Today we are going to tackle a sensitive wound in the majority of us. Approval. I feel your tense breath at the word. It's steeped in association and experience for all of us, and unfortunately a hugely misunderstood and harmful concept when expressed incorrectly and used as a transaction. Can you feel the eye rolls and the finger-pointing toward childhood? I know. This one is going to be a bumpy ride, in two parts. Fasten your seatbelts.
People have a misguided idea about what love actually is.
Because of this, we often think that we are loving, when we are in fact not being loving. For example, parents may think that by restricting their child’s life in the direction that they think would be best for the child, that they are loving. Actually, they are not taking the child’s own personal truth as a part of themselves and as such, they are practising the opposite of love. But today, we’re going to talk about perhaps the biggest misconception about love and that is that love is approval.
To love something is to take it as a part of you.
Love is unifying. When you love something, you energetically pull it towards you and include it as you. When we experience chronic disapproval and criticism in our childhood, to the degree where we feel rejected by people in our life, we begin to develop trauma around the feeling of disapproval and critique. It feels like being pushed away instead of being pulled in. It feels like we are being disrespected. This induces shame. And so, we begin to develop an intense chase for the feeling of approval. The antidote to shame.
To approve of something is to have a positive opinion about that thing.
This naturally leads to an acceptance of or agreement to that thing. At face value, this sounds loving. It sounds like nonresistance. Let's look back at the definition of love given earlier: to love something is to take it as a part of yourself. Can we really approve of something that will cause someone pain and not in their best interest? The reality is, you can approve or disapprove of something without loving something and you can approve or disapprove of something because you love something. Approval and love are two different things. They can exist together or separate.
Let me give you some examples where approval is not loving:
A man has the goal of becoming a writer. His editor never wants him to feel discouraged and is shying away from potential upset or confrontation so he doesn't give him the constructive feedback he needs to improve. By not doing so, the editor sets the author up to fail as a writer.
Your partner who is the main breadwinner wants to quit their job. You agree even though there has been no financial safety net plan put in place for this transition because your partner says you should support their dreams no matter what. You accept the uncertainty even if it's to your detriment.
We could consider these examples, the shadow of approval… Holding a positive opinion that leads to an allowance with what does not benefit someone. This is actually resistance.
If you are someone who equates approval= love, you’ll find yourself in relationships based on validation. This looks and feels like everything is approved of or agreed to within the relationship regardless of whether it’s in the best interest of either person.
For you, respect from others and self-esteem means approval. Instead of healthy, this becomes a dysfunctional relationship. It becomes a relationship where either one or both people are out of synchronisation with their actual desires and actual best interests. Essentially, the motto in the relationship is “Let me be free to do whatever I want and approve of everything I think, say and do and I’ll do the same for you!”. Whenever you experience disapproval, you feel as if it is an assumption to stop being and doing whatever is being disapproved of and this feels like forfeiting yourself and being conditionally loved someone is approving of you unconditionally, it is the only time you’re not conforming to what someone else wants you to be. You feel free! When someone expresses disapproval, you take it as an expressed expectation that you change yourself into something else for their best interest. So you start to feel controlled and resentful.
What's your thoughts on the idea of approval in your own life and relationships? Can you see how you change your own behaviour and fall into this trap? Has your relationship with approval changed over time ?
If you’d like to talk about any of the issues raised in this article, click here to book an appointment with me, or reach out to someone you trust. Stay Tuned for part 2 where I continue the discussion.