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How Losing Someone’s Approval Can Set You Free

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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 November 18, 2021

    10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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    10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

    We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

    A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

    So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

    • honest
    • reliable
    • competent
    • kind and compassionate
    • capable of taking the blame
    • able to persevere
    • modest and humble
    • pacific and can control anger.

    The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

    1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

    All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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    But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

    2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

    How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

    I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

    “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

    Abigail Van Buren

    3. How does this person take the blame?

    Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

    4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

    You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

    5. Read their emails.

    Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

    • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
    • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
    • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
    • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
    • Too many question marks can show anger
    • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

    6. Watch out for the show offs.

    Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

    7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

    A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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    Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

    8. Their empathy score is high.

    Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

    People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

    9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

    We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

    “One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

    Stendhal

     10. Avoid toxic people.

    These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

    • Envy or jealousy
    • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
    • Complaining about their own lack of success
    • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
    • Obsession with themselves and their problems

    Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

    Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

    Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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