The Need for Approval was one of my first posts on this blog and has remained the most popular ever since. I initially wrote it for another blog about 3 years ago which I have since deleted. What I haven’t done until now is to revisit it really to see where I am but also to, at least, offer some insight into what I believe helped me move forward.
When I first wrote it, it was a way for me to understand why I would do certain things and behave in a certain way. I was under the impression that I was the only one having this issue to deal with.
Have I moved forward since I wrote the initial post? Absolutely! but there’s still work to do. I have come to a place where I accept myself and respect myself for who I am, most of the time. I have learned to to stop myself when I do something purely to get approval.
Whenever I get the urge to tell someone about some kind of achievement, I stop myself and ask why I want to tell that person! Am I telling them just to hear them say “well done” or is there a real purpose in me telling them? I still give in to the urge now and again but the point is that at least now I manage to stop myself and question whether I am doing it for a valid reason or simply to gain approval.
I wanted to stop feeding the need for approval from others and this was difficult, especially in the beginning, but after a while I kind of started giving myself approval instead. I began to realise that when I gave myself approval the need to get it from external sources gradually lost it’s power.
There are times when, even after I question the motive, I still allow myself to act just for the sake of approval and that’s ok. Change does not happen instantly, it happens gradually.
I would be lying if I told you that it has completely disappeared, but compared to 18 months ago I am much more in control.
I really do not have a specific method of getting rid of this need. I have tried various approaches, some of which worked well, but my real failure here was not keeping a record of exactly what I did, which means I am having to rely purely on memory.
Reading “You Can Heal YourLife” was a major part in helping me to get to where I am now. It helped me understand that the reason I felt the need for approval from external sources was because I didn’t get it from myself. It helped me understand that the reason I didn’t get approval from myself was because I constantly felt I wasn’t good enough! Good enough for what??? I am not sure!
I followed the instructions in that book for the first time in my life and I in all honesty it was strange to begin with. Some of them made me feel silly and I felt so much resistance in the shape of the voice in my mind (my ego) telling me that this was a waste of time. One of the instruction is to affirm to yourself over and over again “I love and approve of myself” and while this seems easy enough, this was the part I felt the most resistance towards. Not because I refused to actually love and approve of myself but because I found the idea so silly that I had a hard time doing it. Luckily I perservered and I still say that phrase to myself, mostly without even thinking about it. Sometimes I create little songs in my head and sing away “I love and approve of myself”. I obviously do not sing it out loud in fear of being sectioned under the mental health act!
But maybe the fact that I kept doing it for so long meant that I eventually ended up actually believing it.
In addition to the affirmation I began telling myself that no matter what, I am always doing the best that I can in that particular moment. This may not be good enough by someone else’s standards but I kept telling myself that I did the best that I could.
No matter where you are in life, no matter what you are trying to achieve, there will always be someone ahead of you. Someone who may have a lot more experience, more training, more help. For me, the important part was to stop comparing myself to other people’s achievements and focus on my own journey. This reduced the impatience and urgency to get to the end result and helped me focus on the journey itself. I am not suggesting that one should stop learning from the successes of others. I still get inspired and learn from people who are more successful than me in whatever area you want to succeed at, but I now learn without feeling like a failure because they are better than me. I no longer compare myself with others.
I do not believe any person is better or any worse than anyone else. It’s down to experience, circumstances and other factors. I may be perceived at being better at doing my job than a colleague (or worse) but I really do not believe that I am. I may have more experience, better circumstances, better tools etc.
When I don’t compare myself to others, I feel more at peace with myself and I seem to function better. I still have work to do but I also see and feel the improvement.