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How Our Obsession With Other People's Approvals Is Destroying Us

On a real note, we all strive for some level of approval from our peers. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a bit of recognition for our accomplishments, but it seems that a “bit” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Many people value their self-worth based on the opinion and approval of others, and are constantly asking themselves, “what would people think?”

It’s real easy to say, “don’t care what other people think,” but we all know that is much easier said than done.

We all have this innate nature to impress or one-up each other, but some of us have convinced ourselves of the falsehood that people are always watching.

Perhaps this notion comes from the fact that we are constantly putting ourselves in the spotlight. It has become a necessity to build a “following” and showcase an admirable lifestyle. If we don’t receive the attention that we are seeking, it can be incredibly crushing. And even worse; if we happen to mess up, we think that everyone is judging us and gossiping about our failures. Perhaps it’s time that we realize that the public isn’t watching as closely as you’d like (or not like) to think.

This need for approval is developed in early childhood, and only snowballs from there.

Sometimes you may feel like a puppy dog, panting and begging for approval. Did you ever wonder where we developed this need? Ever since childhood, we’ve been conditioned by our parents, teachers and mentors to do well in order to receive their admiration. As we reach new milestones in life, we develop new facets of people that we need to impress.

As children, we are given a set of rules and expectations to live by. When we do well, we get a gold star or a pat on the back. Our mentors tell us that they are proud; so early on we develop the concept that we need approval to know that we are doing well.

Now, we’re growing up and progressing through school. We start expressing our personalities, and receive judgment for the way that we do so. Our peers divide and clique up, label each other, and compartmentalize into a caste system of sorts. Are you popular, a nerd, a “freak”? How your peers perceive you at this age has an extreme impact on how we view ourselves.

Once school is over and we are released into the “real world”, the cultural hierarchy only becomes all the more complicated. You may notice yourself trying to portray yourself in a different light to your boss and coworkers so that they’ll like you and give you their approval. You take on an almost chameleon-like adaptability to fit in and impress whichever audience is at hand.

Praise and acknowledgment undoubtedly increase our self-esteem. And since this praise is external, it is no surprise that we put an emphasis purely on external factors to determine our self-worth, and weigh our self-esteem.

There is one huge element here that is being painfully overlooked. We are talking about SELF worth, and SELF esteem. We determine how to view ourselves based on how others perceive us. The truth is, we will never truly know what anyone really thinks about us, so the fact that we weigh approval from others so heavily is really quite silly.

We put up a front of how we want people to view us, denying our true selves, and destroying our self-worth.

It almost seems that many people are denying their true selves, squashing the elements that make them unique under the infrastructure of the façade they are putting up. A front if you will. The average person “brands” themselves and alters their personalities and appearance to fulfill a superficial image that they think others will like and admire. When that admiration is not received, it is not uncommon to experience depression because of it.

When there is such an emphasis for approval, it causes extreme turmoil when the approval is not received.

For example: social media likes. It pains me to admit that is a real issue, but unfortunately this is the world that we live in. Say that you spend hours perfecting your look, finding the right location and lighting, and using what you think is all of the right hashtags. Now you post, and you wait. The likes are stacking up, but not at the velocity that you’d hoped. You were aiming for 100+ but only received a measly 57. Now your day is ruined. You’re not as pretty as you thought. Your hair doesn’t even look good in that style. You’re so humiliated that you take the picture down, erasing any evidence of your hideous attempt at selfie-posting.

Social climbing is another common practice of the self-esteem deficient as well.

Surrounding yourself with people you don’t necessarily like because of the prestige and opportunities that it brings you. These people are not your friends, and want to see you fail. But they will support and praise you as long as you are doing well and reflect the image that they want to maintain. This lack of solid relationships will no doubt effect your self esteem. Without a good support system and a real friend to turn to, you will ultimately feel alone, and maybe a bit worthless because none of your “friends” actually care about you.

How do we reverse the toxic effects?

Realize no one is watching as closely as you think.

Identify the Spotlight Effect, the incorrect notion that everyone is watching.[1] In all actuality, we are the only ones who fixate on our failures.

Your peers may be paying attention to what you do, but you’re not constantly under scrutiny. I don’t mean this negatively, but no one really cares how many likes you get or followers you have. And if they do, then it’s about time that person got a life (outside of the nonexistent virtual one most people just stagnate in.)

A personal example of this: for years I have struggled with a slight stammer and have gone through great efforts to remedy this impairment. Every time I stutter a bit, I think everyone is noticing and judging me. The truth is, most people don’t pay it any mind. And if they do, they’re not dissecting my worth as a person because I s-s-stuttered a bit.

Brush off the haters.

Sure, some people may judge you. Some people may even talk trash about you. Take it as a compliment. If you have haters, then that means that you intimidate others. Why would they feel the need to take you down a notch unless they felt that you were above them? Put those hater blockers on, and take it in stride. If people want to see you fail, then you’re doing something right.

Be yourself, uncensored, and unapologetic.

I’m sure you have heard the overuse of the phrase “you must love yourself before you can love anyone else.” Well, it’s true. You will never be able to maintain healthy relationships with others unless you have one with yourself. When you are comfortable in your own skin, you don’t need the approval of others, and the negativity that is cast from not receiving approval will no longer have any effect.

You are free to be yourself, uncensored, and unapologetic. If anything, you will receive more admiration from people. So many are afraid to just let go and embrace their true selves.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: The Spotlight Effect

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About Mysterious Everythings

Le Minh Hieu is a national-level weightlifter and a Singapore Weightlifting sports performance coach. Hieu's biggest passion is helping everyone find confidence, happiness, and health through fitness.