What We Give Away When Seeking Acceptance

Photography by Bradford Chase

The secret to successful adulting starts when we stop worrying about what other people think.

This seems simple to say; so I wonder sometimes why it’s such a struggle to comprehend at a level getting us through our day with a smile on our face and confidence in our step.

Because that’s just not the case most days.

Can you think of the last time you looked at your blank phone, pretending; just hoping someone watching didn’t realize you tried to walk into some place you didn’t want to go?

Or what about the instance when you faked a phone call so you could leave a room you entered by mistake or maybe a restaurant when you were stood up?

You were surrounded by strangers, and yet you had grave concerns about how they perceived you.

How about your social media feed. Do you make certain to post things that show how great your life is, how successful you’ve become, and what great things are happening in your relationships?

Being liked and accepted is something we all need to feel good about ourselves and experts say it’s a survival trait; — being accepted by our “tribe.”

But many times we take this need to extremes and forget who we really are.

I’ve talked about the damaging nature of people pleasing behavior in this article; “Why People Pleasing Behavior Slowly Robs Us Of Our True Self,” but now I want to go a step further and discuss how we learn to get comfortable being who we really are.

The first step requires us to stop worrying about what others think about us.

It is not an easy task and it requires us to take small steps over time to change this behavior; but it is worth the effort I assure you.

Wayne Dyer has a great quote, “What other people think about me is none of my business.”

Some experts call this issue “Approval Addiction.”

We get so concerned about the approval of others, we spend too much time focused on behaving in a manner we perceive as acceptable. We give up learning to take chances necessary in life to enjoy the journey we all are taking to get through it.

So, how much time did you spend today focused on how someone else acted, the clothes they wore, or the way they talked?

In fact, try to remember someone you saw in the store today you felt behaved poorly or acted foolishly. How about even a friend who did something you thought was “weird” or unusual?

Do those memories come easy to you? If you recall them easily, now consider whether you might even bother to think about them if I hadn’t asked you to remember each one.

This exercise shows exactly the extent others are thinking about you right now.

Little to none.

And yet, we will wake up tomorrow making certain we put on the “right” clothes, act the “right” way and make the “right” decisions. Typically all based on how we think others might respond and limiting ourselves to behavior that mimics this self-created expectation.

We need to get over ourselves.

As recommended by noted psychologist Ilene Strauss Cohen, PhD., start by promising you won’t live locked in chains when you have the key to release them.

Let life’s circumstances tell you no when you reach for your dreams, not others and not yourself. Push through the little obstacles and climb over the big ones. Don’t stop until the way is completely impassable, and then only with a plan to try again.

Next, follow Mahatma Gandhi’s guidance telling us, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and you do are all in harmony.” You can’t live by your values and your ideals when you live for the approval of others.

Remember the way others look at us has everything to do with who they are and has nothing to do with who we are. If it’s a problem, it’s theirs not ours.

Most importantly, learn to laugh at yourself!

We all make mistakes. We all do silly things; we stumble and fall, we spill, we say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Holding on to self imposed misery because we’re not perfect is egotistical and destroys our joy. Let it go.

The truth is everyone else already did and if they didn’t it’s on them, not you.

Laughing at yourself is the greatest strength for freeing your inner true self and letting it shine through.

Finally, think about this from a new perspective. If you live in a manner limiting your behavior to doing and acting in a way you believe others approve of, don’t you give away the chance for providing the world with all your unique gifts? Don’t be selfish.

Time to go dance like no one is watching.

I take pictures & write stories. Sometimes I get paid. A perpetual student of life who gets lost on purpose. Clap. Hit Follow. Come along for the ride.

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