Losing your need for approval is one of the biggest things you can do to become more authentic and to live your life on purpose. As I write this, my cat Winston, is keeping me company, and is a continuing source of feline inspiration. When I look at my cat, I can see he totally doesn’t care what others think of him. He knows he is perfect just as he is – clearly.
Here are some common things people I have heard people say they do or do not do, to gain the approval of others, or avoid the pain of risking rejection. Have you ever done any of the following to gain someone else’s approval?
- Worn something you didn’t feel comfortable in?
- Been OK with other people’s clutter in the home or at work?
- Lost weight? Gained weight?
- Cut your hair?
- Changed a religion?
- Changed your political views?
- Not spoken out in a meeting when you saw something happening that you didn’t like?
I can confess to some of those on the list and add a few of my own:
- Had second helpings I was too full for
- Bought an item of clothing I didn’t like
- Dyed my hair red (what the?!)
This list is really quite mild, and there is more I don’t feel comfortable sharing! I regret this list and do not want to add to it, so I have made a decision to release my need for the drug known as approval, and break the cycle of approval seeking, approval as reward, shame, and then regret. In the bigger scheme of things, approval seeking can be dangerous, if it holds us back from speaking out on injustice. This quote is a bit of a mantra for me:
”The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke, Irish Statesman (1729- 1797)
How not to give into your approval cravings.
Here are five ways to break free from approval cravings – tools both myself and my clients have found useful.
1. Make a vision board.
Find times in your past when you have done something just for yourself and it worked well. What i did that worked for me was to make a vision board of risks I took that worked out well when I was free from worrying about losing the approval of others. I have hung this vision board in my office and I am mighty proud of it. Some of you lovely people reading this even feature on it as fellow travellers and role models for me.
Things on my vision board that I am proud of are:
- Had a Star Trek wedding
- Became a civil union and marriage celebrant
- Left physio school to pursue other studies
- Got my sinuses fixed to create long lasting health
- Lost 5 kilos when others wanted me to stay the same
And every day I am adding to this list, because this list is living my life.
2. Waste thirty minutes
Lie round at home indulging in reading a book, or having a bath. This sounds simple but is not easy for people who feel they should be doing something.
3. Stop watching reading and listening to the news for one week.
Notice how letting go of the news also lets go of the twin fears of not being in control and powerlessness to change world events, which in turn impacts on your need for approval.
4. Try the ‘My newspaper and My chair’ exercise.
If you can do this one, you are well on the way to kicking the approval habit. Next time you are in a cafe and someone asks if they can have one of the chairs at the table or your newspaper, politely decline, and say “Actually I am still using these”. Avoid saying “I am sorry”.
5. Practice saying no – safely
Find a trusted friend and tell them you are trying to release your need for approval by practising to say ‘No’. Their job is to ask you ‘Can I borrow $20?’ And your job is to say “No”. Then make it fun by encouraging them to invent reasons that you should lend them the money. You keep saying ‘No’. Repeat up to 10 times in the same conversation until you both fall about laughing. Notice that it is safe to say ‘No’ and your friendship is not dependent on it.
And a bonus – try a new form of coaching called mBIT
And if you feel like you need a smidge of coaching to help you let go of the need for approval, a new tool called Multiple Brain Integration Techniques (mBIT) works a treat to align head heart and gut to create a life on purpose.
I qualified as an mBIT coach in April this year and have found it marvellous for helping clients who want to be free from a ‘life of shoulds’, and become more integrated with what they truly want and the courage to be who they are really are. Feel free to contact me if you would like to know more, or book a coaching session.
And finally, remember Colin Firth in the movie, Bridget Jone’s Diary, when he says to Bridget “I like you just as you are”? Wishing you all the courage to know you are perfect, just as you are.