Daily Guide to Life Design #17: Self Approval Is More Important Than Self Love

 2014 January 24
by jessica mullen   5 Comments 

Art by Stephen Cade
Art by Stephen Cade

I grew up with parents who loved me unconditionally. However, I can’t say that they approve of me or my actions unconditionally.

When I was in high school I didn’t give a flying fuck about their approval. I knew they loved me, but they were really strict. I rebelled as hard as I could. I always approved of myself because I was having, pursuing and being fun.

Once I made it through a couple rough years of undergrad, I started wanting to get along with my parents better. It was great, but I realize now I started approving of my desires and actions less and less. I was using their approval scale–grades, weight, job. In high school I didn’t care about those things at all.

I’ve been practicing self love using mantras like, “Jessica I love and accept you exactly the way you are,” and it’s felt a little off. Deep down, I know I love myself. I think I’m pretty great, and when I step back to watch the story of my life, I think it’s a pretty cool story. I do love myself.

But then I read You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. The first affirmation she suggests using is “I approve of myself.” I didn’t quite get it until this morning, when I heard myself thinking, “I just want some approval!”

Immediately I started saying “I approve of myself” over and over. I began to feel better and better. When I said, “Jessica I love and accept you exactly the way you are,” I felt guilty. Like, “I love you and accept you even though you are bad in the following ways.” But when I say, “I approve of myself,” I feel like I own my desires and am proud of myself. “I love myself the way I am” feels like I am flawed. “I approve of myself” feels like I’m kicking ass and don’t need anyone else’s approval.

What is your approval-to-love ratio? Do you find yourself feeling fundamentally unloved, or just needing a little approval? Give “I approve of myself” a shot and see if it makes more sense than focusing on the notion of self love.



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  1. Ari permalink
    January 25, 2014

    I totally get this. My mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and while I love her, her ultra-conditional approval depending on how much I do what she wants me to do (income, lifestyle, career, relationship choices) in my own life can be a crazy soul drainer (if I let it.)

    I’ll put seeking parental approval the way that I understand it: No matter what you do, you will NEVER EVER *fully* get their approval. There will always be something else you could be doing differently or better – and at the end of the day, whatever that ‘thing’ is is 100% their determination, not yours.

    So even though you want to have an organic smoothie stand you kill yourself getting A’s (or whatever they value) to go into law school, but then you’re still not skinny enough. Or, after crying yourself to sleep because you’re so hungry for six months you’re skinny enough, but your partner isn’t “who they’d like to see you with”. Or, you dump your partner and get a new one. But you still aren’t earning enough money… You don’t have a nice enough car… The way you look isn’t how they want you to look…

    There’s no end to it. This isn’t about the fact they don’t love you – they DO, that’s WHY they’re pushing you this way, they want you to succeed – but the fact that right now, in their eyes, you aren’t what they want you to be. Your success isn’t matching their idea of what they deem to be successful.

    So you’re totally right. All the above is about approval, not love.

    & if by some miraculous circumstances you do, it’s because you’ve totally sold your soul and lost your identity to become what THEY want you to become. So, basically, you’ve downgraded your own wants, desires, life & SELF, putting your parent’s wants, desires, life & self above your own. You’ve killed your own identity to become a puppet shell of what they want you to be. It’s never worth it.

    So, for something that a) I can never achieve, & b) if I DID achieve would be essentially murdering who I am & everything I believe in, I can say ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to chasing down my parent’s approval.

    That might sound a little extreme/pretty dramatic and I totally get that (NPD tends to induce that kind of reaction, I think) but when I made that much clear to myself it became a lot easier to brush off comments or ‘helpful suggestions’. I’m not letting myself get on that treadmill hoping that there’s approval at the end of it. Either way, when I design my life by my parent’s desires (and this can apply to anyone!), I lose.

    I really hope this comment isn’t offensive – I’m totally not saying any of this as an attack on your parents! Obviously I don’t know them whatsoever! Just speaking from my own experience.

  2. Ari permalink
    January 25, 2014

    Whoa, that comment was both super long and très dramatic. But yeah! We’re all looking for approval from someone – friends, family, partners, ex-friends & partners, people we’ve never even met before – if you can get off that treadmill & see it for the fallacy it is, there’s a lot of inner peace there.

  3. January 26, 2014

    Oh Ariane you are my spirit animal! Thank you so much for your insight! I love the idea of getting off the treadmill. As of today, I’m off the treadmill! I approve of myself, and that’s all the approval I need.

    Thank you for the confidence boost and for sharing your experience. You really helped me :-)

  4. January 28, 2014

    This is awesome.. I’ve never really thought about the distinction between the two, but there is a definite difference.
    I love that you mentioned the story of your life being a pretty cool story. Something shifted in me when I read that. Not exactly sure what.. but I’ll be thinking about it this week for sure.
    <3<3<3

  5. January 28, 2014

    Yay good to hear Ann! I’d love to hear any epiphanies you find :-)

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