“Everybody does not have to like you. That is not their job. Liking you is not anyone’s purpose in life except yours” Iyanla Vanzant.
Do you seek the approval of others?
Do you experience deep emotional pain when you’re rejected by someone you care about or respect?
Congratulations, you’re human.
And as a human you are a social being. For better or worse, this means that we seek the approval of others, often as a way to feel connected with our fellow human beings.
But if we hang our happiness and well-being on the approval of others, this is a sure recipe for a life of disappointment and sadness. Even when we’re fully aware of this, we can easily fall into the approval-seeking trap.
So how can you know whether your sincere attempts at human connection has turned into full-blown approval seeking?
Here’s the main difference:
The desire for healthy human connection is about generosity toward others while approval seeking is about you: your fears, doubts, and anxieties.
When in approval seeking mode:
- We insist the other person tell us what we need to hear to feel secure.
- We’re indecisive because we’re afraid to disappoint others.
- We violate our personal boundaries in order to please.
- We get angry when others don’t violate their personal boundaries in-kind.
- We hold grudges, sometimes for years.
- We’re constantly trying to figure out what others think of us.
- One well placed criticism is enough to crush our goals and dreams.
How can we fight back against this insidious force?
In his book The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen writes:
“You cannot give yourself to others if you do not own yourself, and you can only truly own yourself when you have been fully received in unconditional love.”
Furthermore, to paraphrase Nouwen, when we do not own ourselves, manipulation masquerades as generosity.
Truth is, there is nothing anybody can do to make you “own yourself.” The fact that you are here means that you were loved into existence, regardless of the circumstances of your birth or early upbringing.
In every moment, you are being loved into existence–by God, by the universe, by your own body that works tirelessly to keep you alive and well. Knowing that you are loved unconditionally is the first step to freeing yourself from the approval trap.
How to overcome your approval-seeking addiction
Close your eyes.
Put your hands on your heart.
Take a deep breath.
And smile the broadest smile you can muster.