Trying to gain others’ approval—or even just worrying about their opinion of you—is a bit of a pandemic. If you are one of the stricken, this comes as no surprise. If you’re immune to this particular affliction, consider yourself blessed.
I’m constantly thinking about new ways to lessen approval-seeking. New ways to quiet the voice that blathers on about what so-and-so must think. Perspectives and practices that help you move past the preoccupation with opinions that may be of you, but are not you.
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It’s about them, not you
The first thing I usually point out is that the way others’ view you has nearly nothing to do with you.
This isn’t just a way of trying to make you feel better. It’s scientifically, empirically true.
Evaluations are based on how the judge sees things and how the judge feels about him or herself. Features of the person being judged play a relatively tiny role.
Psychologists know this as fact. They say scientific-sounding things, like: there is much more variability between judges than within judges when it comes to a single target. Which basically means that the one doing the judging brings their own stuff to the table, and that’s what drives their opinions.
How they see you is about them, not you. The more personal you make it, the more pain you experience. And the more inaccurate you are.
I just found this quote alongside a picture of a really cute carrot: “When someone says they don’t like carrots, we don’t blame the carrot.” –Brooke Castillo.
I’ve never blamed a carrot, have you?
It makes us their prisoner
Another point I typically make is that changing yourself to win approval is essentially handing your personal power to someone else.
“Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.” –Lao Tzu
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Anita Moorjani had a near death experience which she writes about in her awesome book, Dying to Be Me. She came through that experience knowing that your purpose in life is to be fully and authentically you.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” –Judy Garland
When you’re focused on what they think, you’re being a second rate version of them. You are buying into the lie that they know better than you do, even about who you should be.