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Your approval is not needed
Personally, I no longer attach much importance to mass celebrations like Christmas, though I appreciate the social function it and others fulfill as they bring family, friends and the greater collective together in a remembrance and celebration of love made manifest.

I acknowledge with much gratitude that this is a time when we are invited to practically love in ways that open up the doors to a personal and collective experience of peace.

As on any other day throughout the year, I was flooded with many special gifts of love this Christmas. I was reminded that love unmanifest is something other than love. I remembered that it is in giving that I receive.

Amongst the special gifts I received was one which proved rather difficult – quite painful, in fact – to unwrap and unpack. The contents of this gift was timely, relevant and absolutely necessary to my personal well-being. However, the unwrapping and unpacking also revealed themselves to me as a gift, the gift revealing gift within; it reminded me that the guru is always present regardless of the experience. (GuRu, that which leads from darkness to light)

The gift within was a still deeper knowing that….

The less I mind, the more it really does not matter.”

As someone who is committed to personal growth and his evolving awareness and consciousness, I have long understood the destructive nature of approval-seeking behaviours.

I have observed how the need for approval quickly becomes addictive and an unconscious driver behind decisions, choices and actions.

Intellectually, I have understood that the need for the approval of others clearly demonstrates a disproportionate valuing of the beliefs, opinions and needs of others above my own.

Disapproval, even indifference, triggers a story that creates suffering and each decision is thus made purely as an effort to avoid the suffering. Indecisiveness, procrastination, lethargy, isolation, and seclusion thus quite easily become a way of life, and so the suffering continues, only assuming a different mask. The personal dream and commitment to that which serves my own well-being are put on ice, which, in turn, creates additional suffering on several levels, including the level of inter-personal relationships.Be yourself

I have known and observed a few common approval-seeking behaviours through my personal practice, my interaction with friends and family, as well as in my coaching work. Here are a few as can be found anywhere on coaching websites dedicated to personal growth. Some of these still describe me to some degree today, although I celebrate how far I have come these past few years in recognising my personal patterns and interrogating them enough to see them fade into behaviours that better serve my well-being. You will know behaviours that seem to more strongly apply to you and which have lost their power:

  1. You change or adjust your position because of perceived or expected disapproval
  2. You become insincere in paying compliments simply to gain approval
  3. You get upset, become worried or anxious, or feel insulted when your viewpoint is not shared or when it is criticised
  4. You become dishonest and may verbally or non-verbally express agreement when you actually disagree
  5. You find yourself doing what you do not really want to do, to avoid having to say ‘no’, which could potentially cause someone to ‘not like you’
  6. You do not speak up when you are given poor service or when you find flaws in products you have purchased
  7. You easily fall into the trap of gossiping and slandering, and of focusing only on what others are not doing ‘right’ in order to draw attention to your own ‘perceived goodness’
  8. You are forever seeking permission to do what you want, when it is, in fact, not required
  9. You are always apologising. The word ‘sorry’ seems to weave itself into nearly everything you say
  10. You pretend to know something about nearly everything to avoid being seen to not know very much about anything
  11. You use language and exhibit behaviours that are a means to attract compliments
  12. You are intentional about not conforming as a means to draw attention to yourself
  13. You succumb to any behaviour, which may be contrary to your most deeply held truth about your identity and purpose. You easily engage in behaviour that may be in conflict with your own deeply held values, all in attempt to gain the approval of someone else.

(Above List adapted from Coaching Positive Performance)

Applaus from the outsideI have been gifted with a relationship with my life-partner who, by and large, really does not give a fck what people think about him. He loves his life and lives largely free of people’s opinions, including mine. Of course, he has his own ‘achilles heel’, even in this regard. However, I have recognised in him and how he lives his life, the guru, which has been gifted to me for my own continued personal evolution. The lesson he brings me simply by being who he is, is:

Learn not to mind what anyone thinks and you will be free”.

And so, as I have been reflecting these past few days, as I have unwrapped this special Christmas gift, I have come to see more clearly the approval-seeking behaviours I still exhibit that are demeaning to myself and to those dear to me. I have become more alert to the moments when I fall back into destructive self-sensoring and self-editing behavioural patterns in order to gain approval.

I am a lover of personal freedom and authenticity, always have been, and yet, my life experiences have created a patterned response that I am now consciously unlearning. There is no doubt in my mind that relationships that are built on the constant need for approval of the other are devoid of any authentic caring, depth or even love. I see that more clearly as I continue on my life path.

My captor is my need for approval.”

And so, with greater clarity, I see what an absolute waste of my time and energy it is to constantly be on the look-out for the approval of my spouse, friends or family. It simply does not work and never has. It is counter-productive and, almost always causes pain and stress to all involved in the relationship.

My special Christmas gift was this deepening of intellectual insight – and a visceral recognition – that many of my choices and behaviours during the past years have been motivated by the desire to be loved, well, at least, liked, as well as by the debilitating belief that I needed to ‘make up’ for mis-takes in my past, which in turn would fuel people’s acceptance of me.

My insatiable appetite for acceptance by the people who matter in my life clouds my vision of the possible and leads to a lifestyle marked by procrastination and self-imposed seclusion.”

It has become clearer to me that I had developed the unique ability to tell people what I thought they wanted to hear, and to present myself in a way that I believed would meet with their approval. In doing so, I was limiting myself, to the point of no longer being able to even recognise what it was that I truly wanted for myself; this insatiable, yet well-camouflaged appetite for acceptance had long blocked my vision to any opportunities that would serve my highest good.

My repeated bouts of sadness and anxiety are born of my need to be liked by others.”

Thus, as Christmas day progressed, and I was in conversation with my life-partner, there was a sudden knowing that all of my sadness and moments of anxiety could be traced back to something as simple as my still apparent need for approval from an outside source.

Whilst I am able to recognise and allow these states of being as they arise, and have become practiced in investigating and inquiring, I had not yet fully dis-identified; I had not yet understood with all of my being the triggers and hot buttons.

Christmas day started out with anxiety and sadness, and ended in the joyous recognition that:

The less I mind, the more it really does not matter. My freedom lies in not minding what anyone thinks or what happens.”

Another Christmas has been experienced.

My special gift has been unwrapped.

I have remembered another bit more.

I have re-committed to unlearning non-serving patterns.

I have committed to consciously choosing thoughts and actions that serve my well-being.

My journey to wholeness continues. – bas/261215