Approval. For me it’s a word that I now realise is a big trigger, a dynamic that has infused my existance and decsion making with its persistant but largely well camoflauged scent. It always houses the potential to unhinge or even destroy my most earnest efforts and coveted ambitions.
Our whole existance is cunningly centred around a constant stream of unconscious messaging that gears us to fall unknowingly into the courtroom of life, where an invisible but powerful judge and jury (often with ourselves as the most critical of back benchers) scrutinize our almost every minute move.
From the day we are conceived we are committed to a linear timeline that sorts the wheat from the chaff. We are now usually scanned within an inch of our lives at regular intervals to make sure we are building ourselves just ‘right’, we’ll be monitored, played Beethoven to, doused in iron supplements, palpated and submitted to tests and forecasts. When we finally decide to arrive (or when someone approves our ETA) we are manipulated into this cold, wierd world with a cornicopia of pre-prescribed procedures and instructions.
Once we’re born we’re watched like a hawk, prodded and poked, measured and assessed to ensure we rise up and meet certain, milestones and cow tow to statistical bench marks involving our physical, mental and emotional development. No approved stone is left unturned. God forbid if mummy refuses vaccines or chooses to breast feed in our disapproving public.
It goes on.…
Do we walk properly? Can we share our toys appropriately? Are we social enough? Do we count to 10 in record time? Are we eating healthfully? Can we read and write appropriately for our age? Do we say please and thank you enough? Do we sleep all night? Do we play enough sport? Are we playing too many video games? Do we wear our skirts too short, our trousers too low? Are we too fat? Or too thin? Do we text rather than talk? Read comics rather than classics?
Do we have a degree? Work in a shop? Live in a mansion or under a rock? Do we drive the right car? Go to the gym? Have a strong core? or shop on a whim? Do we eat the right food? Is it green or is it brown? Is your nose just not right? Do your wrinkles show when you smile or are your thighs just too pale?
Do you have a ‘good’ job? If you’re not ambitious why not? Did you have your breasts checked? If the answer is no you’re insane. Is your marriage a blast, did it last and why not? Is your house shiny clean? Your hair coiffed just right? Is your sex drive too low? If it is then you need therapy or tantra at least. If you do yoga you’re safe but admit to a mid afternoon slump on the sofa and you get that ‘look’. Are your kids well behaved? Do they do as they’re told? Do they have the right friends and score high on their tests? Do you dote on your aging parents and respond to all their requests?
I could go on.. and on.. and on…some more but..
The point being (long winded as it was) is that when you lay bare this subliminal state of affairs its actually quite insane; it really smacks of Adolus Huxleys 1984 where some ephemeral ‘big brother’ really is watching you, always has been even prior to 1984 and
scarily best of all, you never even knew it!
I’m really aware of how important this issue of approval is. Whilst there is some merit to be gleaned from being inspired by others to rise up into your best self, we walk a thin and potentially self destructive line between being motivated by the other and living our lives vicariously through the approval of an other. It’s surprising that the weight of this dynamic doesn’t kill us prematurely. Perhaps this is the stuff those proverbial mid-life crises are made of and what drives the more mature into their two- fingers- up -at- the- world eccentricity.
In the light of parenting it’s even more crucial than ever to become mindful about how deeply entrenched we are as adults in subliminal, unconscious behaviours that can affect our children.
We know how mothers who constantly critique their own bodies or who are unable to eat a decent meal due to an unhealthy preoccupation with a perfect body, pass on these destructive attitudes to their daughters in particular. Who we are and how much we approve or disapprove of ourselves impacts profoundly the future experiences of our children.
Our own unraveling is crucial to the complete well being of our young ones. To love them fully, to support their unfolding powerfully means we as the adults, have to take on the task of parenting ourselves. To teach them by example self approval from the get-go is possibly the best lesson you could ever impart. What we and our children do, how they behave, how they think, is hardly ever truly inappropriate. If it is it’s likely that they learned it from you. All attitude, that which creates behaviours seeps into our children from us. To operate in a vibration of judgement, to carry intolerance or disrespect first for the Self and then towards others is a sign that you as their caregiver is likely suffering from an overdose of unconscious denunciation.
I’ve been on a personal journey of late where this hidden agenda has come up for air. It’s been pretty good at holding it’s breath for the most part of my 50 something year lifetime. It’s broken the surface every so often. It’s presence has always been known to me but in recent weeks its really reared its ugly Medusa like head for me to see. Approval wants my attention. She wants me to approve of her, see her and still want her, but somehow this has all changed. I’m not buying into her story.
