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How Losing Someone’s Approval Can Set You Free

How Losing Someone’s Approval Can Set You Free

I recently read about an athlete who made it all the way to the Olympics despite loathing their chosen sport. They committed their entire life to seeking one tiny, yet colossal, sentence—I’m proud of you.  At some point we all have someone we want to please, whose approval means the world to us.

I have an incredibly clear memory of the person I wanted approval from telling me I was intelligent, the kind of memory that stays crystal clear because you’ve recalled it so many times. I had parroted someone’s opinion about buying a Canadian soda. “We should really support our own economy,” ten year old me said.  I had no idea what that meant, but I was looked at with approval, and my heart glowed. It felt so darn good.

I loved that feeling. The approval of my hero.  It was nothing like the Olympic athlete, but I made some very big decisions based what might make them proud. I was hugely affected by wanting their approval.

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Four months ago this person removed me from their life. It hurt. A lot.

However, in life there is rarely hurt without growth.  I recently reflected on myself and my behavior since then and noticed something—I feel free.

After a period of denial and upset, I accepted that this is just how it is.  I cannot have their approval.  They don’t “get” me.  They never have, and they probably never will.  It’s not my fault, and it’s not their fault either—it simply is what it is.

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This realization made me see how often I was modifying myself according to the thought, “what would they think?”  It was shockingly frequent.  This person had become an archetype for all kinds of people, and I’d been censoring myself constantly to avoid judgement.  I suddenly felt like I’d been a half-assed version of myself my whole life!

I’d been using the desire for approval as an unconscious excuse for hiding.  My excuse was gone as soon as I realized it existed (as often happens with our shadow aspects).  I had no one to point at for holding me back from being truly wholehearted.

It was time to authentically step into myself and stop hiding who I am from others.  Even if that person seems likely to be met with judgement.  Even if what I really want to do with my life is incredibly intimidating and involves being extremely vulnerable.

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Sometimes I miss the ol’ days when I had surrounded myself with judgement-protecting walls.  When I could think to myself, “you can’t judge me, psssch, you don’t even know me.”  It was safe there with no one seeing “the real me”—safe, and maddeningly, suffocatingly constricting.

Are you hiding?  I hid in approval-seeking.  Do you hide behind a veil of aloofness?  A carefully crafted image?  Perhaps well-timed jokes keep people from seeing you?  Maybe you hide behind judgment.  We all have our ways, and it can be really scary to let them go.

The thing is though, as long as we prevent ourselves from being truly seen, we will never be truly understood.  Connection with others won’t be wholly authentic, and we will edit ourselves because we fear potential thoughts in other people’s heads.  It’s really pretty silly.

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It’s okay to not be accepted.  In fact, you will never be accepted.  If you finally gain the approval that was so dearly wanted, it will be lost from someone else.  (Yourself, likely.)  You will also miss out on connecting with people who really do see you, and who think you kick ass.

A messy falling out isn’t necessary to be freed from wanting someone’s approval.  You don’t even have to tell them that you no longer care what they think of you.  Just go ahead and do what makes you happy, be unapologetically yourself, and go for the things you really want in life.  Do your thing, and let them do theirs. 

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    Featured photo credit: Paul Gillard via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on July 3, 2020

    30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

    30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

    In today’s world, true peace must come from within us and our own actions. Here are 30 small things you can do on a regular basis to increase your overall sense of harmony, peace, and well-being:

    1. Don’t go to every fight you’re invited to

    Particularly when you’re around those who thrive on chaos, be willing to decline the invitation to join in on the drama.

    2. Focus on your breath

    Throughout the day, stop to take a few deep breaths. Keep stress at bay with techniques such as “square breathing.” Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, then out for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.

    3. Get organized and purge old items

    A cluttered space often creates a cluttered spirit. Take the time to get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year and invest in organizational systems that help you sustain a level of neatness.

    4. Stop yourself from being judgmental

    Whenever you are tempted to have an opinion about someone else’s life, check your intentions. Judging others creates and promotes negative energy.

    5. Say ‘thank you’ early and often

    Start and end each day with an attitude of gratitude. Look for opportunities in your daily routine and interactions to express appreciation.

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    6. Smile more

    Even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” there are many scientific benefits of smiling and laughing. Also, pay attention to your facial expression when you are doing neutral activities such as driving and walking. Turn that frown upside down!

    7. Don’t worry about the future

    As difficult as this sounds, there is a direct connection between staying in the present and living a more peaceful life. You cannot control the future. As the old proverb goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Practice gently bringing your thoughts back to the present.

    8. Eat real food

    The closer the food is to the state from which it came from the earth, the better you will feel in eating it. Choose foods that grew from a plant over food that was made in a plant.

    9. Choose being happy over being right

    Too often, we sacrifice inner peace in order to make a point. It’s rarely worth it.

    10. Keep technology out of the bedroom

    Many studies, such as one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have connected blue light of electronic devices before bed to adverse sleep and overall health. To make matters worse, many people report that they cannot resist checking email and social media when their cell phone is in reach of their bed, regardless of the time.

    11. Make use of filtering features on social media

    You may not want to “unfriend” someone completely, however you can choose whether you want to follow their posts and/or the sources of information that they share.

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    12. Get comfortable with silence

    When you picture someone who is the ultimate state of peace, typically they aren’t talking.

    13. Listen to understand, not to respond

    So often in conversations, we use our ears to give us cues about when it is our turn to say what we want to say. Practice active listening, ask questions, process, then speak.

    14. Put your troubles in a bubble

    Whenever you start to feel anxious, visualize the situation being wrapped in a bubble and then picture that sphere floating away.

    15. Speak more slowly

    Often a lack of peace manifests itself in fast or clipped speech. Take a breath, slow down, and let your thoughtful consideration drive your words.

    16. Don’t procrastinate

    Nothing adds stress to our lives like waiting until the last minute.

    17. Buy a coloring book

    Mandala coloring books for adults are becoming more popular because of their connection to creating inner peace.

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    18. Prioritize yourself

    You are the only person who you are guaranteed to live with 24 hours a day for the rest of your life.

    19. Forgive others

    Holding a grudge is hurting you exponentially more than anyone else. Let it go.

    20. Check your expectations

    Presumption often leads to drama. Remember the old saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

    21. Engage in active play

    Let your inner child come out and have some fun. Jump, dance, play, and pretend!

    22. Stop criticizing yourself

    The world is a hard enough place with more than enough critics. Your life is not served well by being one of them.

    23. Focus your energy and attention on what you want

    Thoughts, words, and actions all create energy. Energy attracts like energy. Put out what you want to get back.

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    24. Assign yourself “complaint free” days.

    Make a conscious decision not to complain about anything for a whole day. It might be harder than you think and the awareness will stick with you.

    25. Surround yourself with people you truly enjoy being in the company of

    Personalities tend to be contagious, and not everyone’s is worth catching. Be judicious in your choices.

    26. Manage your money

    Financial concerns rank top on the list of what causes people stress. Take the time each month to do a budget, calculate what you actually spend and sanity check that against the money you have coming in.

    27. Stop trying to control everything

    Not only is your inner control freak sabotaging your sense of peace, it is also likely getting in the way of external relationships as well.

    28. Practice affirmations

    Repeat positive phrases that depict the life and qualities you want to attract. It may not come naturally to you, but it works.

    29. Get up before sunrise

    Personally witnessing the dawn brings a unique sense of awe and appreciation for life.

    30. Be yourself

    Nothing creates more inner discord than trying to be something other than who we really are. Authenticity breeds happiness.

    Featured photo credit: man watching sunrise via stokpic.com

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