Seeking the approval of others was a learnt quality. The need was really to be heard. Somewhere along the way I equated being heard as being agreed with. Two totally different things. It meant that the corollary was true too. To let another know that they had been heard I had to agree with them. What a dangerous situation to put oneself in. It is only now that I understand that there is a definite difference between hearing and agreeing.
As a child I shared my parent's affection with an older and only brother and an older and unwell sister. I am sure I felt I had to compete to have my parent's attention. Then my sister died and my brother moved to a different city to pursue his education. I became the center of most of my parent's attention when I was around 9. By then I was a good little girl who had won their hearts over by doing everything they approved. It was a good way to live. There was very little conflict. Doing anything that could cause unhappiness to my parents was difficult and if I did I had to let them into it very carefully. If I ever met their disapproval it made me feel very guilty and very incomplete. Inspite of enjoying myself for doing something that I wanted I never fully enjoyed myself because I let it be tarnished by their disapproval. This cycle continued for many years with all my relationships - friends,relatives, husband, sons, co-workers, bosses and even the non-judgemental God.
Now I see that their approval or disapproval was my own state of mind. I judged myself as good or bad. Choosing ones own life partner was taboo in India when I was growing up. I fell in love and stuck with him knowing that my parents would not approve. I felt strongly enough about it and moved forward. That was when I first gave up the need for approval. It took years for me to comprehend it - but that was the beginning. It comes from paying attention to oneself. I hardly ever paid attention to me. Life was all about out there. I had been taught that good people were selfless. In truth what I was being taught was that good people served others too. I never realized that to serve others I needed to serve myself first. Without caring for me how could I care for anyone else? To love oneself to the exclusion of anyone else is what selfishness is about but loving others to the exclusion of oneself is impossible. It has taken me a long time to recognize this. Now that I do life is beautiful.
Approval comes from within oneself. Confidence and self esteem come from living in the moment and doing what seems appropriate in the moment. No two life situations are ever the same and I cannot foretell the outcome of my thoughts and actions in the moment. I have learnt to live life in the Now and enjoy it. Memories of the past do come in but I consciously put them aside and live this moment. I approve of me and that is all that counts. Life's ups and downs are unavoidable and no matter what I do I cannot foretell my future. I choose to live life fully in the moment for this moment is always perfect. I hear myself and I make life choices that seem appropriate for me - dependent only on what feels good to me. Approval is an overrated word and has no place in a happy life.