Saturday, January 8, 2011

NeedLess Approval

What's normal? And who even says normal anymore without putting the "finger quotes" around it? Normal is the definition of what is socially acceptable to a certain set of people, right? So you work to find friends who have the same normal as you or you find a normal you aspire to achieve and then hide your realities in order to fit in. (FYI...The first option is the healthier of the two.)

I remember the first time I heard the saying "you are only as sick as your secrets" and I thought what in the world are they talking about? No one knows my secrets, therefore no one knows I am sick. My ambition in life was to work as hard as I could to get the approval of others in order for them not to see... that inside I was really a mess.

It was a dangerous addiction...yes, I said addiction. Approval addiction is alive and well in the lives of many people. Think about many problems we have as a society comes from trying to get the approval of others.

As a teenager, I would do things that I knew were dangerous, or against my own internal compass, in order to receive the approval of others. As a young adult, I would buy things that I couldn't afford in order to receive social approval. And as a woman, I used to work myself to the bone to be the best fill in the blank (mom, employee, wife, friend, daughter) I knew. You see, I was self-medicating because I was unknowingly suffering from depression. I would actually get a high from the approval of others and that would help me "cope" with the self-loathing internal dialogue that constantly ran in my head.

I thought if I could keep my friends at arm's length then they would never know the real me. The problem was when you push people away you tend to lose friends. Never because of a big blow out (well, ok, maybe once) but mostly my friendships have simply faded away. I didn't want to do the work on myself in order reciprocate any kind of intimacy, but that all changed in the fall of 2008.

My life fell apart and as I started rebuilding I learned that living an authentic life was the only way I was going to survive. So slowly and surely, I have made my way out of the clouds of depression. Sure, I still have down days and I still struggle sometimes with approval addiction; but I am able to recognize it and remove myself from the situation before I say, do, or buy something I will regret.


Anonymous said...

This is beautiful, Angela, and so so true for many of us. On a lighter note...Joey, when asked recently what he wanted to be when he grows up, said "Mom, I just want to be normal" (in other words, buzz off mom). Good luck little buddy, good luck!

angela said...

Ha!! When Lu was little she used to answer that question by looking at me and saying "I just want to be me." Kind of like "who else would I be?"

I have already started a therapy fund...I figure there are scholarships and loans for college.