“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”
- Dr. Wayne Dyer
- Dr. Wayne Dyer
Everyone wants approval and acceptance from those we care about. However, too often we depend on approval so much that we lose sight of the most important approval of all: our own.
Do you find yourself agreeing just to avoid disagreeing? Are you constantly seeking out the approval of others before you make a decision? This approval addiction is damaging to your quest for improving your life through positive thinking. By feeding your approval habit, you become less reliant on your own thoughts and feelings, and therefore less in tune with your goals and what is truly best for you. Though it’s nice to have the support of other people, the only person you can make happy one hundred percent of the time is you.
How can you kick the approval habit and stop worrying about what other people think of your actions? Here are several action plans you can follow in order to make sure your people-pleasing prowess is used only where you want it to be, and not as a crutch for social acceptance.
Know Your Code
In order to avoid seeking approval for approval’s sake, you have to know your own beliefs and standards. Being aware of what you believe in will help you voice your opinions and choose the right path for yourself, even when others don’t agree. Developing a healthy moral code is an important part of the process of positive thinking.
Writing down your moral code can help to cement your ideals and beliefs and serve as a guide for your decision-making process. Think about the issues that are important to you. Do you believe family values come before everything else? Is your career important to you? Where do you stand on politics: would you rather be vocal in your beliefs, or try to make a difference in the background through voting? Your moral code should govern your actions in every situation, and you should never violate your beliefs simply to gain approval from someone else.
Standing up for what you believe in can be an integral part of taking control of yourself and your life. When you stop seeking approval or validation for all of your thoughts and ideas, you become a stronger person- and the people who truly care about you will respect and admire you for it, rather than turning away. Be informed and develop your moral code, then stick to it. You will be surprised at how much better you feel about yourself...and you won’t need anyone else to second your opinion.
Graduate from High School
For many of us, the need for acceptance began in high school. The desire to fit in is strong for most teens, and generally when you’re in school there is nothing more important than friends. Once we leave the structures confines of school and enter the adult world, it can be difficult to shake the feeling that you are only a worthy person if you have a lot of friends, or the “right” friends.
As adults, we need to discard the petty social pecking order of our school days. Life is not a popularity contest. It may not surprise you to learn that the most successful adults were social outcasts in school. A large part of the reason for this is because they did not cultivate the acceptance of their peers, they were free to invest in themselves, gaining knowledge and developing strong personalities that did not depend on validation from the “in” crowd.
In case you need proof, check out the following list of successful people who struggled through high school at the bottom of the food chain:
• Peter Daniels was told he would never amount to anything. He became a Multi-Millionaire and continues to influence the culture nationally and internationally.
• Voluptuous actress and model Heather Graham was teased constantly for being quiet and physically underdeveloped.
• Walt Disney was considered a shiftless dreamer who would never amount to anything by his teachers and fellow students.
• Eytan Sugarman- owner of the NYC nightclub Suede which is frequented by the likes of Britney Spears, Cameron Diaz, and Leonardo DiCaprio- was a chubby and friendless child whose guidance counsellors’ told him his life would go nowhere.
As an adult, you are much more capable of realizing that peer acceptance doesn’t matter outside of high school. You should strive to be true to yourself. Remember, there is a place for everyone- it’s a big planet.
Weed Your Friendship Garden
Many of us tend to judge our worth by the number of friends we have. However, this is not always an accurate assessment, and it can be tiring to keep up with your lunch dates and Christmas card lists- particularly when you have friends who you can’t be yourself with.
Take some time to evaluate your friendships. Are there people you spend time with who seem to drain you whenever you’re around them? Do you constantly feel like a phony when you’re interacting with them, and watch the clock until sufficient time has passed so you can excuse yourself from the conversation? Friends are wonderful to have, but some friendships just aren’t worth cultivating.
The next time you find yourself trapped in an awkward situation and are afraid to voice your true thoughts, try speaking your mind anyway. It’s likely that one of two things will happen: either the person you’re talking with will be interested in your opinion and you’ll find the conversation moving into genuine territory, or you will notice a sudden drop in temperature and hear those excuses you usually make to escape come from the other person. If the case is the former, you have improved your relationship and can relax around the person; if it’s the latter, you have just rid yourself of an unnecessary drain on your energy and positive thought process.
There is nothing wrong with ending friendships that just aren’t working out. Chances are, the other person will be just as relieved as you are, and you will both be able to strengthen the relationships you have with true friends. It will take some time to cull the weeds from your friendship garden, but it will be worth it for everyone involved. Freeing yourself from damaging relationships helps you kick the approval habit when you no longer have to “fake it” to get along with anyone.
Blood is Thicker than Embarrassment
It’s one thing to sever relationships with friends, and quite another to do the same with family. Most of us are raised with the idea that family is important, and we tend to be more forgiving of family members as well as seek their approval for our actions more often. We are afraid to be ourselves around family members; often because people change, and we fear our close relatives won’t like the changes that come into our lives. So we are forced to continue acting as if we are the same people we were five, ten, or fifteen years ago. This produces an uncomfortable relationship at best, and can lead to estrangement or avoidance if left unchecked.
Try to keep in mind that just as you are forgiving of your family members’ collective flaws and personality quirks, they will be forgiving of yours. When you truly care about someone, you accept them for who they are and don’t judge them on the basis of their thoughts, opinions and habits. Why wouldn’t your family extend the same courtesy to you?
Being yourself and not requiring approval from your family may be even more important than doing so with friends. We tend to derive the basis of our self-security level from our interactions with our family, and if we cannot be comfortable around family that sense of false security spreads into all areas of our lives. If you’ve been hiding some aspect of your personality or belief system from your family out of fear they won’t accept you, try easing into your own opinions gradually. You may be surprised to discover that the people who care about you are more accepting than you think. Sometimes, they may have been practicing the same guarded emotional stance as you, and will be just as relieved when it’s finally out in the open.
In any case, you don’t need approval from even your family for the things you want to accomplish. Though it is more difficult to exclude a family member from your life, if it is more damaging to include them, perhaps you should consider putting some distance between yourself and the destructive family member. Many people are content with agreeing to disagree, and in time both of you may come to an understanding. Meanwhile, don’t let your need for approval overshadow your need to be you. Please yourself first, because no one else is going to do it for you.
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