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It can be swiftly withdrawn, and even turn to criticism.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

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.”

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.

I am who I am. Your Approval isn’t Needed

I am who I am

I am who I am. Your approval isn’t needed.

True? Yes, true!

But kind of not true as well.

Your approval isn’t needed –

But it meant something to me.

The Rich and Beautiful

There’s a reason why we flick through all those glossy magazines and linger over photos, and read the interviews.

We want the scoop on famous people who’ve succeeded in some way. The film stars, politicians, great musicians, and so on.

It’s something to aspire to – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Or, perhaps it simply highlights we’re instinctively intrigued by people who have made it, and are living out the dream.

But, of course, this also forces stark comparisons as well.

We’re not those kinds of people. They can make our life look bland.

This doesn’t really matter when we’re talking about ‘stars’. We aren’t in their league; we know we’ll never have their lives.

Bringing it Closer to Home

But when it comes to my small circle, then I want to feel I’m loved. I want to feel I matter, and that someone values me.

This is absolutely normal.

But why is that the case?

Why should I even care what other people think of me?

What the Research Shows

The research indicates it’s rooted in biology. To have a sense of self, and to believe we’re valuable, we need to have key people who communicate our worth.

It is something that is programmed – as the following quote reveals[1]:

Very early in life, parents’ responsiveness to their babies affects the development of self-confidence and self-esteem.

It takes little effort to summon a picture of a doting parent responding to a baby with loving noises, engaged chattering, focused attention, and cuddling.

Baby smiles, parent smiles back. As the infant matures, parents continue to respond and mirror what the baby is doing.

Parental mirroring through early childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood communicates acceptance, acknowledgement, and admiration.

This contributes significantly to the development of self-esteem and self-confidence.”

I would argue that this need continues throughout all of life. (Although it doesn’t matter quite as much in adult life.)

But, still, the way we notice people in those magazines might hint at a deep need that is a very human need.

The Impact of Rejection and Betrayal

These communicate a message, and a very painful one.

They say there’s something wrong with you – at least that’s how it feels.

They say that “I’ve lost interest”.

That “You’re not quite good enough.”

They say “I wanted something else, or something more than you.”

Why does this Matter?

Why? Our partner mattered to us. So, we wanted them to think that, somehow, we were special.

Good enough.

More than enough.

We wanted their approval.

And they gave it for a while.

But then they sent the message that

“You’re not quite good enough”.


Ah, that little voice inside your head …

You can't pour from an empty cup

“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of you.”

Typically, we think of self-care as being things like getting enough sleep, having a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, spending time with friends, and setting aside time for rest and relaxation.

But there’s another vital area – one less frequently discussed. This is paying close attention to our thoughts and beliefs.

These are easy to uncover if we look at our self-talk.

It’s what we say to ourselves … about ourselves.

And often this is negative, especially when we’re stressed.

What about you?

So, what kinds of things do you say to yourself?

The kinds of thoughts that many women seem to struggle with include:

“I hate my body.”

“I hate the way I look.”

“I wish I had bigger/ smaller boobs.”

“I wish I was taller/ shorter”

“I wish I had a different type/ colour of hair/ could do something with my hair.”

“I wish I could lose those excess pounds.”

“I don’t look good in anything.”

“Why would anyone want to be with me.”

“I wish I was funnier/ had a better personality.”

“I wish I wasn’t so emotional.”

You get the gist. The list goes on and on ….

The impact of betrayal

Of course, this list of negatives, and our innate tendency to put ourselves down, is intensified – and really gets a grip – when we’ve experienced betrayal.

After all, we were rejected. So, isn’t that the proof?

No, this actually says nothing at all about you.

It says absolutely nothing.

Believe me, it says nada.

All it says is that your partner or your spouse had major issues, including with commitment, and telling you the truth.

Revisiting self-care

So, going back to self-care, and how you talk to yourself …

Perhaps it’s time to think more about this ….

And to consciously silence that voice in your head when it starts to say something that is critical or cruel.

This is not self-indulgence.

It is self-preservation.

And you it owe to yourself to take care of you.

Dear Self, You are Beautiful

Do not doubt yourself

Do not speak badly of yourself – for the warrior within hears your words and is lessened by them.”

