The Snare of Approval

We tend to think of criticism when we hear the word judgment. And we associate judgment with being attacked, compared negatively to somebody else, or even being compared to some lofty, ideal standard.  

You have been judged. I have been judged.

It’s demotivating and debilitating.

It diminishes the self, and we feel inadequate.

But have you ever thought that approval could be harmful? It’s a form of judgment too, though a much more subtle one.

When we approve of someone else (their looks, their personality, the way they cope with hardship, their wealth, or their successes) we are sitting in judgment over them, and us, as well.

This constant stressful striving – for approval’s very fragile. It leads to editing and fixing so we’re deemed acceptable.

Yet, it’s often very fickle, transitory and subjective.  It also can be lost in the twinkling of an eye.

It can be swiftly withdrawn, and even turn to criticism.

Why Does Approval Mean So Much to Us?

If we hunger for approval it tells us something crucial: that we aren’t fully comfortable with who we are right now. We feel we need to change ourselves. Adapt to others’ expectations. Try our best to be someone that others like and value.

Perhaps we don’t like how we look. We feel ashamed of what we’ve done. We feel worthless or inadequate because we’ve been mistreated.

Yet, all of us have flaws. And all of us have made mistakes. And all of us suffered, and been injured in some way.

The Solution

The greatest gift you give yourself is being there for yourself – always.

It’s accepting who you – a human being who has flaws.

It is embracing all our parts – for all of us are on a journey.

And that’s what makes us whole.

It’s what will truly set us free. 

Be brave enough to take off the masks you wear out there and get to know who you are underneath. Be vulnerable enough to accept your flaws and know that they are what make you human; they are what make you real. Be confident enough to accept and cherish your strengths. Don’t minimize them or hide them They are your beautiful gifts to share with the world. Be brave enough to say, you know what, all of this is who I am. I make so many mistakes. I can be forgetful. I can be messy. But … I am doing my best with what I’ve got. And I am so proud of that. I am so proud of me. And I am proud of who I am becoming.”

– Unknown

Starting Over


Start over my darling. Be brave enough to find the life you want and courageous enough to chase it. Then start over and love yourself the way you were always meant to.” – Madalyn Beck

New beginnings are possible.

Sometimes a new beginning takes the form of walking away and designing a completely different life. The life you really want.

The new life you have chosen.

The life where you are free to be yourself.

It’s a life-changing moment. A decisive step.


At other times, starting over is a gentler process.

It is taking one small step, then another small step.

This process is more hesitant. Perhaps less obvious.

Yet, it’s still decisive and life-changing over time.


So whatever starting over looks like to you, don’t be afraid to make that first important change.

You have so much potential.

This life is yours to live.

You don’t have to settle.

You can have another chance.   

Try This



Try this.  

Set aside a time when you can be alone for an hour with your journal. Choose a relaxing place and an unhurried, leisurely time of the day. Make sure there will be no interruptions. It’s just you and your journal.

Now, answer the following questions:

1.“What is important to you in life?” Write for 10 minutes straight. Write whatever is floating around in your mind. Don’t edit your thoughts or writing. Write as if no-one but you will read it. Be completely honest with yourself.

2. “What are your big dreams?” Write for 10 minutes straight. Write whatever is floating around in your mind. Don’t edit your thoughts or writing. Write as if no-one but you will read it. Be completely honest with yourself.

3. “What do you want from an intimate relationship?” Write for 10 minutes straight. Write whatever is floating around in your mind. Don’t edit your thoughts or writing. Write as if no-one but you will read it. Be completely honest with yourself.

4. “Where do you want to go with this relationship?” (Your relationship with your partner or spouse.) Write for 10 minutes straight. Write whatever is floating around in your mind. Don’t edit your thoughts or writing. Write as if no-one but you will read it. Be completely honest with yourself.

Most of us aren’t aware of, and may never have articulated, our deepest hopes and dreams. They are often just below conscious awareness, on the periphery of our mind. This means we can’t take them seriously.

Now is the time to take them seriously.

Reread what you have written in your journal.

What have you learned about yourself?

What changes do you want to make?

What small change are you going to make first, and by what date?

