagree with someone because we’re scared of what they might think. We do things we don’t want to do, we stick with the dead-end job, we stay in the loveless relationship and we don’t dare chase our dreams because we’re afraid of what might happen.
When someone asks our opinion, we hold back, we ourselves saying ‘yes’ far too often and we’re desperate for regular compliments to keep our self-esteem in check. And when someone doesn’t approve of what we’re doing, we’re often destroyed.
And none of this is our fault at all. It’s just how we’ve been wired as human beings.
You see, back in our cave girl days, staying part of the social group was essential to our survival. Disapproval and the possibility of rejection by the ‘tribe’ would spell the end of us. Quite literally.
Even though we don’t live in caves anymore, this unhealthy psychological habit remains and we stay trapped in lives we hate just because we’re desperate get that approval.
So if we really care about getting a badass life and becoming as confident, strong and independent as we want, we’re going to have to do something about this. Let me be your guide 🙂
Your self-esteem is caught up in your need to please
When your actions are guided by what is happening in the outside world, you become like a performing monkey who desperately works hard to entertain the public and please its master.
Then when the show is done and dusted, and everyone has gone off home, that monkey just gets a beating. Despite keeping practically the whole world happy, despite making people laugh with his tricks, the monkey loses. It’s just left cowering in the corner, scared of the beatings it knows it will receive from its master.
The master is that internal voice that suggests that you’re not perfectly imperfect as you are. The master is that part of you that demands that you live up to those unrealistic standards you set yourself and if you don’t, it will blast you with abuse.
And the monkey cowering in the corner is your confidence and self esteem as they take yet another beating.
And you know what happens to the monkey?
It’s too scared to push out of its comfort zone and try new things because it doesn’t know if the ‘master’ will approve. It’s paranoid that it’s not as ‘perfect’ as it wishes it was. Most of all, it’s desperately unhappy because deep down, it knows that this is not the life that was destined for it.
The sad truth is, the monkey in our story will never get the love and approval it’s looking for. It will never be enough.
There will never be a point where it feels validated by the world and approved by everyone it’s working so hard to please. It will never keep everyone happy. Because that’s simply impossible. So it just stays right where it is, feeling depressed, wishing that life was different.
But life can be different for the monkey and for us.
We can break through the need to get people to approve of our lives and instead start marching to our own drum. Here’s how:
1. Write it down
Boost your self-esteem, remind yourself of your ‘wins’ and develop internal validation by starting a regular self-appreciation journal. Writing in itself is therapy for the soul, and there’s something amazing about seeing positive words like these on a page.
Write down the achievements you’re proud of (no matter how small), great decisions you’ve made, your progress towards your goals and all of the stuff that makes you proud to be you.
This can take the form of a list you can stick on your fridge and look at every time you go to grab yourself a drink, or you can write it in a section of your gratitude journal.
2. Listen to your inner voice
Stop expecting the world to give you answers and listen to your inner voice instead.
Trust yourself to know what is right for you and don’t be afraid to follow that gut feeling, even if that means turning down a ‘dream’ job, leaving your ‘perfect’ partner or moving out of your ‘dream’ house.
When you allow yourself to be guided by this voice, you start listening to your real desires, not the ones that the world thinks you can chase. And you become more confident in yourself, more self-reliant and develop a zen state of mind where you understand everything is ‘as it should be’.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
You’re beautifully unique. There’s no one like you in the whole wide world. You don’t have to ‘match up’ to some preconceived idea of what you should be doing with your life, which dreams you should be following or even whether you choose to spend your day in pyjamas or not.
This is your life so please don’t continue to negatively compare yourself to others like you do. I know that it’s hard, I know that you want to be as awesome as you can be (yes, I’m a recovering perfectionist too!).
But judging yourself according to what other people look like, how they live and whether they live in a flash mansion or in the back room in their parent’s place isn’t the way to do it.
No one wins when it comes to self-comparison: that’s the nature of it. So please stop. NOW!
4. Shift the focus away from yourself
Often part of our problem when it comes to seeking approval lies in the belief that other people are judging us for our self-perceived flaws.
If we are suffering from low self-esteem, we interpret their hesitations as their lack of confidence in us, their distant look to be boredom with the conversation and their lack of interest in our lives as a sign that they don’t care.
But none of this is necessarily true. It’s not about us. It’s about them.
Maybe they feel self-conscious too. Maybe they have a distant look in their eye because they mother is sick, or they’re worried about their kids, or they’re going through some financial difficulties right now, or perhaps they just didn’t sleep well last night.
We’ve got to overcome this by taking ourselves out of the picture.
I appreciate that this isn’t always easy when you’ve spent a lifetime doing this very thing, but it very much worth the effort.
A great (but unexpected) way to do this is to keep up with your gratitude journal. Because when you show up every day to write down the things you’re grateful for, your naturally tune outwards instead of inwards and start to notice the beauty of the world, instead of worrying about getting other people’s approval.
5. Focus on what makes YOU happy
When you spend so much time thinking about getting approval from others, you forget the most important thing of all…
Are you getting approval from YOURSELF?
What do I mean here?
I mean, are you happy with the life you’re living? Or do you still have a nagging feeling that everything isn’t quite as it should be? Do you even know what would make your soul shine, or has it been so long that you’ve forgotten to even ask?
Remember, other people are not the ones living your life. It’s you. When you’re lying on your death bed and you’re looking back over the rich and fulfilling life you’ve led, will you really care about whether people liked what you were doing, or will the answers lie in your own heart?
So ask yourself now:
‘What would make me happy?’ ‘What have I been trying to deny inside myself that keeps demanding attention? ‘What would make my heart sing?’
And don’t feel the need to edit or censor your thoughts. They’re just thoughts- they won’t get you into trouble and it’s not like you’re committing yourself to doing whatever that crazy thing is. But indulge yourself for a while. And imagine, what would happen if you took steps to make this crazy thing a reality?
It’s not your fault that you seek approval from others. But that doesn’t mean that you can just keep repeating the same old patterns and living life according to someone else’s agenda instead of your own.
Yes, I know it can be insanely hard. And I’m not suggesting for a second that this will be an easy journey.
But when you open your awareness to your thought patterns, listen to your gut and start working on your own happiness…This is where the real magic happens.