This weekend the word approval came to mind. I found myself wondering why such a simple word complicated the lives of so many of us.
I can honestly sit here today and say that I struggled with needing the approval of others for a long time. From my childhood to adulthood this word I could not escape until now.
How did I do it? I sort to understand why I needed it and started approaching life and my interactions with others and myself differently. I understand it better and no longer let it control me or my actions.
History of approval
The need to get the approval of others starts early in our lives. We grow up seeking the approval of our parents, teachers and even our friends. Why? Once we’ve seen and experienced what disappointing them feels like we try not to repeat that once it can be helped.
We like knowing that they are happy and satisfied with us. Other times their approval can make us feel like we belong. As adults, we carry that same desire into the rest of our lives. It affects us in our relationships, in the workplace even how we see and value ourselves.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of approval versus dependency on approval.
The upside of approval
It provides confirmation.
Help validate who you are.
Builds you up – making you feel good or better.
Provide a sense of belonging.
The downside of dependency on approval
When you don’t get it you don’t feel good about yourself.
It could make you feel insecure or uncertain about what you’ve done.
Some people may use it against you. They know you want their approval so they purposely don’t give it hoping this would negatively affect you.
You’re constantly second guessing yourself.
Keeps you stuck. You delay action or won’t act because you don’t believe in yourself hence you need this approval to push you into action.
It breathes a quiet fear that hinders you from truly growing as an individual.
Reflecting on all of this confirmed for me that although the approval from others is good and has its benefits it is not always necessary except in the workplace when it directly relates to your job.
More importantly, becoming heavily dependenton getting the approval of others is more damaging than good. I can tell you from first-hand experience that sometimes in life, if you sit back waiting for others to recognize, substantiate, acknowledge or reward your efforts you may be disappointed. They may not give it and sometimes if they do it may not even be genuine and can be just as hurtful.
Don’t let this get you down. Don’t let it discourage you.Don’t let such people take away how good you feel about your contribution or yourself.
Their acknowledgement or lack thereof does not make you any less of a person. It does not mean what you’ve done is not good because it is probably amazing! Once you’ve done your best and feel good about it let that satisfaction fill you up. Their thumbs up would be great but you taking joy in yourself is more important.
The trick is to value yourself first that way what others think of you would be more of an enhancer and not a deciding factor. Many times it is simply their own insecurities or jealousy that makes it difficult for them to compliment or acknowledge the good others do. That is something they have to work on.
You just have to focus on being YOUR BEST not THEIR BEST.
I would leave you with this, if you have people in your life that support and encourage you be thankful for them. Genuine people are rare hold on to them. 🙂
Once upon a time there lived two sisters Sarah and Samantha both in their early twenties who lived in the country side. Sarah was a very quiet person and did not have many friends but she was happy. She found joy in her paintings and writing poetry. She loved her sister and often wished she could be more like her fun and outgoing with lots of friends.
Samantha was the total opposite. She always liked being the centre of attention and was very popular. She was secretly angry and jealous of Sarah because she did not have her talents. She would always be negative with Sarah in hopes of discouraging her.
Their mother always told them growing up to love and support each other but Samantha always feared that if she did that Sarah would just get better and better at her talents and would eventually go off to the big city and leave her there all alone.
Sarah felt most creative near the water – the river was her favourite place to paint and write her poetry. Today was no different as Sarah set off to her favourite place. The birds were chirping, the bees were buzzing and the air was fresh and clean. Sarah found her spot under the huge cherry blossom tree and began painting taking periodic deep breaths trying to take in the beauty of the place and centre her mind as inspiration was everywhere.
She was half way into her painting when she heard a car pull up and stop on the road behind her. When she looked up she noticed a tall, handsome young man waving to her as he approached her. She had never seen him before and was a bit concerned. As he got closer she could hear his deep, strong voice, “Hello Miss, can you please tell me where Sarah Joline lives?”
“Sarah Joline, why do you want to know?” asked Sarah even more concerned that he was looking for her. “It’s a private matter, do you know where I can find her it is urgent? My name is Adam, by the way.” Sarah smiled and replied, “I am Sarah Joline, what is this about?”
