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Despite cultural differences, we humans are more alike than we’re different. For example, although there are thousands of reasons why we might end up feeling out of sorts, essentially they boil down to one (or a combination) of five reasons, which I call PACES™.
We’ve already looked at PERFECTIONISM. The next one I’m going to tackle is:
THE DESIRE FOR APPROVAL (OR EXTERNAL VALIDATION)
Yes, this one’s all about ego.
It doesn’t have to be overt, this need for approval, love, respect or attention. In fact, often we aren’t even aware that this is what’s really behind us feeling upset or annoyed when someone doesn’t behave as we’d like them to.
So what does desire for approval look like? Typically, it might manifest like this:
These are just some of the demands we make (whether overtly or unconsciously) that are associated with a desire for approval, affection or attention. And when we don’t get that approval, we wind ourselves up into a state of feeling depressed, angry or hurt.
Because at the end of each of the above statements is an implicit coda: “or else…”. And it’s these imagined horrors that really bite us in our tender spot:
We don’t even have to have proof that someone doesn’t like us – just thinking about that possibility is enough to send us zooming up well-established neural pathways into a state of emotional disarray.
And, of course, feeling upset affects our behaviour so we plunge into despair, or snap at someone (who may not even be aware that they’ve committed such a grievous sin), or become hostile, or turn passive aggressive, or withdraw our co-operation, or sulk, or try to swallow our hurt and fail miserably.
Not much fun, then.
A great way to prevent yourself from feeling distressed by the perceived inattention of others involves three simple steps:
1. Recognize when it’s happening.
The next time you find yourself wanting approval from someone, pay attention and notice the dynamics of what’s taking place. Be curious.
2. Tune in to the thoughts that are going through your head:
And so on. The fact is, when you pay attention to your thoughts, you bring them out of your subconscious mind, where they’re automatic and you have no control over them, into your conscious mind. And once you’re conscious of something…
3. … You have a choice as to whether to continue with that train of thought or swap it for a more helpful frame of mind.
“I wish he’d said thank you but, you know what? This time he didn’t. It’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t make him bad, just a bit careless. And neither does it mean I’m rubbish, just that today wasn’t my day. I’m going to have a quiet word with him if it feels like the right thing to do. But I know I did a good job and that’s what really matters.”
The important thing here is to connect with the emotion of that changed thought – satisfaction at supporting yourself, comfort at knowing you’ve done well, forgiveness for those who overlooked you.
When you feel emotion, you send a big red flag to your brain saying: “Pay attention, this is important!” And in this case, the message that you’re sending to your unconscious mind is this:
“I don’t have to have approval from other people to know that I’m a worthwhile person. I accept that I’m intrinsically worthwhile, regardless of how other people behave.”
Next time, I’ll take a look at the second way in which we wind ourselves us – our need for life to be comfortable.
Task: Next time you find yourself feeling hurt, frustrated or angry because someone hasn’t paid you the attention you felt you were due, ask yourself: “what’s the worst thing that can happen if I don’t get their attention?”
Follow this up with: “What could I choose to think and feel right now that would be more helpful to me?”
Have fun with calling yourself out on your need for approval, and please feel free to share this post if you’ve found it helpful. My next post will focus on the third of the five PACES ™ (ways in which we wind ourselves up).
Caroline is a Mindset Trainer and speaker who works with sensitive, high-potential leaders who know they were born for something more. She shows them how to beat mindset blocks and habits, such as limiting beliefs, low self worth and procrastination, that are preventing them from making a bigger impact.
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