Approval – The Drug We All Crave

I’m going through a Tony De Mello phase at the moment. What a wonderful man. His books and talks are truly amazing and well worth investigating.

In one talk he mentions the ‘drug of approval’ or ‘approval seeking’. It rang a bell. How true it is that we are addicted to gaining the approval of others at any and all costs. Just about everything we do is marred with the underlying question is it good enough? Good enough for whom? Others, that’s who. Will they like it? Will they like me? Am I good enough? Will they approve? Oh God…what if they don’t? (And in walks our old friend…fear, closely followed by our other old friend – immobilisation).

How can I gain approval? I know – I can lose weight. Gain weight. Gain muscle. Dye my hair. Smooth my skin. Pluck my eyebrows. A nip, a tuck, a skip, a hop and off we go…on the approval seeking merry go round. Always chasing, chasing ‘the horse of approval’ in front – but never quite getting there, not fully, not permanently. Or maybe we just stop dead. Don’t do it. Don’t say it. Don’t try it. Freeze – or you might fail! Better to do nothing than lose our ‘hit’ of approval…

So it goes – never finding self-reliance, self-acceptance, independence, true fulfilment…peace.

Why is it a drug? Well, we are addicted to it, aren’t we? We think we neeeeeed it! If we do something and others don’t give us our drug, we feel uneasy, restless, scared. What can we do to appease them? Change ourselves? Change our points of view?

We might make a bold statement like ‘I believe abortion is bad’. The raised eyebrow of disapproval is received. ‘Well, I don’t mean all abortion.’ Raised eyebrow lowering slightly. (Phew.) ‘I mean if the baby is dying or something then that’s okay…or if the woman really needs it.’ Raised eyebrow no longer raised. (Double phew – got away with it – you still like me…) And we can relax.

Our approval need has been satisfied and we can carry on – albeit as a slightly less true version of ourselves. We’ve sold our opinions and our values down the river but at least you still approve of me – or at least that version of me that I am pretending to be to please you.

So really this approval seeking drug is a wonderful method of control. If I don’t approve of you – and you desperately need approval then, heck, I can control you simply by withdrawing your drug aka my approval. And, hey presto, before you know it you are crawling back, for your drug, for your fix.

Control, control, control…

Where did this approval seeking behavior come from? We weren’t born with it. Small children automatically take it for granted that they are perfect just as they are. They happily wander around naked. They sing at the tops of their little voices. They dance. They jump. They fall over. If someone laughs at them they laugh right back.

But then the ‘training’ begins…Mommy doesn’t like it if you spit out your peas, bad Baby. Daddy doesn’t like it if you roll in the mud, bad Baby. Eat your greens, put on your coat, no – the blue one not the red one. Sit up straight. Be good in school. Stand up when the teacher enters the room. Be quiet. Ask to go to the toilet. Do your homework. Get good grades. Go to college. Get a degree. Get a good job. Be a good employee. Do well in your performance appraisal. Pay your water bill. Be a good citizen. Vote!

And on and on and on it goes. Do this. Do that. Do the other. And if you don’t…you’re a bad person. a failure. We officially disapprove of you – you Outcast!

Yep, society likes to control us with the ‘drug of approval’ – and it certainly works – because we believe we need it. So much so that many companies make a fortune out of our need for approval. Make-up by the ton, smile clinics, cosmetic surgery, weight loss, workout classes. We fear the withering look of disapproval we might get if we’re having a bad hair day or even worse  – a no hair day – so we go through the pain of hair straighteners or of hair plugs or whatever and on and on and on it goes.  And because we have been reared on this sort of thing we literally buy it all – hook, line and sinker!

So how do we stop it? First thing is to notice it. Be self-aware. We are so used to this need for approval that we don’t even see it anymore and yet it controls so much of our lives. Once we notice it – and how false the need is, then we can just drop it. Understanding leads to dropping it.

For example, next time you have your tuppence worth to say at a meeting and your fear of disapproval is holding you back, understand this fear is false. You don’t need ‘their’ approval. So just say it. Blurt it out! Don’t hang around afraid to speak up in case someone disapproves. Chances are it’s a valid point and very often if you don’t say it, someone else will – and then you feel crushed inside that you didn’t have the guts to have your say.

Next time someone disapproves of your point of view, let them disapprove. Good for them. It’s their right and its okay. But stick to your guns. Your opinion is just as valid as theirs – and the likelihood is you’ll get more respect for standing firm.

And isn’t that the funniest part of it all? Think of those who get the most approval in our society. Are they the wimpy ones who hide in the corner and change their opinions depending on which way the wind blows? Or are they the strong ones? The ‘devil may care’ types who tell it as it is and so what if someone disagrees. They are the really cool ones, aren’t they? The true leaders who stand up and dare to be different. The Jesus Christs, the Gandhis, the Martin Luther Kings, the Mandelas…The ones who don’t hide their light under the bushel…no matter who disapproves or what the cost.

And so my friends, I ask you to drop your drug of approval seeking, to stand firm as ‘you’ – and to realise that you are a true original and because of you the world is a better place. Your originality is your gift to the world.

