Humans are complex creatures. We are both individually unique and overwhelmingly communal in the way we require emotional support from one another.
We have a habit of acting despite our best interests.
This can happen when our choices are dictated by a desire for approval from other people (friends, networks, a boss, parents, loved ones, strangers, idols, family members, peer groups, communities etc)
It’s very easy to slip into a habit of acting in a way that you believe will get you approved of.
You watch how someone else does things and witness the way people seem to respond to them for it. Then you copy their behaviour, buy the same things, talk in the same way. Not because it’s who you are, but rather in an attempt to have some deeper need pandered to.
Basing your decisions, your actions, your creative projects, on a need for approval is a guaranteed way to creative paralysis. It’s why so much potentially amazing stuff remains unfinished, why so much promising art never gets released. The drive for approval can never be satisfied.
A while back Mike Robbins wrote a Huffington Post article outlining 3 Ways to Curb Approval Seeking Behavour that gives some helpful observations on the subject:
1. Notice: Pay attention to your approval seeking tendencies. In what relationships and situations does this show up most often for you? Like most things in life, change starts with awareness, so noticing when, how and what specifically it is that you do or say (in your head or out loud) in terms of seeking approval is the first step.
2. Share: Talk about this with the specific people in your life it impacts the most: your significant other, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your boss, your clients and more. Because much of this stuff is self-imposed, when we start talking about it we often realise that we’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves, and in many cases, unnecessarily.
3. Give To Yourself: Give yourself that which you are seeking, which in most cases is love and acceptance. The source of much of our pain and suffering, as well as our joy and happiness, is us. So often we’re looking for others to give to us that which we need to give to ourselves. When we love and approve of ourselves, two important things happen. First of all, we become less needy of the approval of others. Second, because we are giving it to ourselves and aren’t as needy of it from others, we often get even more love and acceptance from those around us.
(On that subject maybe have a listen to last week’s podcast about learning to forgive yourself)
Driven by Fear. Second Guessing. And Seeking Approval.
Searching for approval is driven by, and acting out of fear: a fear of what others think of you, and a fear of failing in their eyes.
This fear moves you to view yourself from outside of yourself.
You see your life through the lens you project onto other people.
When your decisions are informed by second guessing the things other people might approve of you for, then you’re in trouble. You might lose hold of your true self completely.
Surround Yourself With Helpful Voices
Do you have helpful people around you? People who’s opinions matter to you? People who encourage you to be the best you can be?People who get what you’re trying to do, who understand the perspective, the voice, and the art, that you are crafting?
I hope so.
Maybe you don’t have those kinds of people around you. If not then it’s time to find some.
It can be easy to become influenced by voices that don’t get what you’re trying to do. People who don’t approve of you or your work. Or maybe there are people who drain your energy by constantly demanding you to justify the choices you make, to explain yourself to them so that they can argue with you.
By all means spend some time explaining your why but don’t lose sleep over the fact that they don’t listen and don’t approve of it. And whatever you do don’t change the way you’re doing it because of them. They don’t really care and they don’t matter to the work you are doing. They provide an excuse to quit. Don’t let it be that.
Don’t let the desire to have your work approved drive the work itself. If that was what drove the greatest minds in history did what they did then the world would look very different and we would probably still be living in caves, or extinct.