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Seeking Approval: Trying to Do It All

We talk too much, we think too much, we worry too much, we blame too much, we anticipate too much, we calculate too much. The antidote to all of these excessive, useless mental gymnastics is to do something in reality. There are no such “have to’s”. It is a mistake to define our self worth in terms of how much we accomplish and how well we do it. This implies that if we do not perform the task well enough or fast enough, we are worthless, there is no middle ground.

Just do what you can do, and as much as you can do today, that is enough. If you do even more tomorrow, that is all right too, but the beauty of this intervention is that you are a worthwhile human being in the meantime. If we can bring ourselves to “do what we can do,” we can break out of this prison of all or nothing absolutes and find the middle ground between these impossible, paralyzing extremes.

For example, after months of hard work, it may please us to take the day off and “do nothing.” However, we may be inclined to ruin our happiness by feeling “guilty,” “irresponsible” and “unproductive.” We may feel “unworthy” to enjoy our well earned respite. These feelings are mistaken. They are not “feelings” so much as values that we have toward leisure, towards happiness, towards ourselves as people in the world.

When we take time out to go for a walk, we are not “doing nothing,” we are doing something, we are healing, we are recuperating from the strain of our super-responsible, overdriven existence. Healing ourselves is not useless nor self-indulgent, it needs to be done. We can choose to shift our gears and perceive a weekend off in this new light instead of resenting it as “enforced idleness.” And if it pleases us to heal ourselves in this way, that is not a crime and we are not guilty. We deserve it, no more and no less than anyone else.

If you cannot make a “good enough” decision, write your thoughts down on a piece of paper. Make them visible in the real world. They aren’t thoughts at all, they are discouraging fears and experiences from the past. Do not give in to discouragement. There is value in identifying the sources of our discouragement, such as trying to be perfect, trying to prove you aren’t worthless, trying to avert the humiliating exposure of our worthlessness. This is called, “prevention” and it ties us in knots. We aren’t worthless, we are merely imperfect. There is nothing to prevent.

You do not have to play the role of the super responsible child in your family any more. You can decide to assume appropriate responsibility, no more — no less. You aren’t required to “do it all,” which means “perfectly.” As much as you do for now, that is enough. You can always do more later.

Do not depend on others for approval. You can choose to validate your own worth as a person in spite of your faults and imperfections. That is what independent mature people do.

Catch yourself defining, “Doing my best” as if it meant doing it perfectly. That is another set up for failure. Perfection is not required.

Woman walking in the woods photo available from Shutterstock

Seeking Approval: Trying to Do It All

Aaron Karmin


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APA Reference
Karmin, A. (2018). Seeking Approval: Trying to Do It All. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 16, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/anger/2015/07/seeking-approval-trying-to-do-it-all/

 

Last updated: 4 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Jul 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.