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Approval: Another One Of Those Deep Inner Needs

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.  -unknown*

Sunday night this week after getting into bed I started up a very old, very familiar fight with my husband. All of you in relationships know that type of fight. The same language comes out with all the same emotions and somehow even though more angst and frustration are wasted, a resolution is not reached. This was our very familiar fight about how my husband doesn’t approve of my organization of our finances.

Now, I’m a very, organized person. I’ve never paid a late fee in my life, I’ve never missed a bill and I’m the crazy woman who spends hours on the phone fighting for a doctor’s office to get paid in full from our insurance company after the doctor’s office messed up the billing. That is just the type of person I am.

So the fact that my husband doesn’t approve of my fabulous bookkeeping is definitely his problem.

However my need for approval, is definitely my problem.

It isn’t an unusual problem. The need to have our actions, strengths and even weaknesses acknowledged and appreciated by those who love us is very common. We can all trace it back to something different in our childhoods, but it is usually there.

I may not have thought much about our Sunday night fight if my Intermediate Yoga class didn’t call me out on an inappropriate comment that I made in class on Monday. We were deep in the midst of a challenging class on spirals in standing balances when I commented that I could see which of the students were staying soft in their bodies and which were just going through the motions. As you would expect tone is imperative to understanding why this was inappropriate (and why it struck such a chord). Immediately one of the students from the depths of Warrior III yelled out “Okay MOM!”  In an instant everyone was tumbling out of their poses laughing. I had single-handedly used the need for teacher’s approval against them as a way to scold them for not staying integrated. Despite my best intentions I deserved the embarrassment and the jesting that followed.

The fact is that teaching intermediate students is one of the most challenging populations because of their intense need for self-approval. They are so excited to reach a pose in order to feel proud of themselves and are not yet versed in all the sensations that experienced practitioners recognize as warning signs of injury.

Whether it is self-approval or approval by others this basic need requires a lot of mindfulness.

Questions To Increase Mindfulness Around Approval

  1. Are you proud of your own work and why?
  2. Are there other people who can validate your work/experience/strengths?
  3. What would you want a person to say in order to demonstrate approval? What would you want them to make sure to notice?
  4. Is the task you are struggling with something that will bring you personal satisfaction or is it something you are attempting for someone else’s recognition?
  5. What would your work/practice/future experiences look like if you didn’t need outside approval? How would they be different?
  6. Who are the people in your life who give you honest feedback and who have opinions you trust?
  7. Who are the people in your life who are most critical? Can you be mindful of their criticism while staying objective about your work?
  8. In what areas of you life do you seek approval? In what areas of your life do you not need approval?
  9. What are your greatest strengths? What are your greatest weaknesses?
  10. When you a triggered by the need for approval how can you remind yourself of those strengths?
  11. Does this need for approval stem from the need for validation? The need for forgiveness? The need for compassion? The need for recognition?

We are a social species with lots of people milling around in our lives ready to boost our confidence or trample all over our delicate egos. The ability to recognize the emotional reaction first and then chose a mindful response is the greatest social strength we could possibly achieve.

* It is only fitting that the recognition/approval due this citation is a confusing, virtual mess on the internet.** This quote is often wrongly attributed to Viktor Frankl, but according to Stephen Covey who used this quote in his foreword in Prisoners of Our Thoughts by Alex Pattakos, the author is unknown as he forgot to take down the writer’s name when he found it in a book. Covey drew a connection of this phrase to Frankl’s work.
**I am now seeking your approval that I am a good researcher.

Image credit: subbotina / 123RF Stock Photo

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