Tool For Tuesday: You Can’t Detach From Someone Whose Approval You Need

You can’t detach from someone whose approval you need.

You can’t grow up and be an authentic adult, not tied into someone else, if you keep seeking their approval.

I’ve been a perfectionist, people-pleaser, goody-goody, put-my-needs-at-the-back-of-the-list person who craved—really craved—people’s approval. I never knew which shoes to buy because I was afraid somebody wouldn’t like them. (Heels too high, heels too low, too impractical, too practical color too funky, color too dull.) I didn’t know what I really wanted because my head was clogged thinking about what others would say about my choices.

Hey, it’s simple. If we want to start living authentic, mature lives—meaning, doing the things we want to do—somebody’s not going to be happy.

Especially if we’ve been in a relationship with someone based on our meeting all their demands and jumping through hoops o’ fire to please them.

Once we start to stop…once we first consider what is right for us…once we decide that we’re grown-ups and really don’t need to play the role of Good Child anymore, then someone’s not going to be happy.

If we change the dance we’ve always been dancing with people, they’re going to hesitate. They might stumble. They might get angry. They might lose the rhythm for a time. If we change how we react—not jumping in to save somebody else when they’re in hot water—they’re going to blame us and say it is all our fault.

But we have to sit with the discomfort that comes with not getting people’s approval.

If you still need that person’s approval, you’ll never be able to detach and you’re never going to grow up.

Whom do you have to answer to? This is between you and you. Between you and your Spirit, Higher Power, sense of God. Unless you’re auditioning for a part in a play, you don’t have a director. And even at work, your boss is not going to approve of what you do all the time.

You can’t detach and focus on yourself and who you really are if you’re still chasing compliments from others. Ask yourself: What would happen if they didn’t approve of me? Am I scared I’ll be loveless? Do I feel I’m loved only because I’m doing what everyone wants me to do? And what kind of love and life is that?

It is scary at first but then exhilarating. It’s the only way to be authentic and you.

Tool For Tuesday: You Can’t Detach From Someone Whose Approval You Need

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About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is a writer living in northern Israel whose novel, A Remarkable Kindness, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in August. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, and other publications. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker) was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.
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11 Responses to Tool For Tuesday: You Can’t Detach From Someone Whose Approval You Need

  1. been there says:

    Brilliant!
    “If we change the dance we’ve always been dancing with people, they’re going to hesitate. They might stumble. They might get angry. They might lose the rhythm for a time. If we change how we react—not jumping in to save somebody else when they’re in hot water—they’re going to blame us and say it is all our fault.” They may also change the way they treat you, if not entirely the way they behave, and give you the space you need.

    • dianabletter says:

      Yes, that is a good point…There’s the possibility that people will change the way they treat us, too. Thanks for sharing that! Great point!!

  2. Or, when we change the dance, we might find we’ve lost a dance partner…permanently, unless we return to the same old two-step.
    And, in the long run, that might also be exactly what we needed.
    So many possibilities, presented so well. Thanks, Diana.

    • dianabletter says:

      That is the risk we have to take, right? Fear of being abandoned by someone else–but otherwise we run the risk of abandoning ourselves! Thanks, Marylin!

  3. I love the analogy of the dance, Diana. I’ve been there too and trying my best, with God’s help, not to fall into that trap again. 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Marilyn Slagel and commented:
    This makes so much sense. Are you a people pleaser? Why or why not?

  5. Reblogged this on my blog – lesson we all need to learn.

    • dianabletter says:

      Thank you, Marilyn! Being a people-pleaser means we sometimes forget about the one-person we really need to please–ourselves!

  6. Musings on the writing life says:

    wise words! and just the aha-moment I needed today! 🙂 Thanks!

    • dianabletter says:

      Thank you for writing! Those aha moments are the best–everything suddenly shifts and we gain clarity.

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