Why seeking your own approval first and foremost is necessary. Image courtesy of Mister GC at freedigitalphotos.net
I believe it is quite natural for human beings to seek approval. Evolutionary survival instincts meant that ‘there was safety in numbers’, and along with receiving approval, we have a feeling we are not alone in our beliefs, feelings and behaviour.
When we gain approval, we may become more confident and certain in ourselves. Others’ approbation of a particular behaviour may because of this increased sense of confidence in ourselves, to make a decision we feel unsure of.
We often associate being approved of with being liked. When other people give us the ‘thumbs up’, we may feel more worthwhile. So desire, to varying degrees, to be approved of as a person, can be seen to be somewhat natural.
However, as we all know, it is ‘impossible to please all of the people all of the time.’
It is often people who mean the most to us whose approval is most important to us: such as family and close friends. However, even though these people may love us and care about us, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will have their approval for some decisions we wish to make.
Fear of rejection is another reason people value approval from others. Again, this may be something to do with the instinct of not being alone.
Obviously, however, no matter how close somebody is to us, they are not always going to approve of our choices. The best scenario, of course, is when those close to us are supportive of us, even though they might not approve of our choices. However, unfortunately some of our close circle may express disapproval and not act as supportively.
It takes a certain degree of self-confidence and certainty in one’s values and decisions to feel one can risk disapproval and still have the bravery to follow through on what we believe.
If we ask each of the individuals in our close circle of friends, as well as our family, “What do you think?” the odds are you are going to get a range of varying opinions.
Therefore, if we are at risk of not doing something that deep down we approve of because somebody or many people we may ask may disagree, we may be stuck in a state of inauthenticity.
I have often made the mistake of asking everyone who is important to me “What do you think I should do?” or “Is this a good idea”. As mentioned, not surprisingly, I will get a whole plethora of different responses. So who’s right?
No-one knows you like you do. Because everyone is going to say something different anyway (most of the time), it may leave you in a state of feeling confused. You may feel split about whose approval means the most to you. Especially if you fear your close friends and family might abandon you, or withdraw affection and criticise your decisions, you may have another problem on your hands besides which decision to make: you may become obsessed by whose approval means the most of you. The reason being that loss of that approval might also be seen as risky in terms of a consequent loss of overt supportive and loving behaviour from them if you do what you feel you want to do, not what they believe you should do.
There probably are plenty of folk reading this who would say they really don’t worry about whether other people approve. These people often have higher self-esteem and self-confidence.
However, if pleasing people is important to you, you probably are used to asking what you should do for many decisions. This is especially true if you don’t think about whether you approve of your choice or yourself.
In fact, approval seeking may be so ingrained, others’ approbation so important that after a while you may feel quite out of touch with what in fact you want. You may be so busy seeking approval from others, you may be compromising your integrity and authenticity, without meaning to because you don’t realise that others’ support means that much to you.
Therefore, if you are willing to be brave and ‘do what you want, it may feel uncomfortable at first. You may feel confused about what to do, because you are so used to asking others.
However, if you go to a quiet place, firstly tell yourself you will empty your mind of others’ expectations, real or imagined. Ponder what it is that you may normally ask others about. Now, with them out of your mind, you are now in a position to allow your intuition, that inner knowingness to signal to you.
In the quiet, devoid of others’ voices saying “should/should not” let your heart speak to you.
This may be difficult at first, but being true to yourself is necessary to achieve a degree of ‘being whole’ in one’s own skin. However, over time if you listen to that quiet voice of intuition, your confidence grows and you will find you are increasingly in touch with what you want.
You may feel wrong or even self-indulgent or selfish at first when you seek only your own approval. However, if doing what you believe in does not affect others, and it only means that’s not what they would have done ‘if they were you’, there is no rational reason for that guilt.
Give yourself a pat on the back and say ‘well done’ when you are authentic to yourself and your hearts desires, when following them does not adversely affect others, of course. This is the start of your journey to self-validation, which is much more empowering, because you are not putting the power in others’ hands.
It may be easier to give up approval-seeking if you do not even mention what it is you plan to do after you make up your mind. It’s fine to do this with people who will respect your decision, but some people might put forth a comment that will put doubts in your mind, even if you don’t specifically ask for their approval. Particularly at first along your journey of relying on your own approval, once you have acted due to this self-validation, it may still be best to keep mum. You may find it beneficial to do your own thing you have approved of quietly.
Even once you have gone ahead, having given yourself ‘the thumbs up’, because you are in the early stages of relying on just self-approbation, you’ll want to feel comfortable doing this before telling people what you have decided. If you make a decision based on your own approval only just once, you still are susceptible to go back to relying on others’ approval also. You’ll often find that when you tell people your plans, without them meaning to ‘tell you what to do’ it’s often human nature for others to put forth their opinions automatically.
However, over time, your confidence will grow. That inner voice will become clearer with regard to your personal values. Feel good you are being authentic.
You don’t even need to share your self-approved actions. Unless it involves another person, others don’t have to know.
You will find self-approval a much easier way to live. Hopefully you will enjoy the feeling of being true to yourself, because are acting in line with your intuition and a sense of being in control because you are choosing what to do. You probably will feel stronger and more confident, also.
If you are true to yourself, it may not be the easiest way short-term, but long term you will feel like you are a whole person, and most importantly an authentic person.