Monday, January 17, 2011

Practicing Self Approval

"Wanting approval is the biggest check you will ever write." - Lawrence Crane

As a child, my father once told me to stop caring what other people think of me.  He told me that as I grow up, and become more confident in myself, I won't care how others feel about me.  The message is that if I don't care what others think of me, they'll stop judging me and have less control over my feelings.  If I let other kids' teasing hurt me, then they can hurt me, and kids who needed to feel that kind of power through psychological bullying would see that it works and use it to increase their own sense of self worth.  Though, if I had confidence in my own decisions and choices, and could realize that a lot of the judgments from others is just that, a play for power, a way to get control, likely due to lower self esteem in the others.

Truly confident people don't need to judge or bully others.  When they fully accept themselves, they neither need to grant or deny approval, nor do they seek it in others.  One of the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is to not take anything personally.  Everything that someone likes or dislikes, approves or rejects, is a reflection of the values and emotions of that person, and that person alone.  It has nothing to do with the specific value or quality of that which is being judged.  Not taking anything personally, is trusting in yourself through judgment, and neither being proud of compliments, nor ashamed of insults.  Any statements or actions of others is just more information about the other person and nothing about the subject that they're judging.

It's hard, though.  There's a drive in many of us to want to be liked, and often to want to be liked and approved of by a specific person, specific people, or society in general.  And some people have been either formally or informally annointed as discerning critics.  Some people are great at being judges that others take seriously, their word becoming the basis for group opinion or group judgment.  To some extent, this is valuable to many as helping to determine fitness and what others will like.  However, in arts it often leads to the creation of diluted "mainstream" or "derivative" artifacts.  In people, it leads people into feeling low self esteem, "selling out", or lording their opinions over others.   Some of these comments illuminate a lesson: what we often find most appealing are the things that are most internally honest.

The great irony is, the more that people pander to be liked by others, the less authentic they become, and inevitably the less liked.  Seeking approval from others is really unattractive to the people giving the approval.  It creates a relationship of power.  People admire great personal integrity in others.  Having integrity means that one's beliefs and behaviors integrate thoroughly. Start Whole.

Lawrence Crane delivered an important message in a little book, that I find can be summarized in it's title Love Yourself and Let the Other Person Have It Your Way, and a key line  "Wanting approval is the biggest check you will ever write."   Giving others the power to approve or reject who you are is giving up your ability to make your own decisions, think your own thoughts, and feel your own feelings.   That's completely surrendering your personal freedom at the most fundamental levels.   To give myself approval, I constantly need to seek if there's anything in myself that I disapprove of, and accept it.  Over and over, I seek to accept every last bit of who I am.  Personal acceptance is an important part of my path to integrity, compassion, and happiness.

Since awareness leads to growth, I  track two related points daily on my daytender account:  Took nothing personally and Loved me.  I give myself a 1-10 rating on both of these.  Reflecting on these values is what helps, and the rating is interesting to watch over time, and in coordination with other counters and events of my life.


  1. Great post. A great reminder to start accepting the parts of me I don't currently approve of. My normal reaction is to work on them until I do approve, all of them all at once. Better is to accept them first, and then maybe one at a time focus on improving.

  2. That's cool..

    Check this out:

  3. I definitely needed to read this article. I do however have one thing to interject. As Michi stated, "Better is to accept them first, and then maybe one at a time focus on improving." I have found in my life that as time has moved forward, and I have become all the wiser, that certain characteristics I have found within myself have been detrimental to my ultimate goal of achieving happiness. I have been consistently trying to better myself, for myself. I have found a lack of complacency in remaining stagnant and merely accepting these illogical blockages of progression, and began to seek out wisdom in its many forms to formulate a more beneficial perception in regards to self approval. I thoroughly appreciate this article, as it has brought to light some incredibly valuable and logical insight. Thank you, Ed Essey.