Dear Neil: I think being hooked on approval is the core to why I struggle and obsess so much. There seems to be little ease and relaxation in me. For me, approval seems almost a matter of survival. How does a person change this?
Hooked on Approval in Vancouver, British Columbia
Dear Hooked on Approval: You’re making the assumption that what everyone else thinks or feels about you is more important than what you think and feel about yourself. You begin changing your struggle for other people’s approval by looking at what you like, respect, approve of and admire about yourself.
Try the following exercise. Create as many answers as you can for the following questions:
- What do you like about yourself?
- What are your strengths as a person? A friend? A lover or spouse? A family member? A parent? At work? At home? Socially?
- What do you like about your appearance?
- What are the things you’re good at? The things you do well?
- How are you unique—and why are you interesting?
- What experiences, accomplishments or achievements are you proud of?
- If you were to treat yourself with more respect, kindness and benevolence, what would you need to do differently?
- When you are around others, what do you like most about yourself?
- If you were to take more responsibility for improving your level of self-esteem and self-acceptance, what would you need to do differently?
- If you were to allow yourself to experience what self-approval feels like, what would you need to do?
- If you were to permit yourself to change and grow, what would you need to do?
Ultimately, self acceptance is about being on your side—being your own ally, best friend and cheerleader. It involves being friendly to your emotions, your struggles, your goals, dreams and aspirations.
“Nothing is a greater impediment to being on good terms with others than being ill at ease with yourself.” —Honore de Balvac
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
Dear Neil: I am so critical of my husband, and he is such a wonderful person. What can I do to learn to not be so critical? My mother is very critical, and I know I am also.
Critical in Vail, Colorado
Dear Critical: You are critical of your husband not because of him or what he does—but because of you. It originates first and foremost with you being super critical of yourself. You have an overactive inner critic who pounds you—so you pound others, especially those close to you. It’s as if you feel that if you’ve had to endure it, everyone else should also.
Find somebody to help you control your inner critic. A good book on this subject is Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal and Sidra Stone (Harper).