Take 3 deep breaths. Think back on your childhood and things you did to get attention. Were they good behaviors to be seen as the good child or were they naughty actions to be seen as someone who needed to be scolded and constantly reminded to try better? No matter which route you took, or even a combination, you were probably trying to win approval from the adults around you. Depending on the reactions you got, it further reinforced this behavior.
I am going to be honest, as a child, I don’t know if I just liked the bad route or if I got used to being told “Stop that Aimee. Go to your room.” But I probably thought that was my name for a while. Gotoyourroom. <<< my name. So I got used to lots of alone time and introspection. Not a bad thing, really, but I did want to fit in as I got older.
Apparently, we have been wired since before time, seriously, to be a “pack” or a group. It used to be linked to survival just like in animals, but times have changed. We aren’t trying to forage in the cold wilderness and seek shelter. We have evolved; however, someone forgot to tell us that. We are still seeking that pack acceptance…the need to fit in.
At home we want our parents, siblings, and relatives to like us. We genuinely want to have love and with love, we feel like we have to have that approval. That doting grandma beaming at our accomplishments creating the shrine to how great we are. Saving that last bite of special cake for us. This does not always happen. Ha. Sometimes, we are the black sheep. Baaaa.
At work we want our co-workers to give us high-fives in the hallway. Our boss to nod at us in respect and say things like “You saved the x account today. Single handed. It was all you.” You want that Elle Woods moment in the court room where everyone thought you weren’t paying attention, but you were smarter than you looked. But the truth is, sometimes your life is more like Friends where Chandler has worked at his office for years and not a soul knows what he does.
You ask yourself questions each and every night like:
- Will I still be liked if I am 15 pounds heavier?
- What if I don’t wear the exact right outfit to work tomorrow? Will they laugh at me?
- What if I stand up and say no to something that is wrong with this policy at work? Will I get fired?
- What if I answer truthfully because I am really tired of how I have been treated…will I still have love/respect/a place in this world?
- What if I was honest?
You, my friend, are creating the pressure for yourself.
5 Steps to Stop Seeking the Approval of Others:
- Firstly, what is it you actually want out of the relationship? Ask yourself what the end goal is and if you seeking approval is going to produce that or help you in any way. The answer might even surprise you. Journal it right now. You can do this in a variety of ways. Put the desired result in the middle of a bubble and your actions all around it that will produce the result, or just write about it.
- Identify what emotion or result you were seeking from the above exercise. If the answer is acceptance, ask yourself if you fully accept yourself right now as you are. Faults and all. If the answer is love, take a good hard look in the mirror. Are you worthy of love? Of course you are. No past mistakes are bad enough that you are not worthy of loving yourself. Your subconscious is likely remembering language from your childhood. “Why are you always bad?” “You aren’t good enough…” “Why can’t you be more like so and so.” <<< So and so is now in jail. Or has had a rough life because everyone thought they were so great. It’s time we move our inner child past these experiences with some loving kindness to ourselves. You can heal these wounds by noticing every time you think these thoughts and allowing yourself to replace them with the mantra “I am worthy of love. I am enough.” Write this in your journal.
- Take baby steps. In any good program they say things like “Well, it took you 9 months to gain that weight…” or whatever, but we forget the months and expect immediate results. When I deal with clients who are in a rush, I watch their language. What they are willing to change and work on right now without expecting to change over night always tells me more about themselves than they realize. Are they being honest with themselves? Are they willing to do the work? <<< 2 great questions to ask yourself. Don’t attach yourself to a certain place, friend, job, promotion etc. without seeing all the steps it takes to make it work. Your self-worth is also not tied up in the fact that sometimes things simply don’t work out. Not trying to throw anyone under the bus, but take teacher of the year. It was not ever based on merit in my school district. One lady won because she was not actually at work all year. True story. She was ill, and people were glad she was better. While I get this, truly I do, other people were so wrapped up in winning that they talked about this for months. It was never in your control. Period. Let. It. Go. Be like Elsa.
- On that note, learn to take rejection. Things happen. Let’s think back to the first time you faced rejection. Hmmm. I got it. My school team (back then it was called Olympics of the Mind), came really close to winning the top prize and going to state, which was a big deal to my 5th grade self. Sadly, we lost. But we all had a great deal of fun and our performance was very unique. We got to work together on the props and I made new friends. I still talk to those people today…some x number of years I won’t name later. Fast forward to being observed as a teacher. UGH. I could not stand it because there were so many factors out of my control. Would x kid act like his lost his mind today? Definitely. Would such and such say something embarrassing? Yes. Always. But what could I control? Me. Myself. And I. I would visualize the lesson going perfectly, having the correct responses, and being prepared. Sometimes it worked…sometimes I had to say you know what? I will try again tomorrow. <<< always remember you can try again. Something better might be coming from that rejection and you never even saw it coming.
- Lastly, remember you are always learning. Focus on you and only you. Learn to be like the cool new Michael Phelps meme out there. It looks like this:But it says winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners. Or something like that:) I know many, many people who are constantly checking on what others are doing. Do you think the people out there doing things are thinking about them? Nope. Have a “growth mindset” where you know you have some things to learn, but looking at other people and where they are is not going to help you. Only focus on you and your path.
Want to work with me on changing yourself in a self-guided course? More on that here. Also see Head|Heart|Health for more.