By Denise O’Doherty, LPC, LMFT, MSN, LCDC, RN
The more we want approval from others, the less we get it. What we need we need to learn to give to ourselves. Why? Because living a life that is not you in order to gain approval leads to anger, resentment, and misery over time. Over pleasing others can literally make you ill. Focus on your life, build on what is working; learn where your passions lie so you can create a life that feels successful to you. Your confidence, peace of mind, health and happiness are what matters. Do it for you. Ironically, it is your success and happiness that you do for yourself that attracts others’ acknowledgement and approval.
The idea of not being needy and seeking approval outside yourself, is essential for overcoming co-dependency, decreasing shame and guilt, increasing self-esteem and improving marriage and intimate relationships. It is a core concept that, when not understood or overcome, contributes to the pain underlying many addictions, physical addictions as well as the emotional ones. It is a big part of a healthy foundation for individual or relationship therapy. Once understood and applied, it contributes to living with serenity, peace of mind, supportive relationships and overall happiness.
Melody Beattie who has written several books and who is an expert on codependency has this to say in her book, The Language of Letting Go:
“Trying to prove how good we are, trying to prove we're good enough, trying to show someone how much he or she has hurt us, trying to show someone we're understanding, are warning signs that we may be into our self-defeating behaviors.
They can be an indication that we are trying to control someone. They can be an indication that we are not believing how good we are, that we're good enough, that someone is hurting us.
"They can be a warning that we've allowed ourselves to get hooked into a dysfunctional system. They may indicate that we're stuck in that cloudy fog of denial or doing something that is not good for us.
"Trying excessively to make a point with another may mean that we have not yet made that point with ourselves. Once we make that point with ourselves, once we understand, we will know what to do.
"The issue is not about others understanding and taking us seriously. The issue is not about others believing we're good and good enough. The issue is not about others seeing and believing how responsible or loving or competent we are. The issue is not about whether others realize how deeply we are feeling a particular feeling.
We are the ones that need to see the light.”
The next time you catch yourself in the unhealthy pattern of wanting approval from another, remember to begin a new pattern – approve of yourself. Then it will not matter if others give it to you or not.
"The purpose of therapy is to create positive changes, to enhance ones sense of self and to find manageable and empowering solutions to life's challenges."
Denise is in private practice in Houston and provides counseling to individuals, couples, and families of varying age, gender, race and sexual orientations.
Take one of her self-awareness classes at Leisure Learning unlimited. She is available for presentations, lectures and classes teaching self-enhancement to adults interested in empowerment and self-growth.