Adam was happy that he had found her so easily and was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful she was. He reached into his coat and handed her a white letter sized envelope. “What is this about ?” Sarah asked again holding the envelope in her hand convinced that Adam had the wrong person. He then said, “You’ll see. It was a pleasure meeting Miss Joline I look forward to seeing you again soon.” He then turned and walked back to his car and drove off with a smile on his face.
Sarah was scared, nervous and excited all at the same time. She was too scared to open the envelope herself and quickly packed up and headed home. When she got home the first person she saw was her mother. Her mother took one look at her and knew something was troubling her. “What’s wrong Sarah?” asked her mother same time Samantha walked in from spending time with her friends.
“I met this really handsome guy down by the river and he gave me an envelope because he was looking for me. Can you believe it?” said Sarah.
“Yeah right, it’s just her crazy imagination again?” said Samantha. “Be quiet Samantha. Let me see the envelope Sarah,” said mother. Sarah handed her the envelope and sat on the step anxiously waiting for her to read it. Samantha walked off toward the kitchen pretending not to be interested but stood behind the door listening attentively as her mother read out the letter.
” Dear Miss Sarah Joline,
You’ve been selected to take part in the National Art Scholarship Programme based on your submission and recommendation from your teacher Mrs. Jane Oliver.
Should you choose to accept please be advised that this is a two-year programme and you would be required to move to New York city. We will be providing room and board for you. You would be given an internship opportunity that would allow you to earn a stipend while here.
Please note that we must receive your decision within the week.
We look forward to meeting you and working with you.
Mr. John Hamshire
Sarah was speechless. She knew that her teacher was very fond of her work and always encouraged her to explore and develop her talents further but she did not believe her work was good enough. This letter however, was proof that her work was more than good enough.
Her mother cried tears of joy and began hugging and kissing her on her cheeks so much that her face was now red and numb. Her mother looked at her with so much pride and told her that she always knew she would be great in whatever she did. “We have to prepare there is so much to be done before you leave,” said her mother.
“You’re going to let me go?” asked Sarah. Her mother looked at her confused and asked, “Don’t you want to go? This is an opportunity for you to do what you love.” Sarah sighed and responded, “What about you and Samantha? Samantha is the only sister I have. I would be alone in New York. I know our relationship is not ideal lately but I love and forgive her. I know deep down she loves me too.”
Samantha heard everything. At first when she heard the acceptance letter she was furious that Sarah was leaving and that her talents were not just good but excellent. She also heard what Sarah said and for the first time in a long time she felt sad and ashamed at how she had treated her sister who despite everything she had done loved her still and was genuinely concerned about her.
She saw her reflection in the stainless steel cookie jar on the counter and realised that she did not recognise who she had become because she had allowed jealousy and envy to consume her. She wept uncontrollably as she sank to her knees in the kitchen.
Both her mother and sister heard this and ran in to see what was wrong. They hugged her and she looked Sarah in the eyes and apologised for being mean and jealous of her and asked for her forgiveness. Sarah forgave her and told her that she loved her. Samantha knew it was true and confessed that she loved her also.
She also went on to tell her the truth about how wonderful her paintings and poetry were and that she should go to New York. “Sarah you are a great sister and talented artist and I am proud to call you my sister.”
This brought tears to both Sarah and her mother’s eyes. After that day, Samantha and Sarah grew closer and became the best of friends always supporting and encouraging each other to be their best.
Samantha eventually found her own talent. All this time she thought she was not good at anything – turns out she was a great musician and eventually went on to do great things. She realised that she was wasting time being angry and jealous of her sister’s talents when she had her own talent that she was not developing because she was too busy being envious and almost lost her opportunity to find happiness within herself.
Sarah learnt that she needed to believe in herself and her abilities more. She was also grateful that she did not give up on her sister because now they have a beautiful relationship. Sarah was happy with who she was and who she was becoming and allowed herself to explore other opportunities for happiness outside herself and her work as she and Adam eventually became very close.
In the end, both sisters agreed that sometimes you need to create your own happiness. Don’t waste time comparing yourself to others, focus on developing your own talents because it is there you will find true happiness.