The world we live in is an approval machine! From birth forward we were all taught suggested behaviors, traits, personality types to help us gain the approval of others. As we matured, we started getting additional messages from the ‘system of things’ on how to continue garnering approval. I suppose it makes sense, in some respects, that if you are going to live in a society then you have to abide by certain societal expectations to be accepted. You generally have to wear clothes and you’re not allowed to pick your nose in public, for example. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything wrong with wanting to be accepted. I mean who doesn’t like receiving approval from others? But, there’s something infinitely more important that being approved by others and that is being approved of yourself. Do you approve of yourself? That’s a question worth answering!
You being the only you, you have; begs the question, do you like yourself? I’m not talking about publicly where we’ve all been taught to develop a cheery public persona. I’m talking about you, home alone, staring in that mirror. Do you love and accept how that guy or gal acts? Or are you pissed at that image for its apparent failure to live up to…wait for it…what everyone else thinks he or she should do?
You may not realize it, but all of us were conditioned very early on to seek the approval of our parents. It wasn’t such a bad idea because we were children and didn’t have the wherewithal to make good choices yet. Some parents gave you unconditional approval. Some parents provided you with conditional approval or said another way, “If you obey what I say, you are good. If you disobey what I say, you are bad!” Some parents gave you very little or no approval no matter what you did. And finally, some parents were just not there! If you were unfortunate enough not to get the unconditional love parents, as many people were, then you learned very early on in life that you needed other people’s approval to be okay. Then your life mission became, what do I need to do to be approved by others?
So, here’s the rub. Assuming you are an adult now, you have to learn to get approval from that person staring back from the glass:
The Man in the Glass
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
~ Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr.
You see, us humans are a peculiar breed. We all have our own weirdness, quirks and undesirable characteristics. We all make mistakes. We’ve all zigged when we should have zagged! We are all imperfect and have all been broken in some respect. The trouble is we don’t want anyone to know it. So we parade around in our masks literally hating the person we are or have become. Our love and acceptance of ourselves is conditional and we don’t meet the conditions. It may have worked to shape your behavior when you were five, but it doesn’t work now!
You have to get to the place where you approve of you, no matter what. “He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest, for he’s with you, clear to the end. And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test, if the man in the glass is your friend.” Make your mind, your friend!
Now track with me here for a minute… Let’s say you’ve done some pretty gnarly deeds. Let’s imagine you’ve hurt people in catastrophic ways. Or maybe you just haven’t lived up to what you know in your heart you should be. In any case and in every case, you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever doing better or being better or getting better if you don’t love that person in the mirror. No one beats themselves into becoming something admirable. Instead, self loathing and self hate only issue in more awful results. The past is passed and cannot exist in the present unless you make it so (including your upbringing). What is in the present is you, with all of your faults and failings and human frailties. Love that guy anyway! Love that gal anyway! Approve of yourself anyway!
You just make the decision that you are worth something. You matter. You do have value. You’re not of value because you do everything right. You have value because you are a living, breathing human being, formed and made by God Himself.
Step out of the ‘wheel of things’ and finally recognize that you don’t need other people’s approval to be okay. Stop masquerading, it’s exhausting. Cease changing colors to match the whims and fancies of every person you meet. Do you, be you in all of the glorious you, you can possibly be. The world doesn’t need another me, one is enough ;-). What the world needs is you; the real you; the true you; and nothing but the YOU!
Just some good thoughts…