Trading Authenticity for Approval
The word "authenticity" gets thrown around a lot these days. I know I use it quite a bit as part of my marketing business and sometimes I wonder if it has lost its meaning a little. It's become trendy to say and maybe not something people actually implement as much as they should.
In fact, now that I'm typing this, I wonder if the people who boast about being authentic are perhaps the least honest about it. It's like when someone tells you they're a good person; if they were you would know it without them pointing it out.
Anyway, I was listening to a podcast this week about disentangling from toxic people and how to recognize emotionally immature people (EIPs) when the guest said something that made me pull over and take note.
Do we sometimes trade authenticity for approval?
As a former approval seeker, this made me wonder: is it possible to get outside approval (or CARE about getting outside approval) while staying true to who you are?
My current anti-approval self says no.
Outside approval is always a moving target; what is acceptable to one person may not be to another. So, if you're jumping around hoping to win the approval of everyone you know - spoiler alert - that's never going to happen and you're in for a lifetime of disappointment.
A while back my therapist had me work on an exercise that we called a self audit. I would create checklists in different areas of my life - as a parent, child, sibling, coworker - and write down what made a good parent (or child, or sibling, etc.). That way, when faced with self-doubt or disapproval from the outside - when my kid told me I was the meanest mom EVER - I could look at MY list and evaluate how I was doing based on what was important to me.
In other words...did I have my own approval? If I did - great! If I didn't, there was work to be done.
This means that you have to know yourself, what's important to you, and what your goals are in certain areas of your life. You have to be authentic.
Many of us live our lives thinking through the lenses of the people around us. We try to anticipate what they want from us and what they like. It's freaking exhausting.
We forget to consider the following:
Most people aren't thinking about us.
Everyone's standards are different based on their own life experiences - which we can never fully understand about another individual.
Some people like disapproving as a rule because it makes them feel better about themselves.
The complexities involved in being someone other than our true selves in order to win the approval of the people around us are never-ending. Again, that is a target NO ONE will ever hit.
Once you decide never to trade authenticity for approval, you're life gets so much easier. To use "marketing speak," when you decide that YOU'RE the target audience for approval, it takes the guesswork out of a lot of areas in life.