“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson
Good news: You Can Free Yourself from Needing the Approval of Others
Since we were children, most of us learned that it could be advantageous to make others happy. Most children want the approval of their parents, teachers, and peers. We tend to carry that same tendency into adulthood. While it’s natural to seek the approval of others, sometimes it might not be for the best.
Being a strong and free person includes the ability to move freely through the world without excessive concern about the opinions of others. Think about the people you respect the most. Do they allow the opinions of others to dictate their decisions? You can live the same way.
Live life on your own terms with these tips:
Learn to say what you think. If you’re concerned about the opinions of others, you’ve probably developed a habit of keeping your opinion to yourself.
- Start giving your opinion on smaller issues. For example, if you’re asked what movie you’d like to see, give a specific answer.
- As your comfort level improves, you can speak up about more important issues.
Take the time to appreciate yourself. Keep a few minutes each day to remind yourself of all the things you like about yourself. Think about all the good things you do each day. List your positive characteristics.
- If you can approve of yourself, you’ll be less likely to need approval from others.
Remind yourself that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. There are a wide variety of people in the world. So no matter what you do, there will always be someone who doesn’t like you. Interestingly, those that try to please everyone tend to be less respected. Others admire confident people, and confident people march to their own drum.
There’s more gray area than you think. Many people that desperately seek the approval of others believe that perfection is the only thing that pleases others. You’re not going to be condemned (or considered a saint) for everyday words and actions.
- Even the best people occasionally do or say things that most would consider to be negative. Others understand that no one is perfect all of the time. Do you judge people harshly over minor issues?
Avoid reacting to disapproval in a way that encourages the criticizer. Many people use disapproval as a way to control others. When you apologize unnecessarily or change your opinion in reaction to disapproval, you might be simply rewarding that other person.
- If you feel that another person is being unreasonable, consider confronting them in a calm, reasonable manner. You’ll likely find that the criticizer’s tendency to disapprove will stop when it fails to affect your choices. The disapproval you’re showing is fair under the circumstance. For once, disapproval will work for you instead of against you!
Before taking an action, ask yourself if you’re primarily doing it to receive approval. Try to eliminate activities and choices from your life that are driven by the need to have others think highly of you.
- Do a few things each week that you enjoy, even if they’re not going to impress anyone. It gets easier with time.
We all seek the approval of others from time to time. But allowing that need to control your thoughts and behavior makes life less enjoyable and more challenging.
The first step to changing approval-seeking thoughts and behavior is recognizing them as they occur. With a little work, you’ll find that the disapproval you’ve been avoiding has much less impact than you thought! It’s simply not a big deal. Free yourself from needing the approval of others. You’ll be glad you did!