In my head, I can hear my old AA sponsor telling me (over and over again), “David. You don’t need their approval.”
He told me that 17 years ago, and it’s still something I apply to my life today.
I suspect I’m not alone here.
I imagine many people are (on some level) concerned with what others may think of them.
Oh, sure. Many of you will say you don’t care what others think of you. Hell, I’ve said that, too (recently).
The thing is, the evidence clearly states otherwise, and really, it’s part of our social instinct to give a fuck what others think – I mean to want their approval.
We manage our hairstyles, body shapes, clothes, cars, bumper stickers, et cetera, etc. based on the cherished gem of what we think others will think of us.
Social media is a huge device for seeking approval.
Shit – the whole “Like” button is responsible for many people’s self-esteem (or lack of it). And doesn’t the “Love” button feel sooooo much better?!
Watch the documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix for amplification of this point. Here’s the trailer: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaaC57tcci0)
To make things worse, we live in a society that simultatneously sends you conflicting messages:
You don’t have enough money (need a better car, house, vacation, etc.).
You aren’t pretty or skinny enough (fancy clothes, makeup, and diets).
And society tells you from the other side of its mouth:
Love yourself as you are.
You don’t need others’ approval.
You do you, boo!
Hell, I’m guilty of all this, too.
We live life with constant cognitive dissonance.
Which way do we go?
The Social Instinct
Do you see this picture I posted above?
Either prehistoric cave-dude is dancing the waltz with Miss Bear…
He’s getting fucked up by that bear!
Now, if he were a rugged individualist and did not have have his cave-dude buddies behind him, he’d be Miss Bear’s Manwich.
The point is, (if you believe in evolution, and even if you don’t, that’s fine, too), the theory is that our ancient ancestors who teamed up and had strong social connections (and cooperated with each other) survived to allow us to argue on Facebook, flip each other off on the freeway, and watch Netflix.
Ok, maybe not the last part, but the point is (if there is one), is that through millions of years, (the theory is) we’ve developed a social instinct which makes us dependent on each other in some way.
Human babies who are only fed but not held or looked at will die.
Whether we like it or not, we need each other, or we get kind of funky. (you can decide what funky is for you).
And even though many will deny “needing” other people, you’re (we’re) still doing things instinctually to be part of the herd (or pack, if you prefer to feel cooler that way).
Of course, there are those who were damaged by people close to them (or were supposed to be close to them), and so they push away from social connection. We’ll get into that later, and I draw you back to my previous statement about being kind of “funky.”
Denial is Not the River in Egypt
Now that we’ve established (in theory) that we need each other, why all this insistence that we don’t need other’s approval?
Do you remember when I told you about dialectical thinking? See (https://greenleaf4life.blog/2022/05/26/row-your-boat/)
Perhaps, more than one reality is true?
Maybe we both need and don’t need others?
Before you can begin to entertain such higher levels of thinking, you first need to break through some denial.
Behold, the bitter pill….
I don’t care if you’re an introvert who experiences severe anxiety or a dude with the gun stickers and American flag on your big ol’ pick up truck (those guys are definitely not reading my blog)…
YOU NEED PEOPLE!
You might be afraid of people or think you’re so tough you don’t need anyone (also afraid of people), but the fact is that somewhere, deep down inside, you need a hug that you didn’t get and so you feel and act funky.
Your wounded self either isolates by hiding inside a place or hiding behind a huge ego.
Either way, it’s still hiding because you feel fear.
I should’ve warned you before I ripped that Band-Aid off. Actually, I did warn you. Still hurts, huh?
The problem is, most people will NEVER look deep enough into themselves to see, embrace, and heal those wounds.
Our natural instinct (besides the social one) is to avoid pain.
Our brain gives us a little chemical goodie for doing it.
We’re wired that way, so it’s really not your fault.
However, if the way you avoid pain is causing you or others MORE pain, then it is what we call in the mental health field: maladjusted behavior.
Sure, it might feel safer to hide at home and avoid social interaction…
You might feel stronger by intimidating others with your big truck bravado…
But I submit to you here, if you want TRUE freedom, you have to break through your denial.
If you are tired of always feeling on guard or trapped inside…
Dig into your past (with the help of others).
Heal your childhood wounds.
Hiding behind fancy selfies and posting inspirational memes is not the same as doing the work.
That’s a bullshit smokescreen and does not build real self-esteem.
Do the fucking work!
Go back in the past with a professional or a support group.
Learn to love yourself by feeling the pain of the past.
It won’t kill you.
The only way out is through!
And fortune favors the brave…
Dancing With Demons
What happens AFTER you do the work of healing past trauma?
You KEEP doing the work!
Sorry to disappoint you, but the demons are now visible and you get to dance with them.
