“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
― Louise L. Hay,
As I write this blog, I’m reminded of the words of an old skit I used to do in church when I was younger, the words went something like this “See me, notice me, don’t you want to know me?”
The person was over the top theatrical as he or she would jump around the stage and shout these words. By the end of the skit, overcome with exhaustion, they would fall to the feet of Jesus. Spirituality was supposed to be the solution to this problem.
Sadly, this was not the solution to the problem. This was a part of my solution, but to say that it took away the tendency to fill my “need” for approval would be an outright lie. My loneliness drove me to change myself to meet the approval of anyone and everyone I encountered.
I still, at times, find myself wanting to be accepted by others; in church, at work, and in life; I want to be loved, needed and accepted.
What about you?
When do you feel the pull of approval?
Maybe it’s at work , school, or even in your own home? You just want him or her to notice you. You want them to notice you and your contributions, but they don’t. They remain silent and your heart cries out to be noticed.
Perhaps it’s those late nights when you can barely keep your eyes open and your mind is racked with exhaustion, but the loneliness of your heart and soul keeps up you awake.
Or maybe it’s when you see everyone under the sun on your social media platform getting engaged, married, having kids, or continuing to expand their social circle while you continue to feel isolated, left out, and all alone.
You deserve love.
Approval is the nastiest of addictions because, much like food, we need a certain amount of it to live. Now, one could argue that you can live in isolation, hidden away from the complexities of the human relationship, but I’d argue that this is a very rare case. The reason I say this is why we argue about the solitary confinement being cruel and unusual punishment and what some would call torture.
So what to do with this “need”? How do we feed it?
For me, what’s worked is being able to look in the mirror, each and every day as I brush my teeth and go through my mantra “You’re loved, you have people who love you down to your deepest flaw, but you also love yourself.” I tell myself this in my mind as I brush my teeth. It sounds crazy, but that is a word I’ve never strayed away from and, for me, it works.
I can also tell you what does not work.
What does not work is perusing social media for the smallest compliment; it reminds me of an addict just needing that one fix. The reality is that one fix leads to only feeding an insatiable desire for more.
Also, what does not work, is looking for people to tell you every decision you need to make. You’ve met these people. They can’t make a decision without asking their closest friends, family, or significant others what they “should” do without taking a step to make a personal decision.
Why do they do this? I know why I did. It took away all personal responsibility. Because, when I made a wrong decision, I didn’t have to own it, I could blame someone else. It’s far easier to blame someone than to own our part, but the latter is far more rewarding and fruitful to a successful and healthy life.
Maybe I’m the only one who knows what this feels like, but I don’t think so.
For 8 months, I broke up with social media. Eight long and lonely months.
My friends list went from almost 1000 to 5. Seriously, I could count the friends who still interacted with me on one hand.
When I feel lonely, I remember this time in my life.
This was a time I learned to meet my own needs devoid of what others thought or felt was best for me.
You can, too.
For me, what has helped is getting involved with a social group. I go to church. I must confess this meets a number of needs for me, but the place I choose to go has such a wide variety of people. I can interact with the young, old, broken, and perfect (or so they look). I can interact with people who have their stuff together and people who can’t pay the rent.
It’s my practice for life.
It helps me use those relationships to teach me how to interact with kindness and in service to the world around me.
This helps me not feel so lonely. It breaks up the existential loneliness and turns my suffering into meaning. It allows me to reach out to help someone instead of reaching out for an emotional handout.
Now, if I told you I had nobody that would be an outright lie. I have a few and what they know about me is treasured information. Intimacy works like that. We exchange information for trust. I only trust a few with such valuable information, but it’s a trust well-earned.
Where and to whom can you go to practice life?
What if it’s not a church. Maybe it’s a group of old friends who meet at the bar or for coffee or it could be with a group of co-workers who know what it’s like to feel underappreciated and undervalued. We build each other up. We encourage each other. I think sharing this “normal” human experience breaks the isolating thought “You’re the only one” and allows for real and honest living to happen.
I encourage you to be vulnerable. Be vulnerable with yourself, but also with others. Oh, and don’t get so wrapped up in pleasing everyone that you forget whose opinion matters the most—- your own!
So what’s the takeaway for you? Did this tug at any heartstrings? Do you feel inspired to give that person a call you haven’t talked to in a long time with the hope of some honest sharing and connection? I hope you will.
I also hope you’ll be kinder to yourself during the dark moments when the feelings come and overwhelm you.
Remember, You’re not Alone
There are others who’ve felt the ache of a heart feeling unaccepted, unloved and forgotten.
But don’t let that ache turn you into someone or something you’re not.
Always remember: To Thine Own Self be True
Your freedom from approval addiction starts with approving of the person in the mirror. The rest will follow.
I’ll leave you with this:
1/3 will love you, 1/3 will hate you, and 1/3 won’t care. Which means you should do what you love. You should do the best you can. You should try to do the things that will help you improve every day. And when bad comments come, just put them in that 1/3 bucket where it belongs.
— James Altucher from Positively Positive
Be well my dear friends,
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