I like to think of myself as self-aware. To me that means being reflective; being aware of my thoughts, feelings and actions.
One of the things I’ve noticed about myself for a while now is that I’m desperate for approval; something often accompanied by another issue, being a people pleaser.
I’m working on these things but for now and for the purposes of this post, just imagine somebody screaming from a megaphone “Approve of me” at the top of their lungs, all day, everyday. Metaphorically speaking, that’s me and I know there’s a bunch of people out there who can relate.
You’re always wondering what people think, how they perceive you-from the way you look to your opinions, always wondering if you make the cut, wondering why no one gave you a pat on the shoulder, worrying about who’s watching you, always wanting to toe between the lines so you don’t piss anybody off. (Check out more approval seeking behaviours here).
I think it’s normal for us to care about how we’re perceived but an incessant need to please people or to seek approval has to get tiring, right?
We lose ourselves in the equation of our own lives.
So, what exactly is “approval”? And is it any different to “validation”? These are the questions I found myself asking in the drafting up process of this blog post.
I came across this article entitled “Validation is to Approval as Empathy is to Sympathy”. The title itself is telling as well as the following definitions included in the post:
I also considered the following definitions, as provided by the Oxford Online Dictionary:
Validation= Recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile.
Approval= The belief that someone or something is good or acceptable.
What I took from this is that approval is about liking something, e.g. A “like” on an Instagram photo, complimenting somebody’s painting, enjoying or approving of a song.
Validation on the other hand, is deeper. For example, somebody telling you that your work helped them overcome something in their life or someone, despite differences in opinion, choosing to acknowledge your point of view. Validation is about being seen.
On the basis of all this then, I chose to use “approval” in the title of this blog post because I believe it is different from validation, in the sense of being more surface level and thus something we shouldn’t be desperate for.
We should not be desperate for validation from others either but I’m just trying to say that because of the nature of approval, it’s something we need not expect from everybody. Approval is fleeting.
Not everyone will approve of you and nor should they.
Not everyone will validate you either but I think that ultimately what most people desire from others is validation:
Validation. What is it? It’s getting feedback from others that “what I do and what I say matters to you. You hear me. You see me. You think of me. You thank me. You acknowledge my accomplishments. You appreciate my efforts.”
It’s the same kind of thing for validation vs approval. If I validate your experience or opinion, I’m letting you know that I see where you are, I “get” how you’re thinking. I don’t have to agree with you. It’s not up to me to decide how you should see an experience or what opinion you should hold. I serve only as a witness. This is a very soothing experience to be on the receiving end of.
Perhaps this desire to be validated is a more worthwhile pursuit than that of being approved of. (And note that I’m not saying approval from others isn’t nice or that it shouldn’t be a thing. I just think that the absence of it shouldn’t determine our self-worth). The same applies to validation but that’s not what I’m specifically discussing here.
I’ve been reading a book called “Psycho-cybernetics” by American surgeon and author Maxwell Maltz. It’s been an incredibly insightful read so far. Below is an excerpt from a section of the book entitled “Ideas Are Changed, Not by “Will”, but by Other Ideas”:
One of my patients was a salesman who was “scared to death” when calling on “big shots”. His fear and nervousness were overcome in just one counseling session, during which I asked him, “Would you physically get down on all fours and crawl into the man’s office, prostrating yourself before a superior personage?”
“I should say not!” He bristled.
“Then why do you mentally cringe and crawl?”
Another question: “Would you go into a man’s office with your hand out like a beggar, and beg for a dime for a cup of coffee?”
“Can’t you see that you are doing essentially the same thing when you go in overly concerned with whether or not he will approve of you? Can’t you see that you have your hand out literally begging for his approval and acceptance of you as a person?”
A visual representation of how I felt after reading that last part:
I think being self-aware is not just about acknowledging your feelings. It’s about saying now I know that this is what I do, think, feel, whatever the case may be, how can I work on it?
I’m constantly working on reducing my need for approval and it’s an interesting journey.
All I can say is, we need to reclaim the power we give to other people when we become reliant on their approval.
We need to put our begging hands back inside our pockets and remember that we are capable of approving of ourselves as individuals.
Let us consider what we are truly doing the next time we find ourselves metaphorically holding a megaphone to our lips and screaming incessantly for someone (just someone) to tell us they approve of us.
Let’s dust off our knees and keep journeying towards becoming the best versions of ourselves. And after that, feel free to check out this post on how to stop being dependent on other people’s approval.
In closing, an important thing to note, as the author of the aforementioned post does, is that strategies for being less approval dependent…
won’t eradicate your desire for approval or the anxiety you feel when disapproval comes your way. What they will do is give you practice accepting such desire and anxiety without relinquishing your integrity.
Don’t lose yourself trying to get people to like you.
Main image source: http://the-rain-keeps-us-alive.tumblr.com/post/139639022167