In the presence of close family members we often revert back to the way we were when we were children. We may still crave approval that we feel we never received. Siblings may easily trigger us.
The trouble with seeking approval is threefold:
1. The approval we seek may be sought from someone who is incapable of giving it.
2. The more we yearn for that outside approval, the less likely we are to receive it. Often people who are reluctant to give approval are negatively triggered by those who yearn for it.
3. By the time we are adults, the disapproval we sense has become internalized. Therefore, we have to generate the approval we seek within ourselves rather than seeking it from others.
Even if your father finally sees the light and says, “You are amazing! I am so proud of you,” you will probably not feel that magical feeling of self-worth you’ve desired for so long. By the time you’re an adult, the feeling of inadequacy stems from your own inner voice—that internal voice that has been with you so long.
Transforming the internal voice
It is up to you to transform the voice in your head. This may be as difficult as transforming your real father. However, it’s a relief to know that we actually have considerable control over our own thinking.
We can develop new habits of thinking and thereby create that sought-after approval or desired peace of mind. You need to catch yourself every time you have a negative thought and replace it with a positive one.
For instance, when you hear an inner voice saying, “You’ll probably botch the interview,” replace it with, “I will prepare for this interview as well as I can.”
When you say to yourself, “I’m the dumbest person here,” with “Nobody here is perfect; I’ll just do my best.”
Replace the thought, “I’m never good enough for him and he won’t appreciate me,” with a more positive thought: “Too bad for him that he isn’t able to show his appreciation, but I know I did a good job.”
After fifty or a hundred thought replacements, each successive one becomes easier. After a few hundred or thousand replacements, the habit of negative thinking will have changed. It sounds like a lot of effort, but we have many thoughts a day, and it’s better to start changing our thinking now than continue with negative thinking.
Constructive thinking, which is encouraging, useful, and pleasant, will become more automatic, and you will no longer crave or need approval from the outside. Ironically, when people stop craving approval from others, their confidence grows, which makes it more likely that they will gain approval from those closest to them.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD