Monday, July 12, 2010

How Much Does Your Need of Other People's Approval Influence YOUR LIFE?

How often are you driven by such thoughts as the ones below?

If you find that your behaviour is strongly directed by them you can be fairly certain that they are actual BELIEFS that you hold about yourself and your world. If so, my guess would be that they frequently fill you with despair, make it virtually impossible for you to say 'no' to requests you don't actually want to comply with, that you stress about your friendships and feel hugely anxious about keeping everyone happy all of the time with the bottom line being that YOU often feel very unhappy and sometimes feel pretty depressed.

* Unless I focused on others and always put their needs and wants first, I 'd just be selfish.

* If I didn't keep everyone happy, who would?

* If I showed others who I REALLY was, they surely wouldn’t like me.

* Unless I constantly did things for others, I wouldn't be a likable or worthwhile person.



Many people believe that focusing on our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours is a sign of selfishness. If this is our assumption we’ll be inclined to focus on other’s (possible) thoughts, (potential) feelings and (likely) behaviours instead of our own.

When our boundaries are weak or blurred, this can easily become our general way of being. The more our focus shifts from our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours onto those of other people, the more we will be liable to define ourselves by what they think, feel and how they are behaving towards us. So, in order to do be liked, fit in, be acceptable to them we become very adept at tuning into them rather than into ourselves and seeking to please them at all costs. When we do this it means that we allows OTHERS to determine what we will think, how we will feel and what we are going to do. This is most likely to happen if we hold any of the following relational fears:

* If I don’t do what s/he wants, s/he won’t like me anymore…will ignore me… might talk about me behind my back…might never forgive me…

* If I say “no” s/he’ll get really angry…will shout at me…call me nasty names…blame me for his/her unhappiness…will retaliate…might punish me…OR

* Be terribly hurt…feel rejected or abandoned…might lose trust in me…will think that I don’t love him/her…that I don’t approve of him/her….

* If I disagree, they’ll never ask me anything again….think me impolite…think I’m stupid…believe that I want to pick a fight…etc.

The more we allow these fears to control our actions, the more we tend to lose ourselves. This means that sooner or later we will no longer know who we are. We will no longer know what WE believe, what WE think and feel and what WE want or need. So, in essence we sacrifice our authentic self on the altar of our perception (or the reality) of what other’s want or need us to be. Having made that sacrifice, however, does not stand us or our loved ones in good stead as we expend our energy seeking to become someone we were never meant to be and in this process are likely to feel overwhelmed, trapped and exhausted and eventually become terribly resentful of those to whom we have given such control.


If we have healthy boundaries we know that our lives are our own responsibility. This remains true from the moment we reach the age of reason to the moment we die. If we hold the belief that it is another person’s job to meet all our needs, supply all our wants and be the ones that ‘make us feel’ okay, we can be sure that we have a boundary problem. This is also true if we find that we constantly blame others for how we feel, what we think or how we behave. Some thoughts that are typical if our boundaries are less than intact, could be:

If only he were different, I could finally be happy”.

“If she would just do it my way, I wouldn’t be so angry all the time”.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that this or that person is spoiling my life, the world would be a terrific place.”

Just as we are responsible for our own lives, so others are responsible for theirs and equally have no right to blame US for THEIR thoughts, feeling and actions. Having said that, I want to make it quite clear that whilst we are not responsible FOR another person (except for our children during their childhood years) we do have a definite responsibility TO them. And this means that we are responsible for the way we think and feel about them as well as the attitude and the behaviour we display towards them. We carry the responsibility for:

* How we interact with our partner/children/parents/fiends.

* How we respond to them in conflict situations (as well as any other situations).

* How well we protect our boundaries from our partners/children/parents/friends should they be ignored by them.

* How clearly we verbalise our limits and how consistently we enforce them should they be disregarded.

* How well we respect other people's - our partner’s/children’s/parent’s - boundaries and limits.

This, however, is where our responsibility begins and ends. Just as others are not responsible for our thoughts, feelings and behaviours so we are not responsible for theirs. We are not responsible for ‘rescuing’ them from the consequences of their actions and we are not responsible for ‘fixing’ all the problems we might perceive them to have. This doesn’t mean, however, that we cannot ask for their support or that we should not support them. Quite the contrary, feeling supported by and being supporting of someone we love is one of the greatest joys that comes with relationship. Teaching, guiding and nurturing are some of the responsibilities we have to our children. Honour and respect are some of the responsibilities we have to our parents. Love and fidelity are some of the responsibilities we have to our partners. One of the responsibilities we have to ourselves is to figure out who we are and how we fit into this world; what treasures belong within our boundary lines and how WE can nurture and express the wonderful gifts and talents that are part of those internal treasures. Learning to respect and nurture ourselves rather than expecting someone else to do this for us is another step towards becoming authentic.

Stay tuned for the next part of How Much Does Your Need of Other People's Approval Run YOUR LIFE?