“If you have an over-preoccupation with perception and trying to please people’s expectations, then you can go mad.” — Benedict Cumberbatch
Going about life in a way that society approves makes the journey seemingly easier, smoother and less fraught with friction.
But if the life we are leading is simply to avoid friction, and not sincere to who we are and what we have within us to share, then we are choosing the lesser life.
The details of each person’s truly full and contented life will be different, just as what is considered a lesser life, a life below what we are meant to experience and explore, will be unique to each person as well.
Instagram is currently experimenting with a new design feature which would remove the number of likes for each post as seen by the public. In other words, only the owner of the account would know how many likes were given, leaving the outside world to make a decision without the masses as to whether they like something that was posted or not.
After reading a couple of articles as of late regarding the over-saturated world of media influencers whether it is in the self-help world or the style and fashion arenas, I began to more closely examine from where I seek information, where I draw ideas, and then I compared what I found with how I came to the decisions I have made in my life that have aided me in my life’s journey. Certainly, I have been influenced by media that in hindsight should not have held so much sway (moreso in my twenties, but still in my thirties as well), but often, at least for me, in these situations, I was led to a discovery, a truth, about myself that had yet to be discovered. A truth that was always there, but needed some nudging for me to unearth.
The truth is, approval from the outside feels good superficially, but it doesn’t last, and we will have to continually seek more – a cycle that must stay in motion in order for us to feel falsely at peace.
I will admit, I have found myself sharing ideas with my mother, unconsciously seeking her approval, a green light so-to-speak for something I am considering doing, trying, attempting, exploring. But what I have realized by doing this, and my mom has become quite astute at how to handle such inquiries, is the fact that I am asking, is the evidence that I should indeed explore it dependent upon the energy I express or how exuberantly, or contrarily dubiously, I explain the idea.
Thankfully, she listens, because most of the time we simply need to hear ourselves share our ideas outloud. We need to hear our exuberance and curiosity or doubt audibly, we need to feel the energy of excitement when we share an idea with another person that we are hopeful about. So at the core, it is not approval we are seeking; it is support to help make our dreams a reality that we desire.
To understand the difference between approval and support takes time, just as it takes time to know from whom to seek support.
A worthwhile supporter is someone who is selfless. In other words, someone who isn’t examining how they will benefit or be hurt by the decision you will make, but rather whether they sincerely believe it is a wise decision, and if not or if only partially, offer objective consideration for you to contemplate. In other words, they are not a yes or no person, they are a springboard, they are listening, but not deciding. Only you can be the decider.
When you start making decisions for your life on your own, you begin to strengthen your intuition for what is best for you. And when people observe you making the decisions that you wholeheartedly wish to pursue, not for approval but because of sincerity of belief or passion, that is when respect from others worth gaining gradually builds.
“Once we give up searching for approval, we often find it easier to earn respect.” Gloria Steinem
It can be hard to step away from the world of outside approval. It can feel as though it surrounds us, even follows us, wherever we go – in person or online. But it starts within you.
What makes you feel at peace? Conversely, what feeds the tension in your life? Examine both sides – contentment and unrest. When you do, you will begin to discover what is fueling your calm and what is stirring the unrest that makes you feel you have to constantly be improving, constantly offering something of perfection. It doesn’t mean you cannot grow; after all, learning to let go of other’s approval is growth, but it does mean an examination may be a good idea into why you do, why you live, the way you do.
“If you are going to do something truly innovative, you have to be someone who does not value social approval. You can’t need social approval to go forward. Otherwise, how would you ever do the thing that you are doing?” —Malcolm Gladwell
I found myself in the kitchen this weekend making an old scone recipe I haven’t made in years. I remembered it as it was the recent British Week on the blog, and I recalled that I had not brought the recipe into the house yet. In other words, it was packed away and had not been seen since I moved four years ago.
As I made the recipe, read my notes, I began to remember when I first found it. It was at least five years before the blog began which was in 2009, and was made purely because I was curious, because I wanted to bake something new as I had never made scones before. What I was reminded of in that moment was that it was when I was following my inner curiosity that I was lead to things that align with my true self most sincerely. I can remember baking those scones multiple times while I lived in Portland, and each time, while in the kitchen, Oscar as a pup at my feet waiting for crumbs, and I was in the present most fully.
I went to grab my phone to snap a pic while I was making the recipe for the first time in many, many years, and I found a dead phone (truly, dead – no function – I had to return it to have it replaced). No picture was to be captured, and I was unconsciously thankful. I wanted that moment to be mine.
This is not to say that I when I do share images or videos with you on social media that I am seeking approval. I can honestly say, I feel fortunate to be able to share the moments that bring me joy and hopefully will bring you joy and offer inspiration to interpret in a way that is unique to you. But I am going to try to do so even more consciously than before. So there may be a bit fewer social media postings so that I can be more fully present, but when I do, know that it is for readers to be inspired to find their sincerest self as they listen to where their curiosity asks them to go.
Checking in with ourselves regularly, asking ourselves why we are doing something is the simplest way to ensure we are doing what we love or doing what we think will gain outside approval.
We can quickly become numb to realizing when we have taken into consideration too much of the world’s opinion about what we should do. As of late, this spring, has offered (and I have taken) many opportunities to be engaged and appreciative of Mother Nature. When I do this, I am more fully present, and I become quickly clear about what has been impressed upon me and of what I should let go.
I am not so foolhardy to suppose that the world’s influences will become less in the years to come, but what I am confident about is that we have the ability to make it easier on ourselves to navigate the expectations that are impressed upon us when we make it a regular practice to listen to ourselves and recognize when we are reacting to the outside world rather than observing and then determining whether it is best for us individually to heed or partake, if at all.
The greatest benefit we give ourselves when we live consciously is not only the potential for respect from those we as well respect, but everyday contentment.