Where’s My Approval? Learning to Let in the Good
by Jennifer Paros
A creative life cannot be sustained by approval, any more than it can be destroyed by criticism.
~ William Woodard Self
The day after my birthday, I went on Facebook to find only a few notices from friends wishing me a happy day. A wave of un-lovability, rejection, and no one cares filled my mind. Simultaneously, I found my entanglement with this needy kind of thinking disappointing and embarrassing. I like to consider myself further along in my evolution and ability to maintain equanimity – but you know....
I have already learned the great benefits of being able to step back from disapproval andapproval and understand neither have anything to do with the autonomous creation of my life and work. The responses of others have to be put aside in order for me to have a clear mind, to listen to myself, to know what’s right for me. And so soon enough (eventually), I let the matter go.
The next day, I returned to Facebook, in a lighter mood, and happened upon a stash of notices for my birthday I hadn’t seen before, though they’d been there all along. The find was bittersweet. On the one hand, it was great to receive the approval (for having lived another year, encouragement to continue doing so) and well wishing. On the other, it was sobering to realize how much I was looking for it and how little I expected to get it. There’d been a familiarity to the disappointment of the day before, a kind of inner “I told you so” – a negative expectation fulfilled.
Similarly, weeks later, I discovered the contact form on my website was using a defunct email address for me. I’d changed emails after initially setting up the account and forgot to update the website information. The result was I never received message notifications. I’d assumed no one was writing me – an expectation that seemed both balanced and realistic. But that was not the case, as I now have a pile of wonderful emails to which I am gradually responding. Upon reflection, my lackluster expectations may be interfering with my ability to perceive more of the good that is possible for me.
Expect the most wonderful things to happen, not in the future but right now. Realize that nothing is too good.
~ Eileen Caddy
Expectation is important. We rarely counsel each other to expect the worst. If someone’s about to undergo an operation, expecting the best seems kindest and most helpful. If our child tells us, “They probably won’t like me,” we encourage him to stay open to the possibility of things going well instead. When we project an unwanted outcome, it implies the denial of our ability to affect our own lives. We can live as though the future is the next frame of film already formed, coming our way, or we can recognize ourselves as the film’s actors, creators, and projectors.
When I was a kid, I tried to expect as little good as possible to avoid disappointment. Yet, I instinctively understood that expecting things to be bad was starting myself out in a hole. So, I strove, overall, to expect the okay. But in expecting the okay, I neutralized my role as the lead in my own play and continued to see life as happening out there and to me.
Seeking approval is a stance of looking outward for a feeling of love and appreciation that can only be sustained from within. Expecting the best, which really means opening to the possible good, acknowledges our role in the play, acknowledges there is good to be known, and sets our attention ready to notice it. With our focus we create an aperture that opens to life, framing it in ways we like or dislike. That’s big creative control.
Authentic approval is appreciation. Appreciation is a reflection of being in a loving state. The desire for approval is legitimate, though approval must be known, not sought. There’s no point seeking something we already have, that we already are. We generate our feelings; we feel appreciated when we’re appreciative, loved when we are loving. In this way, the approval we crave is right here.
Approval is acknowledgement and expectation of our good. It is also acknowledgement and expectation of the good possible in the world. When both are perceived, there is a match – a mirror effect of good recognizing itself. It is this recognition of self that we desire and that is in our own hands.
Where is my approval? Anywhere I allow myself to see the good.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at www.jenniferparos.com.