Yesterday at the meeting you presented your proposal about re-organizing the office schedule. People were impressed and you felt great. Today the boss called you in and says he is having second thoughts about your proposal and now you feel terrible.
Who doesn’t like to hear good things said about them and who doesn’t wince, at least a little, when subject to criticism. It’s through people’s feedback that we come to know how we stand in the world. We get to see ourselves and how we are doing through the eyes of others. However, when we base our day on what others say, when we seek the approval of others, we are less interested in seeing ourselves, as we are in using others to build up our self-image. In the end we lose confidence because strength doesn’t come from creating images but through knowing ourselves.
Seeking approval leads to classic passive-aggressive behaviour. On the surface we play the subordinate role of the seeker. We place ourselves at the mercy of the court. But beneath the surface we are making a demand, that others think well of us because if they don’t, we’ll be deeply wounded, we won’t be able to live with ourselves, we’ll be let down. In other words we are not giving others the option of being themselves. They cannot be upset with us, nor have a bad opinion. We are expecting the impossible, as who can feel consistently good about another? This is the problem when we relate to the image rather than the reality.
Seeking approval means we make others responsible for our moods. We become vulnerable and even a casual comment can ruin our day or we come to expect encouraging remarks from others and when we don’t get them we feel there is something wrong with us. By seeking approval we set a trap to catch the approval of others but the outcome is that we are the ones who are caught.