A while back, someone described his horse to me. He said his horse would bring him things, or bring things to little children, and speculated his horse probably wanted the approval. A year later, I got a dog. It was easy enough to realise that she’d do things for a reward of getting to play fetch, but eventually, I realised that even when she wasn’t being rewarded with her favourite toy, she’d still often do what I asked. My approval was enough reward for her to comply with a request, even when she didn’t want to do whatever I’d told her to do.
Approval isn’t something we often talk about, and yet, it’s something that governs most of our lives. My earliest memories involve seeking the approval of various adults I liked. Even now, I find myself evaluating my self-worth, not on my own terms and values, but often on whether I am able to gain the approval of the people I like.
It’s perfectly normal to desire approval from others. We’re very social beings, and our desire to please others is what makes us able to function as a society. Sometimes, though, we find ourselves trying a little too hard and giving up too much to be accepted by others.
I hate disappointing people. I really, really do. I hate it to the point where I will agree to do things that are difficult/unpleasant for me if someone asks me to and I will make huge decisions in my life that aren’t necessarily the best for me just because I don’t want to disappoint someone. I have known for quite a while that I’ve been spending my life living someone else’s dream, and yet I didn’t want to change, to live life on my own terms, simply because the fear of disappointing others and the desire to gain their approval was so strong. In small things, this is okay, and it’s what helps people to have smooth social relationships, but when I make big decisions according to what others want, it can really hurt me, because I’m not making the best decision I can for me and that can have a huge impact on my future.
It’s hard to break free from the need to please others, to gain their approval. The reasons why I do that are so tied up with my past, and my self-worth being predicated on others’ opinion of me and my anxiety regarding other people and everything… But I have to do this. For me.