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Seeking the Approval of Others

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Posted 12 February 2016 by Chris FarmerChris Farmer

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Seeking The Approval of Others

There are two common mistakes that many people make.

  1. They develop an irrational need to gain the social approval of others.
  2. They become irrationally upset if they gain the social disapproval of others.

They both come from the same source:

The Fear of Rejection

The fear of rejection is, for many people, a deep seated fear. It is so deep seated and primitive a fear, that many are not consciously aware of its existence, though we are painfully aware of its effects. The fear of rejection shows itself in many ways, such as:

  • The fear of public speaking.
  • The fear of asking a person for a date, or a dance.
  • The fear of attending a job interview.
  • The fear of criticism.
  • The fear of growing old and losing our physical attractiveness.

For a new born baby, or for a young child, we can understand that social-rejection, could be a life or death issue. A child is completely dependent on others for their survival, and so the rejection of a child by its parents is a "life or death" issue for the child.

For a young child, rejection equals death, but as the child grows older he/she should become more and more independent, so the danger from rejection should fade from the memory.

But in many cases The Fear of Rejection, still looms large in the mind. Many grown-ups still over-dose on the desire to gain the approval of others, and they will go to any lengths in order to gain the approval of others. On the other hand, they are mortified and pained, if they discover they have drawn any signs of social rejection from others.

There are many who use the approval of others, or the lack of it, as the standard by which to measure their performance, or their moral standing. If they are gaining social approval, then they figure, they are good: But if they are failing to gain approval, they are no good.

Is the approval of others, or the lack of it, the proper means to judge your soul or performance? And if it is not, then what is the proper standard?

The approval of others is not the proper guide to action. Just because the majority approves of X does not say anything about whether X is good or right or true.

For example: In 1933 Adolf Hitler was a very popular guy. That did not make his murderous tendencies good.

And in 1947 Mahatma Ghandi, was unpopular with the British establishment, but that did not make his claim for independence of India, bad.

I suggest that you should not allow the approval or the disapproval of others to be the standard by which you judge yourself, your ideas or actions, as being good, bad or neutral.

What you should measure yourself against?

You should measure yourself up against Ideals. Everyone has an idea in their mind of The Ideal.

You have an idea of what would constitute an ideal man, or an ideal woman, or an ideal holiday, or an ideal apple pie, or an ideal leadership training course.

The ideal may not be what exists in the moment. The ideal situation does not yet exist. But you could use your conception of the "ideal X" to be your guide, and not be too interested whether the ideal is common, or the ideal is popular.

For example. If you were to write out a nutritiously ideal daily diet, one that was nutritionally perfect, containing everything you need with no alcohol, sugar, salt or excessive fats, then that would be a great diet. Then ask yourself if that diet is: common or popular. An ideal diet is not common and not popular.

The same principle is true for everything else. Excellence is not common; and the habits required to achieve excellence are not popular.

In fact, what is popular and common is often of low quality. For example, TV Soaps are common and very popular, but they don't add much value to your day.

So you don't need to worry too much if you are popular. That is not the standard of the good. The standard of the good is The Ideal.

Don't be too quick to feel bad, simply because you do not gain the approval of others, and don't be too quick to change what you are doing, simply because your decision is unpopular.

Instead, ask yourself if your actions are approximating closer, and closer to your idealised version that you have in your mind.

Strive to attain your ideals.

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