Letting go of seeking approval
By Michelle Heffernan
“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
– Marcel Proust
To spend a day looking through Aphrodite’s eyes would be a dramatic change for most women, both an awakening and an adventure of a lifetime. The mythology of this Greek goddess of love and beauty centers on passion and life-affirming energy, revealing one’s inner wisdom and heart’s desire. With Aphrodite’s power of perception, her vision would swiftly and clearly illuminate the ways in which a woman cuts herself down and cuts others down too.
Who has judged you harshly in your life? The biggest critics usually stand out in memory. How deeply did you feel that injustice? Do you revel in dreams of redeeming yourself like Jennifer Hudson of “American Idol” fame? After rejection, she went on to show the world she was of Academy Award winning caliber. Or perhaps you feel like the unfulfilled woman who has sacrificed everything for the good of the family. Whether you are working to show the critics up, selflessly live for someone, or live to be praised and admired for another reason, the problem is – it’s all about them.
Focus on you
Take the focus off “them” by imagining your mind is a lens. Just as the focus of the lens becomes the photo, the focus of your thoughts becomes your reality. If your focus is dependent on others, where are you in the picture of your own life? Consequently, you give away your power, letting others decide how you measure up or what is most important in your life. Choose your own focus and be part of it.
Intention: Your declaration of independence
Quiet the critics – those in your life and the one in your mind. Independence and freedom from judgment will change your life. Abraham Maslow once said, “Become independent of the positive opinion of other people.” These are words to live by, as they advise the power in relinquishing the need to be defined through acceptance by others. By doing so, satisfaction would be felt from an inner knowing and wisdom. This is true confidence and one of the most empowering ways of being. It is freedom.
On the other hand, quitting the gossip habit and giving up the desire to analyze and examine the lives of others is equally important. Stopping the self-examination and critique of others does take some practice. It is part of the social scene and can win you attention, popularity and superiority. That’s the draw. Look at your own gossip and judging habits by watching your thoughts for one full day. Note the thoughts running through your head every hour for that day. You can also experiment with not judging anyone for one day. Both are brief and painless, but revealing. It won’t even take a day to show a pattern of thinking.
Ignite new energy
Ignite some new positive energy into your thinking. Be playful. Imagine casting yourself in a new role by trying on a new set of eyes for a bit, perhaps your own version of Aphrodite. What is her first impression of your life? How would she feel in your life, about your relationships, about your passion for living and about your body? What is there too much of and too little of? This allows you to abandon your usual role as the harsh critic and look through more loving eyes. Instead, play the one who will seek new avenues of pleasure and adventure. Take time to discover the real you, the one buried by years of “shoulds” and “can’ts.” Look for beauty in yourself, in life and in others. Begin a journal, read an inspiring book, take that class you’ve wanted to try or take yourself on a date to a place that ignites creative energy. It may be the fabric store, the bookstore, an antique shop or time outside in nature. The focus on creating pleasure for yourself is key. The more joy in life, the less interesting gossip and negative exchanges become.
Healing a legacy
Wounds and fear block a beautiful life, the life you are worthy of. Wounds and fear keep you seeking the light of worldly approval, while remaining blind to your own light. Admiration from one’s lover, husband, child, boss, parent, or the in-crowd is nothing compared to the real approval or disapproval felt in your own heart. In the end, approval seeking is really safety seeking. This need for safety keeps a woman from chasing a dream, taking a healthy risk, loving her body, leaving a marriage, ending toxic friendships or taking what she needs.
You can choose to take your power back and heal personal family legacies, like your own mother-daughter relationship. Any of those psychological cuts and bruises that have been passed to you through lineage can be transformed by braking the cycle. You can learn to connect with your real self and release a legacy of self-loathing. Something better can be passed on. Children cannot be told to be lit from within. It must be exemplified through how you live and treat yourself and others. Your daughter is watching how you love – how you love your body, your life and others.
Perhaps you will take a voyage of discovery and see with new eyes, as Proust suggests. Perhaps you will try the perspective of a muse, like Aphrodite, and allow that authentic you to finally emerge. So, let go of approval seeking. Take the focus off others and put it on your own heart. Set the intention of finding freedom from family legacies and personal pain and a beautiful landscape will appear. This landscape will be the ground for your heart’s desires and a transformed life.
Michelle Heffernan is the founder of Artista, a healing arts practice for mind, body and spirit. She is also a consultant for Synergy Counseling Associates in Albany, where she facilitates wellness through expressive arts for adults, children and adolescents. She can be contacted at healingARTS@nycap.rr.com.