Want to live happy? Stop worrying about what others think. Therapist, Julie Hanks, has 6 reasons to let go of seeking other’s approval.
1) You can never really know what anyone else is thinking
Even if someone tells you what they are thinking about you, can you ever really know whether or not they are telling the truth? I once worked with a client who, after social gathering, would worry about the some of the things she’d said something inappropriate, wondered if they liked her or approved of her, wondered if she fit in, and tried to guess what they might be thinking of her. I helped her to realize that she could spend time wondering and second guessing but that she would never have answers to her questions.
2) It’s none of your business what others think
As a teenager, I gave a lot of weight to what others thought about me. As I tried to care a little less about gaining other’s approval I’d rehears the phrase “It’s none of my business what anyone else thinks of me” over and over in my head. It helped me to focus more on what I thought about myself. Author Byron Katie says that there are 3 kinds of “business” in life: yours, other’s, and Gods. We create pain for ourselves when we get into other people’s business (i.e. trying to control other’s thoughts feelings, trying to solve someone else’s problems for them) or God’s business (i.e. asking questions like “Why did this happen to me?” or “Why is there so much pain in the world”).
3) You can be happy without the approval of others
As children, the approval of our parents or caregivers means a lot because we are dependent on them for our physical survival. But, as we grow up, some of us hold on to that need for approval as if our life still depended on it. It’s helpful to remind ourselves that we can be happy even without the approval of important people in our lives. I remember when my husband and I made an offer on a house without any feedback from our parents, or any other family members. When I realized what we’d done I remember thinking, “We are officially grown up” because we didn’t even ask what others thought about our decision. We felt good about it and that was enough.
4) Frees up energy for the things you can control
Worry about what others might be thinking about you takes up a lot of time and energy and doesn’t change anything. Letting go of the worry frees you up to actually make positive changes in your life. For example, if you worry about what kind of parent others think you are because you’re children frequently misbehave in public, that worry actually be influencing your parenting in a negative way. Letting go of worrying about what others think frees up energy to attend to your children’s needs in the moment, and in the long run, allows you to focus on gaining new parenting skills rather than trying to manage other’s thoughts about your parenting.
5) Allows for a stable sense of worth
Individuals who generally feel good about themselves attract draw other people closer to them. If we link our self-worth to some else’s thoughts or evaluations we lose control of our own sense of self. It’s common for women, especially when in distressed relationships, to try to prove her worth to her partner and fall into a pattern of desperate approval seeking. I remember working with a couple where the husband had been unfaithful. The wife was stuck in the pattern of trying to prove to her husband that she was worth fighting for. When he validated her, she felt good about herself, but when he expressed ambivalence about the marriage, her sense of worth crumbled. Ironically, from my point of view, this wife’s desperate need for her husband’s actually pushed her husband further away.
6) More freedom to be your authentic self
When we’re chronically worried about what others are thinking about us or our choices, we may stifle our own thoughts, feelings, and dreams. Letting go of what others think allows us to express ourselves more freely, and to make choices that are in line with who we are, instead of who others think we should be. I remember working with a young adult woman who was working in the family business. It was her parent’s dream for her to take over the business, but it was not her dream. She wanted to attend an arts school across country but feared what her parents would think if she did what she wanted to do. I helped her to let go of making her major life decisions on what her parents would think.
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