The more you accept yourself, the less you will depend on the acceptance of others. It is a maxim that we can apply to our life. When we are fully aware of our potential and limitations, when we know each other well enough and are comfortable with who we are, we will not depend on the approval of others. Therefore, the more you like your decisions, the less you need others to like them. In this regard, it is essential that you learn to decide for yourself.
Where does the need for approval arise?
At birth we are completely dependent on our parents or an adult to nourish and protect us. As we grow up, we gradually become aware of this addiction, which is not only physical but also emotional. We later realize that we need our parents because they are our main source of security.
In this way, we begin to more or less consciously seek the approval and acceptance of people who are important to us. We understand that some of our behaviors cause rejection and others are accepted. The same happens when we enter school and the first group of friends.
Of course, this process of seeking acceptance and approval is perfectly normal, it is the first “lesson” we learn to insert ourselves into society and gradually abandon our self-centered position.
However, as we gain autonomy and independence, the quest for approval must diminish. The problem is that sometimes the conditioning we receive in our childhood is so strong that many people fail to cut that umbilical cord. Then they become dependent on the opinions of others and their mood fluctuates according to the criticism or praise they receive.
The tangible sign that you may be too dependent on the opinions of others is when you have to make a decision and not only think about what will be best for you, but also what others will think. In the worst case, you will end up making a decision that doesn't satisfy you just because you know it will please others. You will not make the decision you want but the one that social conformity requires you.
Self-acceptance as a pillar of true independence
"I don't know what the key to success is, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone," said American actor Bill Cosby. Trying to please others is a guarantee that you won't like yourself. In pursuit of social approval and acceptance you may end up losing the connection with yourself.
If every time you have to decide, you look out around you, wondering what others will think, you will lose the connection with your "me". To get in touch with your needs, dreams and desires, you have to look inside yourself. If you always ask yourself "what do others want?" rather than "what do I want?", you will be silencing yourself, so it's no wonder that there comes a time when, when you ask yourself what you really want, you can't find an answer.
Self-acceptance is one of the ways out of this trap. We must not forget that the search for external approval is due to the fact that we do not approve ourselves internally. We seek in others what we have not been able to give.
This is what the psychologist Vygotsky called the "law of the double formation of psychological processes", according to which all our psychological processes have a social origin. This means that every psychological process appears twice during our development: first in the interpsychological field and then in the intrapsychological one, first in the relationship with others and then in the relationship with ourselves.
This means that instead of seeking outside acceptance and approval, we must seek them within ourselves. When we accept our successes and failures, being aware of our strengths and weaknesses, we develop a solid self that will depend less and less on the opinions of others.
The more certain we are of the decisions we make, even if they always involve a certain degree of risk and even the possibility of making mistakes, the less security we will have to seek outside. This confidence is acquired when we understand that we cannot avoid making mistakes, but that every mistake is a life experience that teaches us something or makes us more resilient.
At that point we will be truly mature. Only then can we help other people break free from the shackles of seeking social approval, thus freeing them from the expectations we also have of them.