“Lean too much on other people’s approval and it becomes a bed of thorns.” ~Tehyi Hsieh
I was shocked when a friend of mine told me that she doesn’t reveal her ‘real’ self in public because gaining peer approval and maintaining a good public image are very important to her. She went on to tell me how she struggles with self-imposed guilt if every project or duty she undertakes isn’t executed perfectly and on schedule. She explained how she often questions whether her best is good enough for her peers.
After digesting this surprising information and doing a bit of research, I recognized that placing peer approval above self approval is a more common problem than I had realized.
Then, I spent some time doing a candid self examination and considering the following questions:
- Do my peers actually care enough to take the time to make informed opinions about me?
- Do uninformed opinions or opinions based on a contrived image (as opposed to the ‘real’ me) really matter?
- Would showing my ‘real’ self actually result in peer disapproval? Why should I care if it does?
- Do I say what others want to hear, do what others want me to do and keep my honest opinion to myself more often than I display my ‘real’ feelings?
- Exactly whose approval am I seeking and why is their approval so important to me?
Since I wasn’t happy with many of my answers to these questions, I decided take my Granny’s front porch advice and “change my way of thinking”. In the future, I’m going to accept the fact that no one cares as much about me or the principles upon which I stand as I do. Others aren’t likely to notice or care that I’m seeking their approval. So, seeking it is a waste of time. Hence, effective immediately, I’m going to put self approval above peer approval. The opinion that I will most value will come from the person I look at in the mirror every morning and again at the end of the day. If that person isn’t OK with who I am – then, I’ve failed. I’ve wasted my time. I need to revamp and get ‘real’.
Experts say when we have low – or no – self approval doubt creeps in. Doubt leads to lack of trust in the choices we make and we can’t be really successful when we don’t trust our choices. Hence, I’m no longer waiting for others to give me a stamp of approval. I’m going to go for self approval and let the chips fall where they may.
E.E. Cumming once said: “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” Well, at long last, I finally have the courage to do just that.
Betty Freeman Haines, an author and award winning columnist, lives in Mesquite, NV. Her books/e-books, Reluctant Hero and Grieving Sucks or Does It, can be ordered from amazon.com. Share your thoughts and opinions with her at firstname.lastname@example.org