Seeking the Approval of Others
But it’s not just you. I want everyone everywhere to like me, to approve of me, to think I’m good enough. I crave universal approval.
My mind laughs at such statements. Of course I can’t have everyone like me, I remind myself. But still, my heart craves.
There are some good aspects to this. This desire makes me generally kind, benevolent, non-confrontational. But it also makes me vulnerable. To pretty much everyone and everything.
This desire started from a good place. I remember looking around me and constantly seeing people who were close-minded, people who were absolutely unwilling to see another’s viewpoint, people who seemed incapable of seeing fault in themselves. And I vowed to be different. I vowed to keep my mind open and to constantly try to assess myself appropriately. To see things from another’s perspective. To be humble.
But of course, different people have different values and goals and personality traits, and so it’s quite literally impossible to please all the people all the time.
But that didn’t stop me from trying.
When I was younger, I did this by being a chameleon of sorts. Without even consciously being aware of it, I would subtly change who I was to please the people I was with. I would try to remain authentic, but the simple fact that this word scared me proves that I wasn’t all that good at it. I would try to change what I could change while remaining true to who I was inside. It was a dangerous tight rope to walk.
The good news is that the older I get, the less I am able to live that way. I have become a bit more sure of myself. A bit less willing to compromise myself. A bit more solid and stable. And as such, I’ve come to a place where when the depression isn’t overtaking me, I sometimes do kind of like who I am. I can see myself as a whole person. I trust myself.
Except when I’m around people who really don’t like who I am, who don’t trust who I am, who would kind of prefer that I wasn’t around.
Then I get lost.
And not just a little lost. I am overcome by panic. My mind starts to swirl. I try to figure out how I should act because if I were acting according to how I feel, I would be pandering for approval or I would be railing against maltreatment… or else I wouldn’t be there at all. Authenticity during those moments comes at too high of a price.
Sadly, I’ve started to realize that when I encounter such situations, the ramifications last for days. I wake up the next morning not knowing what to do or how to act because everything I thought of myself has been replaced by the negative evaluations of others.
I try to see things from all perspectives. I try to understand why people feel the ways about me that they do. I try to be fair to all sides. But what I end up doing is much different. What I end up doing is letting all those negative sentiments overtake my own view of myself. I don’t become an empty vessel – I become a vessel full of all the negative opinions others have of me.
And so I’m stuck with this dilemma. How do I overcome this? How do I stop letting other people’s perspectives and priorities usurp mine? How do I stop from feeling broken down by other’s negative estimations of who I am? How do I do this while staying open minded and open to change?
It’s comforting to think that I have this problem because I am humble and because I want to be the best person I can be. But how true is that? Do I care about what other people think because I’m humble, or do I care because I want to feel good about myself?
Unfortunately, I think this longing for approval is actually a longing for my own esteem, an esteem I so readily give away when I judge myself based upon another’s approval.
So yea, I’m left here not exactly certain about how I should proceed. I don’t know how to build myself up after I have become emptied. I don’t know how to get back to feeling a certain level of efficacy on my part. I don’t know how to feel real again.
I’ve always been overwhelmed by the personal nature of life — by the fact that we all have so many decisions to make and we have very little guidance on how to make them. I don’t trust the idea that I should trust myself. I don’t like the idea that life isn’t a multiple choice test where there is one correct answer and the others are wrong.
But that’s life. I can keep fighting against it, or I can learn to trust myself.
To be honest, both choices feel daunting. But obviously there is only one worth pursuing.
Knapp, A. (2015). Seeking the Approval of Others. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 25, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/anxiety-depression/2015/05/seeking-the-approval-of-others/