Trust your intuition.

Take that first step.

You Matter

There’s a grave in Dozenhem military cemetery where the inscription on the headstone reads:

“G. Blacker. Somerset light Infantry. 9th August 1917. Age 39”.

This man existed, and he mattered.

This man was a member of our family. He died for his country in World War 1. And like the others who are buried there in France, he was a living, breathing person. He had hopes, great plans, and dreams.

He was not some nameless soldier.

He had laboured in his farm.

He had had a wife and family.

He was difficult at times.

All these details are important; they are not irrelevant. They describe a unique person. Things that made him who he was.


All our lives are filled with details. Small things. idiosyncrasies.

And like him, you also matter. And you have a history.

Different things that happened to you. Fulfilled hopes, and tender wounds.

You’re a carrier of memories. Good ones. Bad one. Neutral ones.

Some are heartaches. Some are traumas. Things you might want to forget.

Each a stone, or coloured pebble, or a shard in life’s mosaic.


And your impact’s seen and captured in the lives of those you’ve touched. Words, and smiles, and affirmations, thoughtful gestures, kindnesses.  

Evidence that your life matters. There are imprints everywhere.  

You are not some nameless person.

Your life is significant.

You might think that you don’t matter in this world, but because of you someone has a favourite mug to drink their tea out of each morning that you bought them. Someone hears a song on the radio and it reminds them of you. Someone has read a book you recommended to them and gotten lost in its pages. Someone’s remembered a joke you told them and smiled to themselves on the bus.

Never think you don’t have an impact. Your fingerprints can’t be wiped away from the little marks of kindness that you’ve left behind.”

Not Knowing


Sometimes we don’t know the way we should go.

We don’t know if we should take the fork to the right, or to the left.  

We don’t know what will happen if we go to the right, or to the left.

That is the nature of life.

You take one faltering step. Then another faltering step.

Sometimes you sit down. And rest. Or wait.

Sometimes direction comes, and sometimes it doesn’t.


Wouldn’t it be great if we could always feel confident that the decision we were making was the right one?

That the direction we were going was the best one for us?

That whatever we did next would have the most successful outcome?

That we could confidently grasp the pen, and write out a great next chapter. With a great outcome. And a heroic ending.

If only that were possible.

If only it were that easy.

But it isn’t that easy.


Often we don’t know what to do. We don’t know where to turn, or which road to take.

So, perhaps, it’s not surprising that we often feel anxious.


But, really, you don’t need to have it all figured out.

You don’t need to know the end from the beginning.

All you need to do is to trust yourself.

To be patient. To take the pressure off yourself.

And to be willing to risk it.

And to take the next small step.

Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen


Trauma overwhelms listeners as much as speakers … and talking about painful events doesn’t necessarily establish community – often quite the contrary. Families and organizations may reject members who air their dirty laundry; friends and family can lose patience with people who get stuck in their grief or hurt. This is one reason why trauma victims often withdraw and why their stories become rote narratives, edited in a form least likely to provoke rejection.”

Is this, perhaps, something you relate to as well?

Chelsea had always been a very private person. She was open, warm and friendly in most social situations. But no-one really knew what was happening in her life. To outward appearances, it looked like things were fine. 

Then, out of the blue, Chelsea’s world was blown apart – when she learned that her husband had a hidden secret life. Dating apps, pornography, webcams, and so on.

Who do you talk to when you learn something like that?

If truth be told …. It wasn’t easy. But occasionally she tried. She’d introduce the subject in a vague, non-threatening way, and try to share a little of what things had been like.

But on the whole, it was disastrous. It only made things worse. Her close friends shut her down. It made them feel uncomfortable. They didn’t want to hear this. No, they didn’t want to know.

Apart from one young mother she had met at the school gate. Her husband had walked out on her, and left her with two kids. They weren’t really close, but they would always wave and chat.  Sometimes they’d grab a coffee. Half an hour. No more than that. And it was comforting to know that someone understood.

She didn’t have to say much. Words can be superfluous. But kindness is a language that communicates so much.

