Kicking The Approval Addiction
Maybe I sound like a broken record. Of all the articles and blogs I’ve written lately, a good 92% of them have to do with perfectionism, not caring what others think, letting go, etc. But I honestly feel like I have just discovered how much I have let all of the above dictate my life. It was a fucking huge realization when I finally understood what it feels like to not do something just to seek approval. To make decisions based on what I want, or what’s best for my family, husband, dog, instead of being obsessed with how others will perceive my actions, decisions, etc.
Am I the only one who was completely unaware that this is how I was living my life?!?
I have spent decades striving to get that gold star of approval. Trying to ensure that I was the best, coolest, funniest, smartest, most attractive thing in any given room. I would even go so far as to sit uncomfortably on a beach all afternoon so my thighs would look perfect just in case anyone walked by and decided to judge my legs (the secret is to not let them touch anything - ground, each other, etc - they have to float and rotate like Heidi Klum would if she were Tinkerbell…)
And what for? WHAT FOR?!?
In all honesty, I think that until recently I thought that’s what people wanted. That they wanted to know, be friends, date, have dinner with someone that was perfect. I wanted to impress and seek approval because I feared that if I didn’t I would suddenly be left out or that my thighs would be talked about as soon as I left the room. “Did you see that dimple? It’s so gross. She’s awful. I can’t imagine ever being associated with old dimple thighs. Let’s ditch her and stick her with the check!”
I just finished reading one of my new favorite books, Approval Junkie by Faith Salie. I had never heard of Salie before but her gold star studded cover made my inner fourth grader hyperventilate and buy impulsively.
She is hysterical. And honest, witty, interesting … let’s just say, she has my approval (not that she’s seeking it - she’s kicked the habit).
Like usual, I find it impossible to read without taking notes in the margins (I think I really enjoy it, but maybe it’s residue from my wanting people to think I’m super intelligent - the girl at Starbucks with her big hip glasses so engrossed in Greek mythology that she can’t stop writing about all of the revelations she is having…) So as I read my margins grew and I realized a few key things, which I am laying out for you below in case you, like me, need some help to stop giving a flying fuck about what others think.
The 5 Life-Altering Lessons Learned From Approval Junkie
1. Don’t Let Other People Possess You - Exorcise Those Mother F’ers!
Every person you allow to enter your psyche, those people whose words and thoughts weigh on you, is possessing you. It’s subtle and usually takes time, but people worm their way into your thoughts and life, making you feel guilty and responsible for their shit. People will pass on their baggage in sneaky ways, trying to get you to do things that make them feel better. DON’T LET THESE BASTARDS IN! Learn how to possess yourself and your entire life will change.
2. Being Interested Gets You Further Than Being Interesting
Take the pressure of yourself and relax! This is a huge part of learning how to stop jumping through hoops for other people. Learning to listen not only makes other people like you more, but you learn a ton about yourself and others. Next time you feel the need to impress, stop and listen. Take your time before you talk (or dance on the table or volunteer for karaoke) and you’ll start to realize that people will begin to try to impress you. (Such a better feeling!)
3. Slow Down, Listen, Learn
Approval junkies are quick to volunteer, quick to speak, and quick to pass judgment. SLOW DOWN. Be all in wherever you are. Give other people your full attention. Don’t be so frenzied that you miss out on what others are saying or doing. The best moments in life take place when you stop doing, start moving slower, and enjoy observing what’s going on around you.
4. Don’t “Act In” Just To Spare Someone’s Feelings
Acting “in” is the opposite of acting out. When you are constantly seeking approval, you wind up repressing things (you know, emotions) in order to make other people feel better. Don’t take this as license to be a crazy bitch whenever you want, BUT do realize that how you feel is important. If someone or something is really irritating you, hurting you, or making you feel like shit, you should say something. Even if it makes the situation worse for a bit, it will make everything better in the long run.
5. You Are Funny, Awesome, And Smart - Don't Give A Shit If Other People See This
You can’t be on all the time. And, when you are, you can’t expect that there will be a crowd anxiously waiting to applaud. Sometimes that perfect comeback comes to you in the middle of the night and you are the only person there to appreciate it. That’s life. People are going to get different impressions of you on different days. People will miss out on certain things that make you awesome. IT DOESN’T MATTER. Are you awesome? YES. Smart? (I THINK SO?) Funny? HELL YES! You knowing that is really all that matters. The important people in your life will get it. If your waiter at the restaurant misses out - it’s his loss (so refrain from telling that joke about semen on your pants just to prove you are funny and irresistibly irreverent)…
At the end of the day, all of those people you are trying to impress don’t even realize it because they are trying to impress you. Let go and be entertained by the people around you. It’s much easier on your brain and your thighs…