Approval whores unite!

These days, I’m learning that it’s not about systematically rooting out the parts of me I find unacceptable and then eradicating them from my consciousness so I can be a better person.

Thank god.
Because I tried, and that shit does not work.

For example, I need love and approval.
Yep, I do.

I was a new coach when I first found out that I needed others’ approval. Oh shit! I was an approval whore! I was so shocked and ashamed when I discovered that I actually wanted others to like me, agree with me and love me. And that sometimes because I wanted love and approval I did things like suck up in meetings, not say my own truth if I thought my friends would disagree, or pretend I liked REO Speedwagon. (Sorry REO fans, you’re probably going to hate me. GAH! See! Total approval whore!)

Soon after this unearthing of my approval-seeking shame, I was walking with my sister and as we strolled the lake, I was telling her about my approval issue and how I was so shocked and disappointed in myself for having this thing. In my mind, It was akin to having a raging case of screaming yellow toe fungus. (I am truly sorry toe fungus sufferers for calling you out. GAH! Doing it!) Then my smarty-pants professor sister (You know sis that I say smarty pants with the utmost affection–don’t be mad. GAH!) said, “Well yeah, of course you want love and approval. We all do. We’re human. Love and approval is what ties us to each other, which is important for our survival as a species. All our social structures are built around fitting in, wanting love and approval. Think about it, back in the day, being cast out of the tribe was the worst thing that could happen. So yeah, you’re human.”

I wish I could tell you I got the message five years ago when we had this chat. Ummm, no.

I mean I intellectually understood that approval begins with loving myself, I am a life coach after all. But I still thought the path to loving myself more was getting myself to a place where I didn’t care what others thought. (Banish the need for approval!) And sometimes I got there, because to be honest, I realized I really didn’t care for some snarky people all that much. So I was golden about not needing approval from people I didn’t like. Basically my approach was, “Nyah, nyah, I don’t like you anyway so screw what you think!” It was a start.

But the people I deeply cared about? Tricky!

For instance, this past year I worked with a group of amazing coaches in an intensive training. Some of it was a rough go for them. Most of the time when I lead trainings, I can rest in the knowing it’s their process and can let them have it. If they need to be angry with me as a part of their journey, that’s ok. This year I was a little tender–ok, really, really tender–due to a recent breakup. I was pretty wobbly in holding that space of unconditional love for this group. In my tenderness, I just wanted the coaches to like me.

I had slipped off my own foundation. I didn’t trust myself. I wasn’t loving and approving of myself. I told myself I did a shitty job as their leader because I was distracted by my personal life. But, instead of attacking this “faulty” part of me and trying to banish it so I’ll never seek their approval again, I knew enough to know I needed to find a way back to compassion for myself.

What I needed to do was bring more love to bear on that part of me that wants love, not less. The more I accept that my need for approval and love are deeply human needs, the kinder I am to myself. Kindness drops me right into self-compassion, where I can see how I did the very best I could with the best intentions. And if there were places where that’s not true, I can clean those up without shaming myself. The weird thing is, when I do this, it also gives me so much space to allow others to have their own feelings, without impacting my own sense of worth. It allows me to truly be in relationship–with myself and others.

I do need the love and approval of others. I want that connection, that sense of being part of. It’s deeply fulfilling to me. And what allows me to receive that love that is truly raining down on me, is loving myself. And how I love myself is by bringing the most compassionate, loving kindness possible to bear on those “flawed” parts of me. When I do this, it feels so spacious, like I can breathe, be imperfect, and be fully human. No eradication required.