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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 September 20, 2018

    7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

    7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

    What do I want to do with my life? It’s a question all of us think about at one point or another.

    For some, the answer comes easily. For others, it takes a lifetime to figure out.

    It’s easy to just go through the motions and continue to do what’s comfortable and familiar. But for those of you who seek fulfillment, who want to do more, these questions will help you paint a clearer picture of what you want to do with your life.

    1. What are the things I’m most passionate about?

    The first step to living a more fulfilling life is to think about the things that you’re passionate about.

    What do you love? What fulfills you? What “work” do you do that doesn’t feel like work? Maybe you enjoy writing, maybe you love working with animals or maybe you have a knack for photography.

    The point is, figure out what you love doing, then do more of it.

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    2. What are my greatest accomplishments in life so far?

    Think about your past experiences and the things in your life you’re most proud of.

    How did those accomplishments make you feel? Pretty darn good, right? So why not try and emulate those experiences and feelings?

    If you ran a marathon once and loved the feeling you had afterwards, start training for another one. If your child grew up to be a star athlete or musician because of your teachings, then be a coach or mentor for other kids.

    Continue to do the things that have been most fulfilling for you.

    3. If my life had absolutely no limits, what would I choose to have and what would I choose to do?

    Here’s a cool exercise: Think about what you would do if you had no limits.

    If you had all the money and time in the world, where would you go? What would you do? Who would you spend time with?

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    These answers can help you figure out what you want to do with your life. It doesn’t mean you need millions of dollars to be happy though.

    What it does mean is answering these questions will help you set goals to reach certain milestones and create a path toward happiness and fulfillment. Which leads to our next question …

    4. What are my goals in life?

    Goals are a necessary component to set you up for a happy future. So answer these questions:

    Once you figure out the answers to each of these, you’ll have a much better idea of what you should do with your life.

    5. Whom do I admire most in the world?

    Following the path of successful people can set you up for success.

    Think about the people you respect and admire most. What are their best qualities? Why do you respect them? What can you learn from them?

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    You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.[1] So don’t waste your time with people who hold you back from achieving your dreams.

    Spend more time with happy, successful, optimistic people and you’ll become one of them.

    6. What do I not like to do?

    An important part of figuring out what you want to do with your life is honestly assessing what you don’t want to do.

    What are the things you despise? What bugs you the most about your current job?

    Maybe you hate meetings even though you sit through 6 hours of them every day. If that’s the case, find a job where you can work more independently.

    The point is, if you want something to change in your life, you need to take action. Which leads to our final question …

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    7. How hard am I willing to work to get what I want?

    Great accomplishments never come easy. If you want to do great things with your life, you’re going to have to make a great effort. That will probably mean putting in more hours the average person, getting outside your comfort zone and learning as much as you can to achieve as much as you can.

    But here’s the cool part: it’s often the journey that is the most fulfilling part. It’s during these seemingly small, insignificant moments that you’ll often find that “aha” moments that helps you answer the question,

    “What do I want to do with my life?”

    So take the first step toward improving your life. You won’t regret it.

    Featured photo credit: Andrew Ly via unsplash.com

    Reference

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