I need everyone’s approval to do what I want, to follow my dream in life, is that true?
Everyone agrees that love is wonderful, except when it is terrible. People spend their whole lives tantalised by love- seeking it, trying to hold onto it, or trying to get over it. Not far behind love, as major preoccupations, come approval and appreciation.
…Seeking love and approval is a sure way to lose awareness of both. You can lose the awareness of love, but never love itself. Love is what we are. So, if love is what we are, why do we look for it so hard, and often with such poor results? Only because of what we think– the thoughts we believe that are not true.’
These excerpts are taken from Byron Katie’s book, ‘I Need Your Love- Is that true?‘. In this post, I will summarise the key concepts I have learnt from this book and explain how I’ve applied these to the scenarios in my life; as you will see, they are life-changing.
I think the most demobilising factor when making life decisions and, especially when things start to change for the better, is caring what people think. It’s seeking approval and allowing what other people think to determine your next move or, indeed, affect your feelings about what has been achieved so far. For some reason we are geared to believe that winning a person’s love will get us into a good relationship that will set us up for life; impressing a person at work will ensure that promotion (and maybe even fame and fortune will follow) and winning the approval of that particular relative or friend means that you will find happiness instead of awkwardness; acceptance instead of disappointment. But is that true?
Just take a minute to think whether any one of these thoughts have come into your head:
- Was I noticed?
- Why didn’t she smile?
- Did I make a good impression?
- Why hasn’t he returned my call?
- Do I look okay?
- Should I have said that?
- What do they think of me now?
If you recognise yourself in any of these questions (taken from the same book) then you are also under the spell of striving to ‘seek approval’ in your interactions. Haven’t we all, at some point?
One of the hardest thing to deal with is when one’s colleagues have a low opinion of you, sometimes unfairly, and then even though you don’t want to care, you realise that, in a way, you have to care because what they think will have consequences on your position at the place you work.
Two sayings come to mind:
- Understanding that everything is from God: Abdullah bin ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) reports:“One day I was riding behind the Prophet ﷺ, when he said, ‘Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of God, and He will take care of you. Be mindful of Him, and you shall find Him at your side. If you ask, ask of God. If you need help, seek it from God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together in order to help you, they would not be able to help you except if God had written so. And if the whole world were to gather together in order to harm you, they would not harm you except if God had written so. The pens have been lifted, and the pages are dry.’”
- The Messenger of God ﷺ said, “If you were to rely on God as He should be relied on, He would provide for you as He provides for the birds. They go out in the morning hungry and return in the evening full.” i.e. they don’t worry about where their next meal is coming from.
If you don’t believe in God, please do comment below to let me know how you deal with things that are out of your control. To bend to the will of people can’t be our only way to success, surely. There has to be a larger purpose; a belief that things will work out, whether you have certain people on your side or not. I guess, for muslims, it’s linked with the belief in destiny.
Try not to put so much weight on what others think. No matter how you feel about a certain thing, try to remember that all the people in your life won’t always want what’s best for you. Some will, most likely, have their own agenda and are usually acting a certain way because of their background, beliefs, opinions, emotional baggage and most probably any events that have gone on throughout the day, week, month or even year(s). The key thing to remember here is to not take things personally. Have you heard the idiom ‘in one ear and out the next’? or it was ‘water off a duck’s back’. This is the type of reaction we have to keep in mind. To not only remember not to seek approval but if somebody actively gives you their disapproval, to remember that it does not matter! Ask yourself if you need their love. It could be that your success reflects their lack of success and that’s why they find it difficult to be happy for you!? Try not to read too much into it and get on with what you have to do to make your own dream a reality.
This is where this book comes in.
‘I Need Your Love, Is That True?’ teaches us that all negative thoughts that come into our mind about what other people think, are not necessarily true. In the book, Byron Katie recommends that we do ‘the work’, otherwise known as the ‘inquiry’ on ourselves to turn the thought around. (If you’re intrigued about this concept then you’ll have to buy the book to fully understand how this works!)
I remember when I first began to homeschool my children. Not everybody was encouraging or happy about my decision. All too many people thought that by choosing to homeschool, I somehow didn’t understand them or their reasons to keep their kids in school, they became defensive and felt they had to justify why they were not homeschooling! Slowly , as more and more people found out, I had to remind myself not to expect encouragement or a congratulatory comment of some sort. I had to be happy with my own decisions despite what people around me thought of it. On the other hand, a lot of people did commend me for it and I thank you for that (you know who you are!) But the truth was, it was a lifestyle choice and I wasn’t making a statement about somebody else’s choices by choosing to keep my children at home. In the end, I wasn’t prepared to hear so much negativity so I stopped talking about it. Of course, the reaction wasn’t always negative or defensive, but when it was, I had to save myself from questioning my decision and just trust that to continue with it. I didn’t, of course, need everyone’s approval.
Another story comes to mind: While I was studying for my PGCE, my mentor at one of the schools didn’t seem to like me. As far as I could tell, she didn’t get on with anyone at school and somebody confided in me that she didn’t like students, but only offered to become a mentor for the extra cash she would receive on completion of the term. She patronised me in public, dismissed me when I needed help and ridiculed me in front of my college tutor. Her treatment of me was enough to put me off the profession forever, however, knowing my sister had been through a similar scenario had got me through! I needed to understand that she would have treated anybody who was in my position in a similar manner and I had to learn to turn the negative thoughts around. I realised her opinion didn’t actually matter to me; I would try to get through the course despite her attitude and be mindful of the things that were working for me in this situation.
SO, on another note, let’s take a minute to reflect on social media ‘likes’. What is the science behind this? Why do we seek ‘virtual approval’? This article highlights the physiological ‘high’ we experience when a post is ‘liked’ by a lot of people. We actually get a ‘hit of dopamine’, a feel-good chemical.
‘The social media like triggers that reward cycle and the more you get it, the more you want it’
The problem is when a post isn’t given much attention.
“If you believe that other people’s opinions are facts, your esteem will be low, your confidence will be terrible and you’ll constantly seek approval…”
…“Ultimately it comes down to what other people think of me and how they see me,” she admits. “I just want to be liked. But really, I don’t think anybody cares about what I post as much as I do.”
It seems this virtual reality can become quite real, it can actually affect one’s decision making process, not to mention self-esteem and mental stability. It is something worth thinking about and to be on guard against. A day out, away from social media (without posting pics!), reading a book or even a bout of exercise will help to break this cycle.
The question is, how do we steer away from this tide of constantly seeking approval? Remember enoughism? The main concept in this book, ‘I Need Your Love- Is That True?” echoes the sentiment of being grateful for what we have, rather than focus on what we haven’t got. Byron Katie teaches us to question the way we think and helps us to turn our negative thoughts around. There’s a beautiful part of the book where she says that when the thought hits us at 3am in the morning that ‘Nothing supports me without my efforts’; that you are keeping everything going, and without your effort everything would fall apart in your life, she helps us to change that thought around and believe the opposite. She helps us to be mindful of the support we do have in place in our lives.
‘Just to scratch the surface of this…Your neck and shoulders support your head. The bones and muscles of your chest support your breathing. Your chair supports your body. The floor supports your chair. The earth supports the building you live in. Various stars and planets hold the earth in its orbit….’
You get the point. If we learn to turn these thoughts around, the opinion of others no longer take up precious space in our minds.
‘…as you breathe, notice that you’re not doing the breathing, you’re being breathed.’
That’s brilliant, isn’t it? You’re being breathed! At what point of your life at all are you actually not supported?!
Endless possibilities! How amazing would that be?
When we are finally free from the boundaries of other people’s thoughts and opinions, we are free to do what we’ve always wanted to do; what we love.
Don’t let anybody stop you from your journey to being yourself and may you always find happiness and contentment in whatever you do!
What do you think of this seeking approval business? Why do you think we do this? Is it nurture or nature? Please comment below. And like my post! – Could do with a hit of dopamine 😉
Until next time then,
Peace and love,
PS To help me on my journey to enoughism I will write down 3 things I am grateful for at the end of each post. These are:
- My ability to share my thoughts on my favourite books with you, my lovely readers.
- The way I am fully supported by the universe and creation in its entirety, by the Will and Mercy of its Creator.
- I am so grateful to have been shortlisted for the Asian Writer Short Story Prize 2018! Thank you for all your positive thoughts and prayers. It truly feels like I am one step closer to achieving my ambition of becoming a voice for us asian muslim women. Exciting stuff! Please offer a positive thought or prayer of thanks when you’ve finished reading this. Thank you!:-)