Whilst I know intellectually and indeed spiritually, that living one’s life through the lens of seeking approval from the ‘other’ is so not approved of (!) I am also acutely aware that I and probably the majority of human beings are actually hard wired to live this way. We are covert about it, we try hard not to bow to it and we deny it, but in truth I’d bet my life on it, that all of us fall prey to seeking endorsement at sometime or another.
“They” say that the cure all for life is to love ourselves unconditionally.
Love is such an amorphous word. It can mean everything but it can also mean nothing. When we use it for ourselves, when we try to get into that place that is truly self loving, I have found (if I’m honest) that it feels empty, trite and somewhat overused. At times I’m really not sure what is I am supposed to be doing and feeling.
Esoteric texts and gurus galore recommend this prescription of self lovingness for every human ailment and yes, in theory I can see that this is indeed the truth, but in practical practice the beast that keeps us stuck at the entrance of the cave of self love unable to enter into its safe and warm cocoon, is disapproval.
Without first approving of ourselves, of our actions, of our decisions, this most desired and healing Self Luurve cannot be accessed; it remains an elusive and often annoying reoccuring dream.
In order to really love ourselves we must first consciously approve of ourselves. One does not work without the other. Learning how to approve of oneself is the seed from which true lovingness grows.
Try this at home. Just for one day. Just for an hour.
Go about your day with deliberation.
Watch where your mind goes; approval of Self or disapproval? Are you satisfied with when you woke up, how you woke up, where you woke up? Monitor your thoughts as you rise, get ready, dress, are you dressing for you or for an other or a situation? There is nothing truly wrong with this unless it feels not quite like you. Look in the mirror, think about the day ahead. Are you striving, searching to find support or sanction from the external or are you making beautiful sweet
love peace with who you are, where you are and what you are doing?
This is a biggie. Do you approve of what you eat? Are you consistantly, constantly seeking new ‘standards’ from the outside that are permeating your consciousness, your over worked mind? If so, no wonder you are tired!
We are incessantly bombarded with information about what we consume. It’s a process flitered through a dualistic lens; good food, bad food. Science has now well and truly got us by the short and curlys. Everytime we blink we are faced with an overload of data that drives us crazy. We’ve lost the ability to listen to what our body wants, we don’t know how to intuitively care for it because we are brainwashed by a constant stream of cerebral junk mail about food. It’s practically impossible to make a decison because somewhere out there in the world wide web of ‘experts‘ there will always be someone who disapproves of your choice; there will always be a food better than the last option.
Feeling guilt about what you eat is possibly more dangerous for your health than stuffing your face with a bucket of KFC. Our cells respond to emotions. Guilt is rejection. When your cells feel your guilt, hear your silent castigation, they naturally respond in a like fashion; they’ll reject you and all your well meaning efforts. Your body will literaly find it hard to digest and process that food. Why? Because internally you have disapproved that choice and the body and its cells are programmed to agree with your thoughts. Metaphysically auto immune diseases stem from a disapproving mind; the body actually mirrors our feelings and complies by faithfully destroying itself. That’s how much your body really loves you.
So love and approve of what you eat, no matter what. Eventually after that third slice of marmalade on toast (she says ‘approving’ of her latest obsession which has its roots in her student days in the late 80’s. Any one with me on the delights of Rose’s Lime Marmalade) the need will subside, approval works is magic and balance will be regained without pain.
Well, essentially no relationship can be distilled completely of approval. A little co-operation, a modicum of seeking praise and recognition is only human. That’s the darn thing about approval, its so deeply intertwined with our existance that it’s hard to see the wood for the trees.
However, if your relationship to a partner, co-worker, parent, friend or child is propelled primarily by fitting in, keeping some small (or large) part of you hidden or involves some form of dishonesty or sycophantic behaviour, you can bet your bottom dollar that all you are really doing is finding fault with your Self.
The irony here lies in the fact that eventually relationships die awful deaths when those involved are too invested in seeking confirmation of their worth from the other. Parents who live only to please or serve their children end up with unappreciative children or at best children who are largely indifferent and likely suffer from peer pressure. We truncate our personal, professional and spiritual growth by being harsh with ourselves or over compliant.
There are so many more areas of life which could be placed under this microscope of approval. Once you begin this forensic investigation you’ll likely see how disassociated you are from your ability to love your Self and once you realise this and take action, big or small, you will likely see a radical change in your experience.
I know for myself that once I started this monitoring and laid to rest as many censured thoughts about a variety of things, I began to find not only peace, but increased physical, mental, emotional and even financial well being.
Our power and our abilty to pass on true empowerment to our family, into the wider community and into the totality of our true beingness lies in beginning and sustaining a life long dedicated journey to the approval of ourselves.