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.

23 comments on “Approval whores unite!
  1. Yes! The need to feel belonging is a basic human need. But too many of us sacrifice ourselves for a false sense of it. As Brene’ says, fitting in is NOT the same as belonging. I totally agree that compassion towards the self is the number one way to get that approval we so desperately want and need. But “just love yourself,” isn’t always the easiest advice to implement. The way to love yourself is to see that those flaws that we have been so bent on eradicating are actually our greatest assets. Them flaws heal, inspire and connect us to our tribe and our purpose. And when we stop wishing them away, they actually help us learn how to approve of ourselves. And the cool part about giving yourself approval is you find belonging — where you least expected it. Love this post Bridgette. Thank you for telling your truth and being vulnerable! xoxo

  2. Oh, I can relate. I remember about 15 years ago suffering bad boy choice selection and being really depressed and finding myself in a codependents anonymous meeting and the sense of shame that I had was so overwhelming I went to a place of all encompassing shame. My ears were burning and I thought I would explode from the shame of wanting someone’s love. I was so ashamed of my feelings and I didn’t know it. I guess my choices in partners got worse and worse so that the shame could blow itself out of my system. So after working the 12 steps and cleaning looking at every relationship I ever had, I also learned that wanting to be loved is truly human and being loved in a health way feels really good. Being loved by myself, that is a gift I wish I can give to all young people. Especially those challenged by unlovingness around them. Thank you for your missive and thanks for the reminder to treat myself like I would treat a little child – loving, accepting and joyful!!!

  3. Hey Bridgette Boudreau! I certainly can be an AP, lol…but because of your kind words, it doesn’t feel like the worst thing in the world . When you said that to me, I actually sighed and thought “oh…yes…of course.” …and I’m ok. I don’t have to strive to ‘not care’ – and the funny thing is, since then, I don’t as much. It was the self-compassion, of course. So simple, so kind, so elusive. Thanks for this great post.

  4. Hey love,
    This is so yummy…. :))

    I love that you write just like you speak…I can hear your voice as I read the lines. Fabulous.

    Love you, denise

    PS. Miss seeing you…(well once every 4 months or so) in Seattle. 🙂

  5. Thank you for writing this Bridgette! You have my whole-hearted approval for being you and for caring what other people think. I loved that you took on a subject that I think has been particularly challenging for me. If I’m all Zen-like and happy with myself shouldn’t I just not give a damn about other people and their thoughts about me? I mean, really – isn’t it a sign of “something wrong with me” that I care? This is particularly true since one of my mentors is the total opposite of an approval whore (she doesn’t seem to give a damn what people think about her at all) and so I took that to mean I needed to be that way too. So … I think what I took from this post is that the most important thing is just acknowledgement. If I’m finding myself attached to having someone’s approval, for God’s sake, at least acknowledge it and tell myself I’m normal. And normal is just fine.

  6. Damn! I just realized I have this affliction. Well, that certainly explains a lot! Thanks for this eye-opener. I’ll be able to move forward with more clarity.

  7. Hi Bridgette! I need and want love and approval and that’s ok. When we have healthy relationships and boundaries, being an “Approval Whore” can be stylish. lol:-)

    Beautifully written.
    xoxo Dana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *