The World’s Stage: Is approval really necessary?

Approval. It can be both daunting to some, and at the same time a mere passing thought to others. Some would argue that it depends on the one seeking or not seeking it. You may be familiar with the old William Shakespeare quote “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” (see “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare, or for the abridged version go to https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/you-it-act-ii-scene-vii-all-worlds-stage). This simple, yet unassuming quote says it all.

Even as early as our childhood, we have faced the challenge of seeking approval. It became a quest that quickly built itself into an anxiety provoking task, and only escalated as we went through our teen years, and then moved on to becoming working adults, and then (if we have children of our own) possibly transferring that need for approval to our loved ones. When left unchecked, this need for approval can become a drive to constantly please people, no matter the consequences to our own dignity or sanity.

The sad reality of this “need” to have others’ approval is that often times we are seeking it from people we don’t even care about! If they don’t matter to us, why should we care? Seeking the approval of others, especially from those whose opinion of us should have little bearing on what we think places a heavy burden upon ourselves, and it simply becomes an unattainable goal. It’s guaranteed crazy-making. In the meantime, we may actually cause harm to our self-esteem, our relationships with those who DO care and matter to us, and to the very image we wanted to protect. After all, how can you look up to someone whom you can’t determine is sincere or is simply going through the motions of wanting your attention just so you’ll like them? Sadly, this has become the norm.

How often do we see someone and so casually ask them, “How are you?” and yet fail to actually hear what the person has to say. I recently experienced this when someone asked me how I was doing and the person failed to hear me tell them that I was feeling a little down and depressed. I knew he wasn’t listening to my reply because he replied back to me, “Oh, that’s good to hear.” Imagine his embarrassment when I told him, “Um, no it’s not if you were really listening to what I just said.”

He was relatively new to our division at work, and he was still trying to make “nice” with people he hadn’t connected with quite yet. I explained to him that I used to do the same thing he just did, but I did encourage him to be more mindful of what the other person responding is trying to tell him. It could make a world of difference to the one who is having a bad day, building one’s esteem or shooting it down. One should LISTEN to the response in order to not only hear it, but to understand what is being said. My point is that the world’s stage is ever present, and while we are all actors and actresses on the stage, we should never neglect our true self for the sake of the audience. The audience will continue to be the audience, but on the world’s stage, we are both the performers AND the audience. It goes both ways.

Having said all this, it leads me to ask, “How necessary is the approval of others?” When it comes to our self-esteem and our self-worth, I would hope that it has LESS importance than SELF-approval and liking oneself. Don’t get me wrong. I love accolades and praise just as much as the next woman, but I try to keep things in perspective. Learning to have that innate sense of pride in the work one accomplishes, or the talents one has been blessed with are something that a whole generation of individuals has been sorely lacking. Whether or not you blame the philosophy of Dr. Spock that encouraged parents to be more “inclusive” to the extent that you simply reward children for doing what they should have been doing anyway, or whether you embrace the practices of the newer ideologies of delayed gratification, all these point to hundreds of generations seeking the approval of others to an unhealthy degree.

In my book series The Last Prophet, the main character has learned that whether or not the messages she delivers are accepted or rejected, she has done her best to fulfill God’s mission. Regardless of whether someone spews insults at her, or has a personal conversion and seeks out their Creator, the main character of the book series knows that there is only ONE from whom she seeks approval, and she relies faithfully in that unfailing love and acceptance.

Shouldn’t it be the same for us too? Unconditional love and acceptance has its own reward, and approval or agreement of something between two friends, spouses, or family should be based on that sentiment rather than the need to please other people. When we accept and care for one another, approval has no basis or effect on that relationship’ existence. Simply put, we can agree to disagree, we can make mistakes and forgive faults, we can care for and love the other person with acceptance of their good and bad side WITHOUT having to approve of them or their actions.

How has approval seeking affected you? In what ways has your approval of others affected them? Comment in the space provided.

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