A lot of us wish for our talents, our intelligence, or our strengths to be recognised, appreciated, and known by others. But we very soon start to rely on these approvals and try to ‘alter’ our lives to fit in within these expectations. Unfortunately, right from here starts a very vicious cycle.
Ever since I was younger, I had an insane obsession with ‘making sure people knew’ I was this or I was that. My mood, my emotions, and my feelings were a dangerously direct reflection of what others thought of me. It got to the point where I got excessively dependent on ‘approval’. If people praised me, I would feel empowered. If people criticised me, I would feel anxious. And if people insulted me, I would start to look down on myself.
A common example I often look back at are the times wherein I felt the immense pleasure when my teachers would praise me, when my friends would praise me, and how I’d feel so superior when I beat someone’s highest score in class. Conversely, how I would grow wild with angst when others performed better than me. Not only because I didn’t do well, but because others now saw that. But I now think to myself, why did the opinions of others matter to me so greatly? At the end of the day, we live to push our limits, and reach our goals. And none of that should have to change based on the views of the people around us. I was reading the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns, and it made me realise how I had made it a habit to evaluate myself through the eyes of others. I now see that I can be so much more than that.
It can be enjoyable to have someone approve of us, but I don’t think we need this approval to be able to love and respect ourselves. Likewise, disapproval can be uncomfortable and it can make our life feel sour and rotten. But it doesn’t make us any less of a person. When we give our power over to others, we lose out on who we really are, and the only reality we then see is how we believe others see us.