"If everyone likes you, you probably aren't saying much."
Dear Gorgeous Woman in Midlife:
Are you one of those women with whom everyone gets a turn... at giving their opinions about how you should live your life? Or raise your kids? Or spend your money?
Let's face it: We cannot get through life without someone expressing their opinion about what's best (or not) for our life. Opinions are not the problem; everyone has them, and it's actually healthy to express them.
But what's not healthy is allowing other people's opinions to dictate the decisions we make. Falling victim to the "need to please" mentality can wreak havoc on our lives, causing us to continually second-guess ourselves or put off making decisions, unless and until we get a general consensus from everyone else that it's the right decision. This causes us to stay stuck in analysis paralysis, living a life that is cut-and-pasted from the opinions of some arbitrary Board of Directors who never should be allowed to stand guard over our decision-making in the first place.
The cycle of needing approval starts in childhood, when we learn that if we behave a certain way, our parents will approve. It carries over to school, where we learn that if we do what we're told and follow all the rules, our teachers will reward us. Then, it follows us to the workplace, where we learn to not rock the boat, to sacrifice excessive personal and family time for the benefit of the company and to bring our own dreams and ambitions in line with those of the corporation.
The need to please cause us to buy things we don't need and can't afford to keep up with and impress people we perceive as being better connected or more well-off than we are. We keep up with the Joneses, even though we can't stand the Joneses.
Behind the need to please is the need for love and acceptance. In fact, that's all any of us really wants. Love and acceptance are like powerful drugs and we're like junkies, ever on the hunt for the next fix. We'll do whatever we have to in order to get it: Go to a certain college? Check. Marry him or her (or not)? Check. Follow a certain religion? Check.
Before long, we're in the trenches of addiction, unsure how we got here and clueless about how to get out. We only know that we're hooked.
Allow me to take a moment to ask, in the words of TV personality and therapist Dr. Phil, "How's that working for you?"
Chances are, it's not. In fact, if your entire life is a culmination of steps taken in an effort to hear others say, "Good job," or "Well done," I'll bet there's a good chance you feel duped. You almost certainly feel unfulfilled.
But the good news is, it's not too late to change. You can banish the obedience beast/approval whore mentality for good. If you're ready to live life on your own terms, you can start right now, with these five simple steps.
Be aware, clear the decks and start with a list. List every activity that you've always wanted to do or a hobby you've always wanted to pursue, but didn't because you were afraid of what others would think or say about you. Now, look at that list and imagine the absolute worst things that people will think, do or say. Realize that these notions you've conjured up are often lies we tell ourselves. However, in any case, why does it really matter what others think? Won't the people held most dear, respect you more if you make your own decisions? How might you feel -- deep within -- if you stood on your own two feet and did what you felt was right for you, regardless of the barks from your Board of Directors?
Think about a time you made a decision without outside approval... and were still okay. Sure, you might have gotten a broken heart, or lost some of your money in that investment; maybe that law degree would have been more practical than the liberal arts degree, but you know what? The planet is still spinning and you're still here. And you've grown through those experiences. That means you get another chance to create the life that's right for you. All you have to do is decide, get busy, and do it.
Make a promise to yourself. Commit to doing one new activity today, and do it on your own terms. And then continue through your list. We're going to build our courage muscles, one at a time. Deciding to live life by your own design and even "breaking" the rules of how others perceive the "normal" world, will feel energizing. Make up your mind to live out loud and on purpose. Bust out of the approval pattern and promise yourself you're going to stand tall!
Trust your inner guide. Each of us is born with an internal compass that lets us know what's right or wrong for us. This compass helps us find our unique direction. People who ignore this compass, this intuition, and act on the commands of other people never find their true calling. Trust your inner guide to lead you to make decisions that feel right for you.
Affirm the power of you. Ingrain your new perspective. Remember, seeking the approval of others and listening to the opinions that don't resonate with you is detrimental to your happiness. Be consciously aware and deliberate in your belief in the power of you.
Any lasting change and mindset shift is a process. You won't undo years of conditioning overnight. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. But most of all, be determined.
The more you practice listening to yourself, the harder you'll find it to be an approval seeker. Before long, people will look to you as a model of how to live boundless, shackles-off, fully expressed, and zestful!
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