Much of our society deals with this problem to some degree. The need for other people’s approval.
We act a certain way so that other people don’t get angry or feel put off by us. So that they are okay with how and who we are.
IT’S NOT REAL
What we end up doing to get the approval is hide who we really are and wear a mask we think will please the other person. For example we’ll:
– Laugh at a joke we don’t find funny.
– Agree with what the other is saying when in reality we hold the opposite view.
– Don’t say no when we need to.
The list can go on forever but you get the picture. So why do we do it?
First of all because it feels safer to do so than not. Any conflict, anger or tension elicits a very strong anxiety response in us that feels extremely threatening. Our heart speeds up, the muscles tighten, the mind races and we feel out of control.
It’s a fight or flight response which is physically painful, scary and very stressful. No wonder we avoid being ourselves.
The problem though with avoiding being ourselves is that the other person isn’t really seeing us.
AGAIN, IT’S NOT REAL
When someone is happy with the way you are (or at minimum not annoyed, i.e. okay with you) because you behave in a way that makes it so, they are not giving you approval.
They are approving of your mask. They are saying that they are happy with the fake you. The set of behaviors you enact to be nice. That is not the same thing as YOU at all.
The mask gets the approval, not you.
WHO ARE YOU?
You’ve probably been wearing the mask so long that it’s possible you don’t know.
Who you are is the person inside you that would have said what you really thought, stated your true opinion, said no, did what you wanted to do, be loud, take up space and go when and where you wanted to go.
That real you was likely shut down in early childhood as a coping mechanism (a good one for that age) to deal with a threatening or uncertain environment – meaning parents.
As time went on it stayed with you and became the norm. As an adult you now have the opportunity to correct this and be free to live your life, on your terms.
It’s not easy though. It’s like pulling a dead horse across a football field. An inch at a time over many years is what it takes and what you need to do.
The main way this is done is through your anger (the part of you you shut down at age 3). Listen to it daily. It’s telling you what YOU want to say, or should have said. It’s telling you what you really think, who you’re pissed off at and what you want to say to the people closest to you. What you’ve always wanted to say for years perhaps.
Then act on it in the healthiest way possible.
Every day. Small things like asking for directions, hanging up on telemarketers, asking your spouse to take out the garbage. Then graduate to bigger and bigger things.
Pull that horse until you cross the line many years later, and become a new person – yourself.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” ― Warren Buffett
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