I’ve come to the realize recently just how much I rely on the approval of others. Even from the time I was young, if someone scorned something I enjoyed I would immediately feel shame engulf me; as if I shouldn’t enjoy that thing just because they thought it was stupid, insignificant, or petty.
I told myself “I don’t care what others think of me.” But, each time I did, my nose grew a little longer. Of course I care! No one who says they “don’t care” actually means it. But it’s not just anyone’s opinion I am seeking. It’s the opinions of those closest to me.
I often wonder if I am who I am because I was pressured by the likes and dislikes of others. First my siblings, now my friends and mentors. Did I label myself a nerd because I idolized my sister? Or do I have a genuine love of learning? Do I appreciate Magic: The Gathering just to earn my brother’s approval? Did I choose to follow Jesus because it was the “thing to do?”
I’m sure the answer to all of those questions is yes, but now I pose a follow-up question: Does it really matter? Perhaps I am a nerd because I wanted to be my sister. I loved her enough to discover what she was into and I ended up liking it too. So what if I was searching for Brother’s approval when I tried trading card games? I still tried something new, right? Did I choose to follow Jesus because it was the “thing to do?” Considering I was five at the time, I probably did. But is that really such a big deal? Upon doing so I got to know Jesus and discover how much I do want to follow Him with everything that I have.
As much as I despise this inner desire to be accepted, I can’t admit that the desire is entirely harmful. It’s not always such a bad thing to be scorned by others either. Everyone is different and, therefore, will not necessarily like every person they meet in life.
Someday, I’d love to tell John Doe about myself and smile as he points out how lacking I am, exchange a friendly goodbye, and walk away with a spring in my step. I’d love to be confident in who I am, seeing the good more clearly than the bad. I’d love to generally approve of myself, knowing that I don’t have to meet anybody’s standards to be considered a success. I can just be me. Not Abigail the Timid. Not Abigail the Unsteady. Just Abigail.
What do you think? Is it okay to seek others approval? Why or why not?