So don’t hide your glorious light, don’t be controlled. Be fully, completely, wholly, wonderfully you – and let us all revel in it!

I hope you liked this article but if you didn’t, that’s okay. I’m weening myself off this drug…

The Lost Art of Listening

I hung up on someone today. I’m ashamed to admit it. It was wrong and rude of me and I am sorry.

I hasten to add it was not on a coaching client. Still, it’s no excuse. As a Life and Business Coach I ought to know better. I’ll try harder next time…promise.

So how did this happen? The reason I hung up on this lady was that she absolutely would not listen to me. Half an hour of back and forth conversation getting us absolutely nowhere. My frustration mounted and mounted and…in the end I hung up…I gave up.

Perhaps you’ve had that feeling? The sheer, utter frustration of trying to communicate but failing miserably.  Being met with a brick wall…a deaf ear.

On the bright side it inspired me to write this short article on ‘The Lost Art of Listening’.

I really think that listening has become a lost art. How many of us take the time to really, really listen to someone? To really understand? In our helter, skelter world we all are busy and want to get our point across. So much so that when someone is speaking we aren’t really listening. We’re just waiting (usually impatiently) for them to stop talking so we can talk. Isn’t it true? We just want them to shut up long enough so we can have our say and in the meantime the art of listening is lost.

Even if we do attempt to listen how many of us really listen honestly and openly – willing to have our opinions changed? We listen from a fixed point of view mostly. We have our beliefs and for the most part dynamite wouldn’t shift them. We filter whatever comes to us through our own ‘reality tunnel’ – our version of things – and if it agrees great, we’re happy and if it doesn’t we immediately leap to defend our own hardened positions. But that is not really listening is it? It’s filtering…

Reminds me of a story the late Tony De Mello told. A guy met an old friend. ‘Tom, how you’ve changed.’ he says. ‘You were so tall, now you’ve become so short. You were so strong, now you’ve become so thin, you were so fair, now you’ve become so dark.’ The friend answers ‘I’m not Tom, I’m John.’ The first guy says ‘So you’ve changed your name too?’

See? Listening from his own fixed position. Not really listening, not really hearing, not really understanding.

So how do you listen? How do you gain the glorious insights you might get from another human being and their life experience? It’s simple.

You just listen.

You are open to their words and body language. You drop your agenda. You drop your preconceived notions. You drop your similar experiences – and particularly that story you want to jump in with. You drop your judgement as to whether they are good or bad, right or wrong, intelligent or stupid. You drop everything but your open, awareness and attention. You don’t talk over the other person, you don’t plan what you are going to say when they finally finish. You just shut up and listen.

And oh the joy of being listened to! The joy of being with someone who really takes the time to listen and to understand, with no agenda, no expectation, no nothing – just giving you the time and space to express yourself fully and to be heard. How wonderful. How rare.

Anyway that’s my tuppence worth. Perhaps I should have listened to that lady more. Hanging up is certainly not listening. I guess I need to take my own medicine. I definitely need to brush up on this art of listening myself. Oh well, h(ears) to next time!!!

Put a Halt to Self-Limiting Beliefs Now

We may not realise it but a lot of us have ‘self-limiting beliefs’ that run (and ruin!) our lives. You know that instant thought ‘I could never do that’ or ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘That’s okay for them to do, but I could never do it…’ and on and on it goes ad nauseam. The result? We live a small, reserved, inhibited -albeit safe and comfortable life – instead of the broad, expansive, amazing, wild and terrific life we were meant to live. So what to do? How do we get rid of these negative programs that run on and on without us even noticing most of the time? Well here is a free program called ‘Recreate your Life’ by Morty Lefkoe (click on link below) – and it runs you through how to get rid of some common self-limiting beliefs in a very short space of time. You can even substitute your own favourite self-limiting belief in there and work on that. Give it a shot. It’s free. I’ve done it and I know it works. Enjoy.

Recreate your Life

One Small Step for Man…or Woman!

I’ve been thinking recently of the significance of small things. Well, small steps to be precise – and how under rated they are. When thinking of life changes the focus tends to be on ‘big changes’ or ‘giant steps’ (apparently what you take whilst ‘walking on the moon’). However, the idea of making a huge change or taking that giant leap can be daunting for most people. Maybe it might be better to think in terms of small steps in the vein of ‘eating the elephant one mouthful at a time’. Certainly in business when faced with an enormous project breaking the whole thing down to manageable tasks helps greatly – and, in fact, that’s how all work really is accomplished, whether we realise it or not. So likewise in life when you want to make a big change take that first little step – make that phone call, find out where that course is taking place, write that email, book that appointment. Then take the next small step and then the next. All teeny, weeny steps but they get the ball rolling – you just need to be sure it is rolling in the right direction. A few small steps taken upon ‘the road less travelled’ can quickly set you en route to a very different place from where you currently are, and with a bit of forethought and persistence, that place will be exactly where you want to be. How great! Small steps can lead to BIG changes.