It’s a very sad and painful fact of life that betrayal causes us to doubt ourselves.

We start looking at ourselves with harsh, judgmental eyes.

And we pull ourselves apart, and we focus on ‘what’s wrong’.

We denigrate our body, and attack the way we look.

And we think that we are dull, and lack personality.

You would think that we were trash – how we’ve come to see ourselves –

Through that cracked or shattered mirror that we’re staring into now.

broken glass

But that’s isn’t who we are.

Those distortions are all lies.

We are thoughtful, talented and – it’s true – we’re beautiful.

How I wish we had compassion, and were kinder to ourselves.

How I wish we didn’t feel we were so inadequate.

If only we’d believe – and could really take to heart –

That this isn’t a reflection of our value and our worth.


A Case of Mistaken Identity

people will tell you

Every day the Wemmicks, a tiny wooden people, would go around their city putting stickers on each other. The pretty and the smart ones (who would never get things wrong) were given golden stars that were all sparkly and bright. But Wemmicks who had problems, or were chipped, or had some blots were given dull grey dots – which told the world that they had flaws.

Punchinello has some struggles so he always gets grey dots. In fact, he’s so rejected that he’s covered in these marks. And since he’s been rejected, he believes that he is marred. He cannot see his value, and he feels alone and sad.

But then he meets a Wemmick who has no stars, and no dots. When others try to give them, they don’t stick; they just slide off. This Wemmick (called Lucia) doesn’t care what people think. They don’t shape her identity. She’s happy as she is.

‘They’re just a bunch of Wemmicks’ she explains to Punchinello. Their views are unimportant, and their judgments do not count. Lucia knows she’s special – she thinks everyone’s has value – and handing out these stickers is just stupid in her mind.

When you have known betrayal, you don’t feel that you are special. You cannot see your beauty. You feel ugly, trashed and scarred. You have a poor self-image, and your self-esteem’s been dented. You’ve started to let others tell you who you really are.

Of course, it’s understandable. We pick this up in childhood. We see it in the movies, and in glossy magazines. We’re told to let the grey dots stick when others criticize us. We’re told that they can judge us – and their views accurate.

But …

We should be much more like Lucia; for its lies that we are wearing. We shouldn’t pay attention, or allow their words to stick. Instead, we should be cherishing that person who’s inside us. For she is deeply precious.

Look again, and see her worth.

Note: The Wemmicks were created by Max Lucado, in the children’s book: “You are Special”.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

this is the beginning


This beautiful word in the Zulu language captures so much more than the word hello. Behind the greeting is the powerful message:

“I see you, and by seeing you, I bring you into being.”

And for me, this loving greeting begs the fundamental questions (questions that I think we all should ask ourselves):

“Do I see myself? Do I really see myself? What do I see when I turn my eyes on me?”

Answering those Questions

1. If you’ve been truly loved and valued – the way you should have been – then perhaps you see the beauty and the gifts that you possess. You know you are important. That you should be listened to. Your viewpoints are worth hearing. People take you seriously.

Yes, you have so much to offer. Take those opportunities. You’re bound to be successful. Doors will open up for you.

And someone’s going to love you, for you’re worthy of true love. You’re pretty and you’re funny. People want to be with you.

2. But if you’ve been abandoned, or rejected or mistreated, perhaps your view is different; it’s distorted in some way. And the petals that were opening have shut tight in self-protection. They cannot thrive and blossom in the darkness and cold air.

And there’s things that you’re ashamed of. You might think you have no value. There’s parts that you keep hidden. You’ve been criticized and judged.

And those lies are so destructive. They have killed your self-compassion. You now believe their message, and you cannot see your worth.

Who are You Really?

But you’re not that individual. You are beautiful and precious. Your value? You are priceless.  Can’t you see this for yourself?

And this woman, she is strong for she’s survived some hellish moments. She dealt with pain and heartache – but she’s fought through, and survived.

Yes, this woman is amazing. She has character and courage. She’s brave and independent. A role model for us all. And her spirit’s strong and healthy. Storms and trials don’t defeat her.

Can you see her? Really see her? For this woman, she is you.