Delightful client I'll call Claire. A gentle sweet soul, making her way through life in a quiet and unassuming way. It turns out Claire is not doing a whole heap of things that would make her happy. Joining a choir. Making her own clothes. Taking a trip to Asia. Going for a promotion.
Why? Because she is so, so, very afraid that each choice will not meet with universal approval. What if she misses a note, and people laugh? What if people don't like that quirkily fashioned skirt? What if no one from the tour wants to talk to her in the temples of Thailand? What if she can't do the new job perfectly and everyone knows it and thinks she shouldn't have got it?
It paralyses her. And so she does none of these things. And life stays small. Her fear of not receiving approval stops her from creating opportunities to make her own heart sing. She has handed all her power away. She is not alone.
Before you judge Claire, take a look inside. There are way more of us who are closet approval-seekers than you might think. The rise of social media and the selfie have fuelled a culture of approval-seeking. Ever had a little lift in mood as you got more "likes" than you thought; ever wondered what was wrong with that status update that it got so few (doesn't anyone care?) Approval-seeking comes in many forms, and when we base a piece of our self worth on it we are in trouble. It means we have handed the power of how we feel about our own self directly into the hands of others. That we are dependent on receiving a certain response from outside ourself in order to feel good on the inside. That, my friend, is a very dangerous way to live.
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Look, we all want to be liked. Of course we do! It's nice when people say nice things, compliment us, agree with us, support us. It feels awesome.
But it should never take the place of being our own cheerleader.
The approval of others can add to and enhance our own validation of our choices, but it should never replace it. We have to take back our power.
The more your choice resonates for you at a deep level, so you approve of it heart and soul - the less you need someone else to approve. You cannot, simply cannot, put your all self-esteem in the hands of other people dependent on whether they they approve of your life choices, or how funny/pretty/smart/hardworking you are or not.
You don't even like some of these people you want approval from. Hell, you don;t even know some of these people. It's a big ol' world out there. There are a few, if any, choices that are going to meet with universal approval. For anyone. Even if you are Beyonce - even if you are a multitalented, gorgeous multimillionaire and philanthropist - there will always be someone who doesn't like Beyonce. But that doens't mean Beyonce should stop being Beyonce and doing Beyonce-type stuff.
It is not just unrealistic, but actually impossible, to expect "everyone" to approve of you all the time. It's also something you simply cannot control. We have to stop trying, and take our power back to where we do have control: If you approve of you, that's an essential ingredient for a happy, fulfilled life. If other people approve of you, that's a nice added extra.
Other people's approval is the cherry on the cake. Your approval is the cake itself. Take back your power. You can have your cake and eat it - and self-approval tastes delicious.