Living For Other's Approval

By Chris Chittenden

“People who want the most approval get the least and people who need approval the least get the most”

… Wayne Dyer (1940 - ) US psychologist

As human beings we are always in the question of our self worth. One way that we can feel good about our self worth is by gaining the approval of others. Because we are social beings, at some level, each one of us is concerned about what others think of us. Do they like us? Do they love us? Do they respect us? Do they value what we do? These questions are ever-present even if we are not always aware we are asking them.

Although other people's assessments of us are important there are other ways and just as important ways that we can develop our self worth. However for many people other people’s assessments become the primary way of defining their self-worth and this creates the potential for some significant breakdowns. All too easily, such people can find themselves taking care of others' concerns to the detriment of their own. It is possible that they may even find themselves floating in a sea of other people's assessments with little or no sense of what is important to them as an individual. By placing too much emphasis on the opinions of others, they can lose their internal compass and as a result a sense of control over their destiny.

This can be particularly valid when we believe others have a significant capacity to affect our future. For example, say at one time in your life you identified your dream job and somehow you now find yourself in that very position. However whether you remain in that job now depends on your boss, who can fire you tomorrow if he chooses. All of a sudden, pleasing that person becomes even more important that it might be if you did not feel that way about your current position. Your dream now lies to a large extent in the hands of someone else.

There is a simple lesson to learn here. Human beings are aspirational. Indeed we do best when we aspire to something. What does this mean? Well, even when we achieve our dream there is value in developing new dreams. In doing so, we maintain a level of control over what is important to us in life and lessen our dependence on others and in doing so the risk that we over-emphasise their approval of us.

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© 2008 Chris Chittenden