Fortunately, for you, they get easier to dance with.
You may be asking yourself (maybe several times now), what the hell is this guy talking about?
Let me give you an example.
As stated in a previous rant, I have entered the dating pool.
I have also been fortunate enough to connect with someone I like.
It also appears that she likes me.
Granted, we just met, so more will be revealed as this unfolds.
However, I have the luxury of occasionally encountering some of my demons…
And they are sneaky bastards!
My demons like to lie to me…
They whisper things like…
She doesn’t really like you.
She doesn’t want to hear from you.
This will never work out.
You get the point.
Self-doubt manifests as feelings of unworthiness and thoughts of rejection…
Fortunately, for yours truly, I have been dancing with these demons a long time…
I hear the familiar dirge of self-doubt ring out on the organ of insanity
And though I may hum its tune for a minute or two
I see it for what it is…
My self-doubt not only manifests to isolate me and replay old childhood tapes of insecurity, it also goes on the offensive and starts looking for things that are wrong with her to justify my feelings of unworthiness.
It’s a beautiful thing to see the patterns and learn to let them go…
It’s a painful thing to mindlessly repeat the same patterns over and over again…
So today, I dance with the demons.
I recognize them as they enter
I take a deep bow to welcome them
And we dance.
I know from experience that if I resist these demons and deny them, they will multiply and get stronger.
The only way out is through.
And fear dies in the light.
And the light is awareness and revealing these things to you and trusted others.
By embracing my demons and exposing them, they lose their hold.
Then, and only then, do I come to the sought after state of “not needing their approval.”
Yes, I want her approval.
And yes, on some instinctual level, I probably need it.
However, (drawing back on dialectical thinking), I both need and don’t need her approval.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
I am at a place in my life where I love who I am and what I am doing.
By spending years learning to dance with my demons and figuring out what makes me happy, I have become fairly independent.
Yes, I still need people in my life.
I have family, friends, a support network, etc.
I also believe a strong part of me wants and (on some level) needs a romantic partner.
When people hear the idea of “needing” a partner, I’m sure most will feel repulsed and think of it as codependent and needy.
That’s fine if that’s what you think.
The distinction for me today is that I’m okay with naming that (in light of our ancient social instinct), a huge part of me seeks union with a romantic partner.
I do not have to sacrifice who I am to find or be with said person.
Yes, there’s always give and take and some sacrifice…
At the end of the day, I’m happy and will be okay whether this situation works out or not with the woman I’ve just started dating.
The Universe is bringing the right person into my life.
I trust that and not only trust it, I am manifesting it and allowing it to take its natural course.
I don’t have to make it happen.
I can’t make it happen.
I can be authentic and go with the flow.
There is no rush.
I am okay with waiting to find the partner that I want, need, and don’t need at the same time.
And so, in my belief, it is completely acceptable to be interdependent.
In other words, my partner-to-be will both be able to be self-sufficient AND need me from time to time.
And I in turn, will continue to live my life of independence and have the vulnerability to need someone else from time to time.
It’s a give and take.
It’s called a healthy fucking relationship.
Check out Pia Mellody’s book Facing Codependence for more information on healthy interdependence.
And when we live in the extremes of either being overly dependent on others or completely independent, we’re off balance.
Be both need and don’t need other’s approval.
It’s okay to have both.
In fact, it’s necessary to live happy and purposeful lives.
Learn to let go of the extremes of either/or thinking.
Embrace the both/and mentality.
Learn to love and be loved…
At the end of the day, remember, the most important person’s approval you need is your own.
It’s okay to want to be liked and loved.
In fact, your mental health depends on it.
However, you need to do the work to make sure you are neither overly dependent on others nor completely pushing them away.
Do the damn work!
Save yourself and others the heartache of isolation and failed relationships.
Be fucking real for a minute.
Connection is the cure for what ails you.
Connect with yourself.
Connect with your Higher Power.
Connect with others.
When you learn to authentically connect with something greater than yourself, yourself and others, the depth of your being expands into eternal peace…
A friend of mine texted me today, “External circumstances cannot touch the still waters within.”
Let go of your fears by facing them.
Let go of your ego and protective measures.
Let go of limiting beliefs.
Reach within and outside of your comfort zone.
Learn to love with abandon by making yourself available.
Do as I do…
Expose your demons.
Embrace your demons
Take a risk
Tell the girl you like that you like her
Let go of the outcome
And trust you have everything you need inside of you.
Thank you for reading today’s installment of Mastermind Theatre with David Greenleaf (I’m trying that on for my podcast title). If you enjoyed reading this, follow, like, comment, and reach out. I am also offering Life Coaching services. If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and want to get on track, I’m here for ya!