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“You can succeed if nobody else believes it, but you will never succeed if you don’t believe in yourself.”
-William J.H. Boetcker
The paradox of being a human is that while we are social creatures, it is our own self-approval that is most necessary to live a contented life. While critics may argue with this fact, I assure you, it is indeed true because unless we value ourselves, no matter how much approval the world around us bestows upon us, we will never be satisfied, and we will never feel settled.
“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform.” –Susan B. Anthony
Take for example the successful pop stars – Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or Whitney Houston. While talented, successful and adored by their fans, their unfortunate demise in one form or another was in succumbing to the image their fans perceived them to be. And the pressure, the mentality that they weren’t enough without the success in part caused them to reach for medicinal means to assuage their inability to calm down and just be content with their own company.
The irony I find is that the validation we mistakenly seek from others reveals not what truly is, but what the observers sees based on their unique perspective and experience. So in fact, their judgment should have no weight on how we feel about ourselves. As revered Canadian Health and Fitness expert Yuri Elkaim shares, “We must . . . consider that when someone judges somebody or something else, it says little about the target of their judgment and volumes about them sel[ves].”
To understand why we seek approval is simple – we want to feel love. We want to be loved. However, to only seek external approval is to create an evil cycle of dependence and insecurity that will never propel us to a life of inner peace. The first step is to seek internal approval. Once we accept and know that we are enough just as we are, that we have the ability to push ourselves and strive to live our best lives, then when we give to others it isn’t out of a need to get something back because we know that already we are enough.
Ultimately, at the core of desiring love is to feel secure, to feel safe, and once we realize that the only thing that is certain is our own abilities, mindset and actions, then we can also gain strength, inner-peace and security because we realize that by seeking internal acceptance we are giving ourselves what we once thought only others could grant us. And consequently, it isn’t until we first accept ourselves, that others begin to accept us which is simply the sprinkles on top (not necessary, but sweet and delicious).
And quite frankly, continually seeking outside approval is exhausting. Think about the many stressed filled hours that can be wasted by worrying about what others’ think? Why not gain back that time to pursue the passions and enjoy time with the people we love? Why not find the gumption within ourselves to do something that invigorates our spirit and provokes conversation whether it be supportive or critical? At least, we will have owned our uniqueness and not apologized for it. And the amazing and most wonderful gift we can give ourselves, to help us sleep soundly each night, is to have been guided by the successes and mistakes that come from being brave, and that means ignoring the crowds who are simply echoing what the man next to him is saying.
Yet again, writer Anna Quindlen sums it up quite well, “If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.” And how can we possibly feel good about success if we don’t first approve of what we each choose to do?
“Every man stamps his value on himself … man is made great or small by his own will.” J.C.F. von Schiller
So how do we go about trying to better accept ourselves? Here are a few suggestions found on the blog Advanced Life Skills:
*Be truthful with yourself and others
*Be true to your values once you come to terms what it is that you value separate from outside influences
*Show consideration for those around you
It will take a shift in mindset if you are under the impression that external approval is paramount, but with conscious effort, the inner-peace, love and security that you desire will materialize. Be patient with yourself and trust that self-acceptance will occur.