Few things are less satisfying than the approval of others.
Do you want to impress your boss, your neighbors, your friends? Do you want to make your family proud? You can easily spend your whole life chasing a few encouraging words from important people in your life. And even if you do manage to catch the slippery fish that is the approval of others, it will not satisfy. Other people’s opinions of you, however positive, are like emotional junk food. You get a sugar rush from your mentor’s compliment, but the high doesn’t last long. A day or two later, you’re already back in the race, trying to win more praise, more recognition.
You seek the approval of others to the exact degree that you do not already approve of yourself.
Suppose you don’t like your physical appearance. You can keep polishing your mirror, and polishing your mirror, hoping this will improve your reflection. But the mirror isn’t the problem. The mirror merely reflects your image back to you. The opinion of others is like a mirror. You can keep trying to manage this reflection by earning the positive feedback of your friends, family and co-workers. Or you can look inside and decide for yourself what you think about your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Someone who has come to know herself from the inside, someone who has made peace with who she is, no longer takes criticism personally. Nor is she so easily hypnotized by positive feedback from someone she admires. You learn to follow your own internal compass–but first you have to build your own internal compass. How do you accomplish this? You pay very close attention to your thoughts, feelings and actions. You watch how these unfold in all areas of your life and you honestly assess what’s working for you and what isn’t. No one can do this work for you. There are no easy shortcuts. But once you’ve genuinely cultivated your own sense of direction, purpose or meaning in life, fear begins to fall away. Life becomes less urgent, less focused on the need for control. To simply be who you really are requires no particular set of circumstances, no particular income bracket, no particular cooperation from your loved ones.