Today I find myself reflecting on my need for approval. This is a ubiquitous need indeed, so I shouldn’t feel alone in it, however it is a stifling need sometimes… which subsequently can lead to feeling lonely.
Why is this approval or acceptance from others so necessary and so heart-wrenching at times? It can be painful to want this. It can lead to the strangest behaviors to obtain this through others. The opposite of approval, I suppose, would be rejection, a terrifying disregard for your personal traits, a disapproval of your existence—or so the mind likes us to believe.
But more importantly, I ask myself, Who are these people I seek approval from? Why is the fear of rejection from these individuals seemingly so catastrophic? Thinking about those in my life right now, they’ve only been in my life for a bit over two years at this point. Is their opinion of me that important? Is their opinion of the two years I’ve been in their life versus the 32 years I’ve been on this earth really that relevant? And like many before, most of them will not always be in my life. Because if we want to be REAL—and I want to be real—I have a handful of close friends in my life that I would drop everything for and who I know to the bone. Everyone else (who has been positive) has been a lovely accompaniment along my journey, but not a permanent stop.
If I look back at all the fleeting encounters or short term friendships I had out of circumstance and proximity, there are tons! And the amount of stress and mental space yearning for their approval and acceptance occupying me at that time is ridiculous. Laughable now! I think of past flings and lovers who existed for probably a pinpoint on the grand scale of my life and remember what a huge deal it was for them to speak with me. WHAT? Why would I give over that power to someone? Why would I decide to hand over my self-worth on a proverbial silver platter to some basically random person and say, “Here, here is my self-esteem and dignity, please do with it what you may.” I would never just give the keys to my flat to just anyone, but I did that with my mind, body, and soul. Sad, really. I’m aware this is also not a lone experience, but when I reflect on this, why do we do this to ourselves? Misplacing ourselves in the hands of others for some kind of recognition that we are okay, that we matter, that we are important. Why is it so hard to give that recognition to ourselves?
I am aware, or I have read, that the way to discover yourself is through relationships with others. I do believe this. We do ‘need’ others in the sense that our interactions, our friendships, families, lovers, coworkers, and community all teach us about who we are, what we value, and what does matter.
Approval is necessary in a tribal sense, as humans would not have survived without the dependence on each other. Elders with thriving social circles are thought to live longer and enjoy healthier lives. I very much enjoy the company of my friends and loved ones as well, no matter how long someone has been in my life. So where is the balance between thoughtfully enjoying the presence of each other, the fun banter, meals shared, disagreements, and all else that comes with human interaction with the burning need to be recognized, to seek validation, to hunt for your missing self-esteem through the eyes of another. I think that’s the deep hole I can fall into, the assumption that I need to find myself in the face of another, in their embrace, their feedback, critiques, and compliments.
As we are all with our own faults, our own imperfections, and our own fears, does that not seem a bit backwards to look for this approval through someone else who is equally uncertain, scared, and fearful of their own place in this ever-changing world? Does it not seem a tad crazy to put all this weight on each other? To let this control of your being teeter on the tumultuous emotional ride of another’s fleeting thoughts? Hmm…
You are enough as you are, and you didn’t need me to tell you that.