"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Sunday, 23 February 2014

How to Be Self-Approved & Stop Seeking External Approval

Image of a purple Morning Glory flower in bloom with text: Love YourselfThe term ‘Be Self-Approved’ is regularly quoted and heavily promoted by motivational and
inspirational life coaches, speakers and mentors.

When I first heard it I wondered how it was achievable, how was it possible to go around feeling that everything I did, thought and expressed was okay?

I knew it was a matter of building self-esteem, and that it was going to take more than simply reciting those three words.

And I discovered the first step towards that was to stop seeking external approval. But what did that mean?

It meant stop putting other people’s feeling before my own. It meant stop considering their perception of me as being more important than my own. And to stop trying to alter what I said and did in order to gain a positive response or action from them - just to get them more interested in me, and to ‘like’ me.

Yes, a tall order.

When we seek approval from others we give away our power. We make our happiness dependent on another, by making our feelings dependent on their response to us. If they like us, we like ourselves; if they are unhappy with something we have said or done, we are unhappy. We feel bad, and become submissive, changing our action or opinion to match theirs, to get them to respond to us positively.

If you aren’t good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you will resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t even giving to yourself.” -  Barbara DeAngelis

But in doing so we are chastising a part of ourselves, stifling who we are, or who we want to be, and often this builds anger and resent, which we either take out on the ones we love or turn on ourselves - or both.

We can become a victim and blame everyone else for our life not going the way we want it; be unhappy, give anyone who will listen our sob story and make excuses for why we can’t change it; or we can become angry and defensive, taking out our inability to be happy with ourselves and the choices we have made, on those around us.

I have been both of these, and they are both negative, often resulting in attracting people with a similar mindset, thus perpetuating the same thinking. And it also pushes away those people we do want to be like - or attract - who could help bring out the best in us.

"Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult." - Joyce Meyer

You see, when we start giving up parts of ourselves to gain someone’s approval we are no longer being honest with ourselves – or with them. We start to live a lie; we start to convince ourselves that what they want is what we want, and we suppress our own feelings. We stop listening to ourselves and then we become confused, especially when we aren’t happy with the end result. 

When I was like this people told me that I had choices, but I felt that wasn't true;  I felt the things in my life weren’t my personal choice, that I was doing them to please another. I had put myself in a position where I felt there were no choices - not if I wanted to be with that person or keep them wanting to be with me. I had given away my personal power to maintain a lie, because I thought that person was more important than me, or that person's happiness was more important than my own. But at the end of the day it was me that was losing out.

When we are not happy with ourselves, we can't make another person happy. The more unhappy we are, the more difficult it is for them to be around us. In the end we are pushing them away, rather than drawing them towards us, and this will only make us more unhappy. We have to make ourselves happy first.

"Love yourself first, because that's who you'll be spending the rest of your life with."- Unknown

We also need to ask ourselves who we are seeking approval from; why have we made those people more important than ourselves? What is it that they have that we think we need? Is it something we feel we are lacking within ourselves? What are we really seeking from them? And why can't we find it within ourselves?

In the answers to those questions we will begin to unravel what we are seeking, and how we can go about finding it within ourselves, rather than looking externally. Sometimes we might discover we already possess it, and just need to nurture it and give it room to grow.

"Nurturing yourself is not selfish - it's essential to your survival and your well-being." - Renee Trudeau

It's only by realising our own self-worth, and our own value that can we stop looking externally for approval and find inner happiness. As previously mentioned in How to Stop Negative Internal Dialogue, we need to think about what we DO have to offer and what kind of person we DO want to be, and the life we want to lead. We can start this is by listening to ourselves, hearing our own needs and desires, and then making a list of all our positive traits, or those we want to possess, and focus on them, and how to go about achieving them.

“If you want to improve your love life, improve how you love yourself. The love you have for yourself is, in a way, the only love you have in your life because all the other love is a mirror of it. If you don’t love yourself enough, you’ll find ways not to find love. Be kind to yourself! Forgive yourself! Encourage yourself! Appreciate yourself, Have faith in yourself! Listen to yourself! Be gentle with yourself! Stop talking so negatively to yourself! Love yourself!” – The Daily Love, Mastin Kipp


  1. The self-approval thing or rather lack of it has been a self-perpetuating cycle in my family, which I've had to break. My parents never argue, never ever, no raised voices, no disagreements...as a child I just thought they had a miraculously happy marriage. As an adult, I see more, that neither can argue for fear of hurting the other and causing discord. The result is sulking and resentment.
    I then began my marriage, seeking the same harmony. Thankfully, I realised the unhealthy state of constantly seeking approval and hiding your true feelings. A healthy relationship involves disagreements (and arguments) and learning to compromise is part of that.
    I do, however, still find it difficult to speak my mind in public, constantly weighing up how what I say might affect another...or how I might come across. Though I worry less each day and will win that battle.

    1. Thanks for sharing Lisa, it is indeed hard to find the balance between sharing our own feeilngs and not upsetting others too. But being honest and speaking in non-accusatory tones ('I' rather than 'you') helps. It's a fine line which is hard to learn.