“At work, every time I have to speak at meetings, I get so stressed.”
“I’m taking a class and I’m always afraid to raise my hand and ask a question.”
“I’m fine one to one, but as soon as I get into a group, I’m so tense I can hardly stand it.”
“I’m totally relaxed with my women friends, but as soon as I’m with a guy I like, I can’t be myself.”
Each of these people are anxious and stressed because they want to get approval and avoid disapproval. What are they telling themselves that is causing their anxiety?
“Oh God, I better not forget what I want to say and make a fool of myself.”
“The teacher might think the question I want to ask is a dumb one.”
“If I say the wrong thing no one will like me.”
“I better not say something completely stupid.”
Each of these people are telling themselves things that are causing anxiety, and underneath these self-judgmental statements is a deeper belief:
“If I say or do something wrong or stupid, they won’t like me and that means I am not okay.”
The need for approval and the fear of disapproval comes from the belief that others are responsible for your worth. If they like you, you are okay, and if they don’t like you, you are not okay.
If you are a person who seeks others’ approval, then you have made others responsible for sense of worth.
Imagine that you have a child, and instead of loving this child, you keep giving the child away to others to define. You keep saying to this child, “You better do it right because you if they don’t like you, then you are not okay.” The result would be that the child would feel very insecure and unlovable, because you kept giving him or her away to others for approval.
When you make others responsible for your sense of worth, you are doing the same thing on the inner level – giving away your own inner child. Instead of defining your own worth, you are making others responsible for this.
This is a very hard way to live. You have to constantly try to figure out what someone else wants of you to get approval and avoid disapproval. Your good and bad feelings are dependent upon how you look and how you perform, so you have to be constantly on your toes.
What if you were to take on the responsibility of defining your own worth? How would you go about doing this?
One of the problems in defining your own worth is that you may have been programmed to see yourself through the eyes of your parents, teachers, siblings and peers. If, when you were growing up, you got judged, criticized, rejected or ridiculed, you may have incorporated others’ images of you into your own mind. So you can’t define your own worth and lovability from your wounded self – your programmed ego mind. You need to define yourself through the eyes of love, not the eyes of judgment.
Start with imagining an older, wiser part of you, or imagine a person from your childhood who really loved you. Imagine that you can see yourself as a child through the eyes of this other person or through the older part of you. What do you see? Can you see your innocence, your lovingness, your sense of wonder, your creativity, your aliveness? Open to seeing who you are in your essence – your true Self.
If you were to practice seeing who you really are – not who you are in your wounded programmed self, but who you are in your essence Self – you would start to value your own beautiful essence. As you value your essence, you would start to treat yourself in kinder, more loving ways.
The more you practice doing this, the better you will feel about yourself and the less you will seek approval from others. In time and with practice, you will find yourself feeling so much happier and more peaceful!
By Margaret Paul