Our attachment to the approval of others keeps us from achieving our potential.

The need for the approval from others is part of our psychological development during childhood, where we affirm ourselves through adaptation to the expectations of parents, our society and culture. During this stage, the way our parents and other authority figures handle any deviation from the norm we are expected to conform to determine whether we get stuck caring excessively about what people think as adults. When this happens, our self-protective persona strengthens, and we become attached to the need to get the approval of our caretakers to ensure our psychological survival. It causes the natural developmental trajectory of our authentic self to stall, disconnecting us from our own needs, interests and potential.

This is why as adults we continue to live in fear of being judged and shamed. We are still attached to the fixed belief that we must have the approval of others or suffer negative consequences. We fear that we will again be wounded as we were in childhood when we were criticized, judged, shamed, or rejected for our ideas or creativity. Depending on the severity and frequency of consequences and punishment in our failures to conform, we have little to no access to our authentic self or ability to express ourselves. We betray our own potential for the sake of survival.

We are wired to be “other” focused, seeking approval and fearing what someone might think if we don’t conform to their ideas of how to behave, how to live, and what work to do. We actively sabotage our hopes, dreams, and desires because we fear someone will tell us we’re being ridiculous, or it can’t be done. We project authority onto others as though they know better than ourselves what would make us happy or what we are capable of achieving.

Abdicating the Authority of the Authentic Self

Anxiety is the result of not feeling connected to the natural authority of our Authentic Self. We were meant to grow beyond the self-protective attachment to the need for approval by establishing and nurturing the gifts and abilities of our Authentic Self. Making others happy and conforming alleviates the anxiety we feel when we express a difference of opinion or consider saying no to a request for our time or energy. We are experts at reading the room and figuring out what others expect from us so that others won’t disapprove or judge us. This attachment to the approval of others weakens us and our energy goes into people-pleasing, avoidant behavior, underachieving, and the creation of a secret life that we are ashamed to share with anyone.

Another sign that we are stuck in this self-protective approval seeking stage of development is worrying and ruminating about how others are or might be judging us. While we have no evidence to support the story, we tell ourselves, we still believe it to be true. This manufactured fear of being judged in social or work situations snowballs. Since we are already anxious because of our story, we believe others will surely see our anxiety and feel embarrassed for being so weak. This leads to the avoidance of any situation or person we think might cause us embarrassment.

We can continue to live with these same fears, shutting down, and never really contributing our unique abilities, our talents, and our gifts. Or we can pick up our development where it got stuck in childhood. We can learn to assert ourselves, our opinions and ideas and build tolerance to the discomfort it may cause us to feel. We couldn’t handle the rejection or disapproval in our childhood, but we can cultivate the ability to handle it as adults.

If you are caught in this endless cycle of creating anxiety with the “What will people think?” fixed belief, you are not alone. Join us this week as we work through the fixed to open belief that will support your growth and development.