If you ever watched any Monty Python in the 70’s, you are familiar with the title of this chat. I was a Monty Python addict! Why? Well, I thought it was hilarious, but also because my boyfriend loved it – and I wanted to connect with him. There were many other things he was interested in that I studied up on, got to know details about so we could share and he would approve of me, accept me. This was likely the early stages of my approval seeking!
Fast forward 35+ years and that pattern, habit, flaw, whatever you want to call it, is something I recognize as something I need to let go of in order to bring my best self forward. When we work so hard to please others and gain their acceptance or approval – we end up a smaller version of ourselves. We dim our light to make others and ourselves more comfortable. What we don’t realize is that in doing that we actually don’t live our Divine purpose. We are all here to shine our Divine purpose into the world and if we dim that light to be more acceptable or approved of and trade in our authenticity to “hot wire” that connection with others, we actually forget who we are and what we want in life. As Kristen Brown says in a great article…
“We get comfortable being uncomfortable, then question why we are not truly happy.”
When we try to make everything o.k. for everyone around us but ourselves, we only end up hurting ourselves and we also hurt those we are trying to gain the approval of. They don’t even really know who we are, because all they have seen is our mask of approval seeking.
I am committed to breaking my patterns that no longer serve me. VERY committed. I want to bring the cleanest version of myself forward to the next part of my life – no matter what that next part looks like. I want my relationships to have the best possible chance of me being true to myself and not abandoning myself, and be whole with whomever I interact with.
My pattern is pretty firmly entrenched in performing for approval from others. I never used to see myself as a pleaser, I thought I was tough, sassy – that doesn’t sound like a people pleaser! Yet when I bring my MASK of tough and sassy because it’s what others have come to expect from me, that too is performing for approval. It’s totally fine to be tough and sassy! But bringing that out when it’s called for or what I feel is different than being that way simply because it’s Tuesday!
My counselor, Joy, told me a great story about how she was trying to learn to golf. She was really struggling and her grip on the club seemed to be the problem. She just couldn’t seem to break her pattern of how she grip the club. So she hired her nephew, who is a golf pro, to give her some lessons. She kept swinging and swinging and it wasn’t going well. Finally he said to her, “Here’s what I want you to do… just do ANYTHING different. Don’t worry about if it’s right or wrong, good or bad, just do anything different – mix it up.”
So she did irrational things like holding the club upside down perhaps, or switching to swinging from her non-dominant side, anything different! And it changed her game completely! She was able to break her pattern that kept her stuck in that loop of repeat.
Don and I have tried many things to improve our relationship over the years. We have done counseling three times in the course of our dating and marriage, three different counselors. Watched several video/DVD courses to understand our challenges. I’ve read about ten thousand books, taken about that many classes to learn more about relationships and why we do what we do and don’t do. The list is lengthy! I’ve spent plenty of years blaming Don, blaming myself for our challenges. What I’m coming to believe is that no one needs to be blamed, I just need to see what I can learn about myself and my patterns and if there are those that are keeping me stuck – I gotta break them! Well, maybe HEAL would be a kinder word.
The hell of it is, none of us have any control over anyone or anything other than ourselves. If you think you do – you suffer. If I seek the approval of others there is almost a 100% chance that I don’t approve of myself. We all seem to seek the thing we are not giving ourselves.
If I abandon myself and what I know is true for me, in order to gain the approval of someone else – I am causing my OWN depletion. I water down what I can bring to the world that would make a difference.
So, my pattern gets triggered – (and this is my own doing!) by Don’s pattern. I have trained myself to get his approval is more important than my own approval of me. That is not the recipe for a healthy, full relationship. So… we are going to TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT. A radical shift to break the pattern of our intense emotional habits. Neither of us knows what this will lead to, yet no matter what, it will be better for both of us, we both are in agreement on that I believe.
I just finished Glennon Doyle Melton’s new book “Love Warrior”. It’s a memoir of her life and marriage and it’s a story of the healing that is possible for any of us when we refuse to settle for good enough and begin to face pain and love head-on. Being in our truth, being our authentic selves, and how avoiding pain is actually what leads to massive amounts of it.
In the book, she writes about how when she would tell people her story of the pain she was going through in her relationship, most often they did what we all do… AVOID the conversation because it hits a little too close to home and we’ll have to face our own story of pain. Or we try to FIX it, give the person in pain all the answers because we can see so clearly what they need to do or how they should feel! Or maybe we COMPARE, which is just another way to avoid hearing the pain of the other person. We switch the story to be about ourselves, or someone we know who “went through that same thing”.
As Glennon says, people who are hurting don’t need avoiders, fixers or comparers. What we need are patient loving witnesses. People who will sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpless vigil to our pain. Rather than letting our own discomfort with their pain cause us to distance ourselves from it with platitudes or “it will all work out”. It WILL all work out – yet we must feel the pain first in order to get to that other side of it.
What If Being Love = Giving Someone Space To Evolve Through Their Pain?
What if the most loving thing you could do for someone going through something hard is to give them the space to FEEL their FEELINGS? And by space I don’t mean leave them alone. I mean you just love them, be with them, don’t try to tell them that what they feel is wrong somehow or “sell” them on looking at the bright side.
I’ve been through some murky crap in my personal growth the past couple of years. I’ve had plenty of evidence that would help me write a story of shame, hopelessness, feeling alone and like a victim. My dear friend Kelly has some of the greatest advice for me and I am so thankful for her patience to repeat it over, and over, and over again… “You get to feel however you want to, how you feel is NOT wrong.” “Love yourself.” And my personal favorite… “So?”
She gives me that space to feel what I feel, not trying to hurry me up to get “better” or solve the puzzle. This is possibly the biggest gift we can give someone we love. That space to work through the feelings without a focus on the outcome. This is such a huge gift because it helps our loved ones learn to find their own way through the dark night of the soul. It helps them know that there is someone there holding out their hand if they need it, yet willing to let you do it yourself without judgement.
“The journey is learning that pain, like love, is simply something to surrender to. It’s a holy space we can enter with people only if we promise not to tidy up.” -Love Warrior
Surrender means, by definition, giving up attachment to results. I know my next phase of the journey will have plenty of pain as it becomes more real. Yet I also know that as Joy said, trying something different can transform everything in a way that is better. Pain does not equal failure. Being approval addicted or any self-destructive pattern certainly leads to pain, not only for the seeker, but also for those that only see that mask we wear to gain the approval.
The path to empowerment is all about changing ourselves FIRST in order to create change in our lives. Self-approval/self-love is a way of living that not only causes you to stand in your own light, but also gives everyone you come into contact with – permission to do the same. Will you give YOURSELF permission to stand in your own light... full beam?
Sandy Edie Hansen
I use this space to "Chat" about things I am working through and learning in my life currently. Join me!