Do you constantly seek (external) approval? whether it’s done consciously or unconsciously, unless we are one of the few highly evolved spiritual masters – such as the likes of the Dalai Lama or Eckhart Tolle, as human beings, we all have an innate need to be liked.
Unfortunately, many of us believe that our ideas, preferences, and choices need to be supported by others for us to feel that they are actually valid. Inevitably, since we often make our choices and base our actions on what we think others will approve of, we find we end up losing ourselves in the process.
In today’s digital era, where the option of “like” buttons are prevalent across social media platforms we encounter and use on a daily basis, this relentless need for validation is more rampant than ever. Whenever we find others do not give approval or like our posts, photos, or any of our choices on and off-line, we immediately equate it to being unworthy or not good enough.
When we really think about this, it’s sheer madness and it is nothing short of ludicrous to think that we are not enough because of such trivial matters. What’s even more saddening is that this need for approval kills our freedom to have different opinions, preferences, and taste because subconsciously, we have led ourselves to believe that in order to belong and to be worthy, we have to be just like everyone else.
The need for validation causes us to feel that we need to be impressive, to tell people what they want to hear and all the while constantly worrying about what others think of us. All of this destructive thought patterns are actually holding us back from being our true and our best selves and not to mention preventing us from establishing real and lasting connections with people around us. In extreme cases, some people willingly put themselves in debt in order to impress people that they don’t even like. There was a quote by Dave Ramsey, an author, that I had come across which hits the nail on the head “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like“.
Admittedly, I too was a people pleaser. In my younger days, I felt strongly that EVERYONE had to like me. I constantly strived for perfection and took constructive criticism or comments as a personal attack and interpreted it as “I am not good enough”. Fortunately, starting my early 20’s, I started to knock some much-needed sense to myself and learned that its futile, not to mention exhausting to go through life trying to please everyone and desperately wanting everyone to like me because no matter how hard I try, that’s just not going to ever happen. It’s impossible for everyone to like us because even Mother Teresa who many dubbed as a saint, have people who disapprove of who she is along with her beliefs.
Sooner or later, we would have to accept that there is always going to be someone out there who is not going to like us for our looks, choices, ideas and so forth and that’s completely OK. After all, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that we don’t and won’t exactly like everyone we encounter throughout our lives either.
So how exactly do we begin to let go of our need for validation?
“Old habits die hard” they say and from my own experience, I agree that it is definitely much easier said than done to let go our need of approval but it’s certainly not impossible. Start by choosing to consistently speaking your truth – when you believe in an idea or have an opinion that differs from those around you – stand by it. Be aware when you are tempted to conform to someone’s else’s opinion just for the sake of having them on your side and obtain their approval.
When it comes to social media, choose not to freak out when someone doesn’t “like” your pictures, status updates or posts you shared. When someone disagrees with you in and off-line, commit to not taking it personally and refrain from the tendency of creating stories in your head that tell you’re not enough for being different and liking different things because you are enough and you are worthy – just as you are.
If you consider yourself physically active, a potent way you can fight that dreaded the social media blues is by practicing yoga. Alternatively, meditation can also help you simultaneously calm you down and elevate your mood when you feel less than stellar about yourself.
While it is always wonderful and comforting to have people believing in us and supporting our choices, there will be times that we need to be able to stand our grounds, whether it’s for our ideas, preferences or choices – even when sometimes we would have to stand alone. In order for us to live our very best life, we must learn to be independent of the good opinion of others.
This simply means that we need to learn to make choices and take actions that are unapologetically true to who we are. Inevitably, we will lead a more joyful and meaningful life and inspire authenticity in others because as a renowned spiritual teacher, Marianne Williamson said, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same”.