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How Our Obsession With Other People’s Approvals Is Destroying Us

How Our Obsession With Other People’s Approvals Is Destroying Us

On a real note, we all strive for some level of approval from our peers. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a bit of recognition for our accomplishments, but it seems that a “bit” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Many people value their self-worth based on the opinion and approval of others, and are constantly asking themselves, “what would people think?”

It’s real easy to say, “don’t care what other people think,” but we all know that is much easier said than done.

We all have this innate nature to impress or one-up each other, but some of us have convinced ourselves of the falsehood that people are always watching.

Perhaps this notion comes from the fact that we are constantly putting ourselves in the spotlight. It has become a necessity to build a “following” and showcase an admirable lifestyle. If we don’t receive the attention that we are seeking, it can be incredibly crushing. And even worse; if we happen to mess up, we think that everyone is judging us and gossiping about our failures. Perhaps it’s time that we realize that the public isn’t watching as closely as you’d like (or not like) to think.

This need for approval is developed in early childhood, and only snowballs from there.

Sometimes you may feel like a puppy dog, panting and begging for approval. Did you ever wonder where we developed this need? Ever since childhood, we’ve been conditioned by our parents, teachers and mentors to do well in order to receive their admiration. As we reach new milestones in life, we develop new facets of people that we need to impress.

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As children, we are given a set of rules and expectations to live by. When we do well, we get a gold star or a pat on the back. Our mentors tell us that they are proud; so early on we develop the concept that we need approval to know that we are doing well.

Now, we’re growing up and progressing through school. We start expressing our personalities, and receive judgment for the way that we do so. Our peers divide and clique up, label each other, and compartmentalize into a caste system of sorts. Are you popular, a nerd, a “freak”? How your peers perceive you at this age has an extreme impact on how we view ourselves.

Once school is over and we are released into the “real world”, the cultural hierarchy only becomes all the more complicated. You may notice yourself trying to portray yourself in a different light to your boss and coworkers so that they’ll like you and give you their approval. You take on an almost chameleon-like adaptability to fit in and impress whichever audience is at hand.

Praise and acknowledgment undoubtedly increase our self-esteem. And since this praise is external, it is no surprise that we put an emphasis purely on external factors to determine our self-worth, and weigh our self-esteem.

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There is one huge element here that is being painfully overlooked. We are talking about SELF worth, and SELF esteem. We determine how to view ourselves based on how others perceive us. The truth is, we will never truly know what anyone really thinks about us, so the fact that we weigh approval from others so heavily is really quite silly.

We put up a front of how we want people to view us, denying our true selves, and destroying our self-worth.

It almost seems that many people are denying their true selves, squashing the elements that make them unique under the infrastructure of the façade they are putting up. A front if you will. The average person “brands” themselves and alters their personalities and appearance to fulfill a superficial image that they think others will like and admire. When that admiration is not received, it is not uncommon to experience depression because of it.

When there is such an emphasis for approval, it causes extreme turmoil when the approval is not received.

For example: social media likes. It pains me to admit that is a real issue, but unfortunately this is the world that we live in. Say that you spend hours perfecting your look, finding the right location and lighting, and using what you think is all of the right hashtags. Now you post, and you wait. The likes are stacking up, but not at the velocity that you’d hoped. You were aiming for 100+ but only received a measly 57. Now your day is ruined. You’re not as pretty as you thought. Your hair doesn’t even look good in that style. You’re so humiliated that you take the picture down, erasing any evidence of your hideous attempt at selfie-posting.

Social climbing is another common practice of the self-esteem deficient as well.

Surrounding yourself with people you don’t necessarily like because of the prestige and opportunities that it brings you. These people are not your friends, and want to see you fail. But they will support and praise you as long as you are doing well and reflect the image that they want to maintain. This lack of solid relationships will no doubt effect your self esteem. Without a good support system and a real friend to turn to, you will ultimately feel alone, and maybe a bit worthless because none of your “friends” actually care about you.

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How do we reverse the toxic effects?

Realize no one is watching as closely as you think.

Identify the Spotlight Effect, the incorrect notion that everyone is watching.[1] In all actuality, we are the only ones who fixate on our failures.

Your peers may be paying attention to what you do, but you’re not constantly under scrutiny. I don’t mean this negatively, but no one really cares how many likes you get or followers you have. And if they do, then it’s about time that person got a life (outside of the nonexistent virtual one most people just stagnate in.)

A personal example of this: for years I have struggled with a slight stammer and have gone through great efforts to remedy this impairment. Every time I stutter a bit, I think everyone is noticing and judging me. The truth is, most people don’t pay it any mind. And if they do, they’re not dissecting my worth as a person because I s-s-stuttered a bit.

Brush off the haters.

Sure, some people may judge you. Some people may even talk trash about you. Take it as a compliment. If you have haters, then that means that you intimidate others. Why would they feel the need to take you down a notch unless they felt that you were above them? Put those hater blockers on, and take it in stride. If people want to see you fail, then you’re doing something right.

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Be yourself, uncensored, and unapologetic.

I’m sure you have heard the overuse of the phrase “you must love yourself before you can love anyone else.” Well, it’s true. You will never be able to maintain healthy relationships with others unless you have one with yourself. When you are comfortable in your own skin, you don’t need the approval of others, and the negativity that is cast from not receiving approval will no longer have any effect.

You are free to be yourself, uncensored, and unapologetic. If anything, you will receive more admiration from people. So many are afraid to just let go and embrace their true selves.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: The Spotlight Effect

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Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, writer, & plant-based food enthusiast.

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Last Updated on September 11, 2020

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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