Michele Attias Life Coach

Feedback Is Crucial, Approval Is Not

One of the most potent journeys we undertake as human beings is the path towards self-actualization.

As we journey towards this place, we encounter a huge culprit which worms it’s way in, leading us into self-defeating behaviours and stumbling blocks.

This is the addictive need for approval.

It inhibits the process of self-discovery and self-actualization, as there is just too much preoccupation with others opinion to allow for internal growth to happen organically.

As children, we start off exploring and using curiosity in our world. We don’t imagine a mere mortal judging our crawling capabilities, or when rocking from side to side in our first attempts to walk. We don’t care if the food dribbles down our chin, or stays firmly in place.

At this point in development, our intellectual capability is limited, but this is essentially how we started.

We weren’t born anxious, stressed or wondering whether the midwife who delivered us thought we were a pretty child or a scrunched, wrinkled mass. We came into the world pure and perfect — in fact, we still are.

There are just layers of unhelpful thinking and approval seeking behaviour that have got lodged into our being, and this gets in the way of further personal progression.

If normal parenting ensues during the early years — whatever this means as there is no such normal these days, we continue with a none complex way of seeing the world.

Then something happens that halts the process.

There is a before and after.

There is a time when we didn’t care what people thought as we played in the playground with little Johnny, the way we run aimlessly in a game of rounders on the beach whilst the sun set in the background, or preoccupied ourselves with dolls, deciding which pink outfit barbie would wear as the most crucial moment of the day.

There was no concern with approval or making an impression. We didn’t care, we could simply be, unashamedly.

Then a situation occurs that communicates we will only be loved and accepted if we toe the line, please everyone and become a good child.

This is where the desire for approval begins, and it is totally conditional.

We even get rewarded with shiny stars and sweets when we do this.

The approval seeking grows in size and permeates into adulthood, seeping into personal relationships, work, self-employment, entrepreneurship, innovation and even the blogs we dare to write.

It spills over the whole panorama of life like a rancid glass of milk which becomes smellier over time.

Before we know it, our life decisions are based on the thought process of approval, which is the only way we think we can fit in.

Think back to your childhood.

I’m not reversing back to my psychotherapy days, trying to find the wounded and hurt child, as a way of laying the blame on parents, teachers and anyone who scolded you when you were annoying.

I am looking for the happy child, the one before the thought came into play. The thought that told you it wasn’t okay to be you.

If the ‘approval seeking thought’ wasn’t there, how would you express yourself?

There is a primal need we all have for safety, security, protection and belonging that we still carry around with us, in the same way we did during childhood. In our desire to belong, feel safe and find security, we do whatever we can to seek permission from others before we proceed.

I know because I have been at the mercy of this over the years and have seen others fall into the same trap.

After all, to be considered a member of a society, community or business arena, we have to toe the line. It’s like begging to be allowed into the elite soccer team when we were in primary school. Everyone wants to be picked to be part of something.

No one wants to be the outsider who was never picked for the school team.

We often think we have to be the Michael Jordan of the team, or we’ll be sidelined. Even worse, ignored.

Or how a corporate client I had a few years back told me “I can’t be too different or be expressive in my ideas, it goes against the mould they’ve set for me.”

As with all moulds, once they’re set, they turn into hard concrete which is difficult to break through.

So how can self-actualising and approval seeking co-exist in harmony?

They can’t.

Approval needs to be replaced by feedback from people you love and respect. Those who are growing, developing and doing what you would love to be involved in.

Feedback invites possibility and approval invites neediness.

In order to receive feedback, we have to be receptive to what is being offered from someone we hold in high esteem and trust. Feedback is valuable and facilitates the journey to self-actualising because it uses a second set of eyes.

When receiving feedback, your inner stance shows a willingness to learn, develop, find ways of doing it differently, bettering yourself, questioning and understanding what is getting in the way of taking your next step into growth.

This bears no resemblance to the approval seeking stance where you’re highly sensitive to how people are reacting to you.

I was working with a client recently in the technological world who wanted to communicate to his prospects what his business could do for them. I experienced him as pretty uptight and so deeply into his cognitive thought process that I felt I would require a pair of pliers to open him up.

As time went on, this very uptight and anxious client began to reveal how he had been a rebellious, curious fun child, who spent time in mischievous activities, he even named a couple of the escapades he had made whilst in school.

“Where has this person gone”? I asked.

A difficult family situation had occurred in his early teenage years and this had shut him down. He decided that in order to be approved of, he needed to keep the real part of him away.

“But this is the best part of you”, I told him.

I encouraged him to let prospects see what a warm, yet professional person he was underneath the armour, they would be sure to hire him precisely because he brought humanity into the technological arena.

The more he let go of approval and revealed his real self, the more he naturally began to attract prospects and clients who fitted in with the kind of projects he really wanted to be involved in.

This wasn’t about changing him, it was about making him more of who he was. He was receptive to the feedback and trusted the process.

I could really relate to him as this was one of the biggest struggles I had when I began writing online a number of years ago. In sharing my voice, my fear was, that others wouldn’t approve of my opinion, it might even be met with disapproval or criticism.

I invited feedback from those I respected and valued as a way of using this to improve my craft, yet still holding firmly onto my individuality as I grew in experience.

As a result of this, I stopped writing articles to impress, I lost interest in writing to fit into a certain dialogue to narrow down my ideal client, create a niche and use as a marketing tool.

If just one person gets value from my articles and it changes the way they view their experience, then my job is done. It means not moulding to ideal clients, prospects, group or niches. It let’s go of strategy and focuses on communicating on a soulful and authentic level and letting go of the result.

I currently write what I live and love.

There is often a very primal need which got stuck during the early years of our life. It might have served us in childhood to keep us safe, but currently, has no further function other than to stall and delay our growth.

In commencing adulthood, we step into independence with glee and part of this process is to have the maturity to decide what we want. Not always looking over our shoulder to see how others will perceive us, but despite this.

In the same way we update and reboot our computer regularly, we need to update how we think, act and react in the face of external validation. It’s never too late to install a new programme, one that will be of better use in the journey towards growth.

Self Development