Lately I’ve been thinking about just how much of our lives we spend trying to impress someone else — even if we don’t admit it to ourselves. Trying to impress your boss. Your family. Friends. Even strangers on social media.
So where are you in this picture? Is getting the approval of others enough to satisfy your core needs? And if your answer is “yes”, how long do you think that will feel ok? When does approval seeking get in the way of you finding out who you really are?
We begin by trying to impress our parents
From the first moment we make our parents smile and feel the warmth of their hugs, our search for approval begins. And later on, when we utter words, take first steps, etc. we find joy in their delight. And we want more!
Some parents are more willing to show their approval, while others are much more stingy. But still, we try. Like heat-seeking missiles, we search for approval. And if we can’t find it at home, we may try even harder to be accepted by others — desperate for that approval we couldn’t find at home.
Who else do we give approval power to?
For many of us, the list is a long one. Sure, we start with our parents, but soon there are playmates, and teachers, and aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, etc. And the list grows, including our bosses and coworkers later on.
All this is about our self worth. Feeling we have value as human beings. And we give a lot of power to other people for something that ultimately sits inside us. Something deep within, waiting to be fed.
Trying to impress others — seeking approval — is a lot like saying “feed me!” But most of us flourish best when we learn to feed ourselves. Unfortunately, we may not realize how often we’re looking elsewhere for our sustenance.
And then comes the rude awakening
At some point in our lives, we start to feel something is wrong. Some path we didn’t take. Perhaps some choice we made that feels utterly meaningless now. And lots of doubts about whether we’ve done enough things that truly matter.
For some, those self doubts may come after a series of twists and turns in our career. Or maybe after a failure or two. For others, the questions rise up as retirement stares us in the eyes.
Have we done enough? Have we really made a difference? And most important of all, are we proud of the life we’ve lived and the things we dedicated our time and energy to?
How do we begin to impress our real selves?
First, we need to take time to figure out who we really are. It’s never too late. Have we been on a track that feels true to our inner wants and needs? Or are we just living a life of people pleasing?
When do we finally make it our job to impress ourselves — using a measure that has nothing to do with what anyone else thinks. For me the answer is right this minute. It’s as good a time as any to start.
Don’t worry about what anyone else would say — this is about you. And it’s about getting a clearer picture of who you are … the good, the bad, and the silly. It’s high time you began trying to impress yourself, exactly as you are!
Some things that can help you get to know you:
- Work with a coach.
- Take personal assessment tests.
- Make a list of your values and things you believe in.
- Make a list of things you enjoy doing.
- Spend quiet time exploring things that interest you a LOT.
- Take up hobbies / new skills you always wanted to try.
- Let yourself try things, experiment — no pressure.
- Make time to daydream about a version of you free of anyone else’s expectations or desires.
- Draw a “selfie” of yourself living an ideal life five years from now.
- Ask yourself what you admire in people whose values you respect.
- Come up with a few goals that are all about you, and not what anyone else wants / expects of you.
Get to know yourself well — including parts of you that may still be hiding. Then learn to feed your inner self by doing things you truly love and are proud of. And you can take that prescription as often as needed!
It’s never to late to live a life we feel proud of —
not based on what others say, but who we truly are.
More articles to help
And if you do need to quit your job