The lies and the betrayal had left Chelsea traumatized. Her life had changed forever. It was ordinary no more. The grief was overwhelming. Way too much to bear alone. She often felt so desperate. How she’d love to be consoled.

Most people cannot handle pain. It feels too threatening. It leaves them feeling vulnerable. They have to look away.

This mother knew what it was like.

That lifeline was enough.

It helped Chelsea to heal. It got her through the toughest times.

The validation she received helped her to face the day.

This woman was a gift. Her presence transformed Chelsea’s life.         

Quote of the Day

“Become intimate with your fears. Listen to them. Sit cross-legged. Give them your undivided attention. Offer them comfort. Offer them rest.”

– Nayyirah Waheed


Our fears don’t go away.

We can’t just push them down inside.

Pretending they’re not there is never going to work for long.

They always re-emerge.

They keep resurfacing again.

They follow us around

They won’t be silenced or snuffed out.


So why not turn and face them.

Let them speak up.

Say their piece.

Remember: They’re just worries.

Red alerts.

Anxieties.

They’re trying to protect you.

They don’t want you to be harmed

So let them know they matter.

Listen.

Take them seriously.


And as you start to do this, you’ll experience a peace.

Their message may be valid and the danger might be real.

But now that you have faced them, you’re not fighting with yourself.

You’re in this thing together.

And together you are strong.

I Love Me

How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.”

When we have experienced rejection or betrayal it changes the way we see, and feel about, ourselves. We can pick up the message that there’s something wrong with us. That we’re less than other people. That we’re seriously flawed.

But all of these are lies, and we need to love ourselves.

So how do we learn to love ourselves?  

1. Our mindset affects the way we see ourselves, how we interact with others, and how we live our lives. It affects our expectations around how others will treat us, and whether that’s appropriate, and what we should accept. This is an area we often need to challenge, and especially if we suffer from low self-esteem.

Some questions to ask yourself here include: Do I expect others to treat the same as/ better than/ or worse than they treat others? Why is that the case? What do I deserve when it comes to being loved? What will I put up with, and why?

2. Pay attention to how you treat yourself.

For example, do you tend to be self-critical and harsh towards yourself? Are you good at noticing and taking care of your physical, mental and emotional needs? How do you do that? How well do you do that? Do you make time to do the things you want and like to do? If not, why not? 

3. We need to show self-understanding and develop self-compassion.

It can be helpful to take the time to write down our life story, and trace how our experiences have shaped who we’ve become.

4. We need to give ourselves permission to design our own life, and to say what we want, and then to go after that.

Of course, our plans can be destroyed by the people in our lives, and it’s hard to recover when we’ve been traumatized. But our life still our own. We still have some agency. And we still get a say in what’s going to happen next.

5. Perhaps you’ve heard it said thar each of us is the average of the five people we spend the most time with. With this in mind, think about who you spend your time with. Are these people who like, love and value you? Are they people who can see your potential, and who encourage you to live your best life? If not, it might be time to make some changes here and surround yourself with people who will love and treat you well.

The Truth of Who You Are


Sometimes I wake up and have to remind myself:

‘There is nothing wrong with me.

I have patterns to unlearn.

New behaviours to embody,

And wounds to heal.

But there is nothing wrong with the core of me, and who I am.

I am unlearning generations of harm

and remembering, Love,

It takes time.’”  

Is this a message for you today?

You are not flawed.

You are not inadequate.

You have been fed lies, and been made to feel this way.

Please believe me when I tell you: This isn’t who you are.

You are beautiful, resourceful, resilient, strong, empathic, gifted and lovely through and through.

These are the facts.

Let this sink into your soul.

This is the truth of who you are.

Making Number Two – or Number Ten – Number One

I am exhausted with trying to be stronger than I feel.”

Ever felt that way?

What do you do when you have to fight on, to put on a brave face, and pretend to the world that you’re happy and strong, and that life is going well?

We can do that for a while. We can smile, and act the part.

But eventually we crash. Our supply gets all used up.

So if you’re feeling this way now, pay attention to the signs.

Tell yourself you’re too worn out.  Way too tired to wear a mask.

Then withdraw for a while, and invest in yourself.

 It’s OK to feel weak, and to care for yourself.