Many of us constantly struggle with the need for others to approve of our behavior and life path, whether we are conscious of it or not. We have learned from a society that is structured around putting people in their “right place” with certain acceptable behaviors and being anything other than the “norm” is frowned upon. Without self love, boundaries or personal power, overcoming approval can be difficult.
Because many of us were raised by people that lacked love, we were subconsciously taught that love and acceptance is conditional; that we are only worthy of love if we play by “the rules”. Some of us go through our lives playing small and waiting for someone to tell them that they are enough. But what are the effects of living in such a way? Our self esteem, self-love and personal power can suffer and we can tend to place our power outside of ourselves, looking for ways to finally prove that we are worthy of love and acceptance. Here are some ways that we can learn to overcome the need for approval:
1. Investigate your triggers
Maybe you’ve noticed that before making any big life decisions, you tend to overly consider what others might think. Or perhaps someone told you that they don’t approve of what you’ve chosen to do and it really affected you. Consider how it makes you feel – does it make you feel stronger or weaker? If it makes you feel weaker, you know there’s a deeper wound to investigate. You can even take it a step further and think back to when you first experienced the negative emotions that the encounter triggered – whether it’s shame, anxiety, fear, worthlessness or powerlessness. Often, when we know the original wound – the source – it is easier to heal the patterns that we have developed from it.
2. Examine your self-talk
What is the dialogue in your mind? If you are to be your own best friend, the most meaningful thing you can do is think uplifting thoughts about yourself. We have power over our thoughts, which can sometimes be negative and berating because of a lack of healthy self esteem. Again, gently and compassionately investigate where this negative self-talk sprouted from and see any themes that might have developed around this because of the original wound.
3. Acknowledge that your power comes from within
Many of us are taught that our self-worth and power comes from external factors. Maybe it’s how “well liked” we are by the masses, how beautiful we look or how successful we are in any given area of our life. These are falsities because our real power comes from within and it always has. Once you have come to this realization, you can work to take your power back from places, people and situations that you might have given it away to. Remember that most of the time we are complicit in giving our power away. Know that it is your birthright to fully own your power and you have the right to give it where you choose.
4. Re-asses your relationships
If there are any relationships in your life that leave you feeling unworthy or depleted, it might be a good idea to investigate whether or not these relationships are healthy to continue. Those that seek approval often attract people that are power grabbers and a codependent relationship can likely develop between the two. These kinds of relationships can often rob you of your own power and potential, with you forever playing catch up of being “good enough”. Honestly take stock of the relationships in your life and examine which truly empower you and allow you to be you, and which don’t.
5. Develop healthy boundaries
It is necessary to indicate your boundaries with your friends and family in order to maintain healthy relationships with them. These boundaries can be physical, emotional or spiritual boundaries. If you don’t have healthy boundaries in your relationships, you might not know where you end and where they begin. Because of this, you might act in ways where you know you’ll get their stamp of approval and then the cycle of codependency and searching for approval begins. Empathic people especially get caught in the cycle of pleasing others if they don’t learn how to reign in their power and establish healthy boundaries.
6. Take a breather
Maybe you have noticed that you might be caught up in unhealthy dynamics in the relationships in your life around people pleasing, boundaries and giving away your power. However, you still want to continue the relationship. Know that it is your right to take time off from the relationship to get clear about your needs. Sometimes it can be difficult to reassess our relationships when we don’t have time and space to do so. Tell your friend or family member in a loving and compassionate way something along the lines of, “I need some time to strengthen myself and my boundaries. I need to take some time off for a while to build myself up. I need some space right now. I love you and I care about our relationship”.
7. Fill your well
You are the only person who can give yourself the love and approval you need in your life to transform your inner and external world in the most powerful way. Remember that you are worthy of anything you want in this lifetime simply because you are you. Your greatness is your birthright, regardless of other people’s opinions about it. Remember to put your oxygen mask on first before helping any one else, so to speak. Always and know that if you surround yourself with people that love you unconditionally, they will always be there for you cheering you on. Practice self-care daily, remind yourself that you are the captain of your life, dowse yourself with acts of self-love and live boldly with the inner wisdom you have always had.