Hi my name is Rachel and I’m an “approval addict.” I measure my success based on what other people think of me, not what I think of myself. There it is. It all started when I was a child. Think about it, we’re all taught if we do something good, we’ll get praised and that praise feels good. For example; how pumped were you when you got a gold star on your paper? Winning that big game? How famous did you feel when you bowed at the end of your school play? Pretty great huh? What sucks is when school ends so does all that approval. I wish there had been a footnote at the bottom of my diploma that said, “Hey, no-one is going to tell you you’re awesome anymore. Adult-ing is going to be really hard, but remember you’re amazing and never stop believing that.”
Easier said than done.
Now you come home exhausted, beaten down by life, by work, by another audition you didn’t book, by an angry customer, or a disappointed boss. Let’s be honest, the last thing we tell ourselves is how amazing we are doing. I don’t know the last time I gave myself a compliment. I’m too busy reminding myself … How awful I am, how disappointing I am, how I should have done that better, and how I’ll never really amount to anything.
Why are we so hard on ourselves? I wonder how much happier I would be if I started looking for approval internally, instead of always chasing it externally. If I allowed myself to celebrate the little wins in my life; Cooking a delicious dinner, or being proud that I had a great audition, or simply going to the gym. It’s these daily things that our lives are made up of… whatever they are. Why do we only allow ourselves to celebrate the tangible successes? The things we can brag about, and people can say, “way to go!”
I’m only as good as someone tells me I am. Is this belief holding me back from living a fulfilling life? Maybe
This became very clear to me on a hike we did in Kyoto, Japan which is called Fushimi Inari-taisha. It’s up in the mountains with red Japanese arches, and statues of foxes that line the route. It’s totally epic!
I wasn’t expecting it to be as difficult of a hike as it was. It was up, what felt like a million stairs, pouring rain, and a lot of tourists.
What’s going on through my head are thoughts like…
“Wow, you’re an out of shape loser”
“You should probably tell him you want to go back down.”
“No, don’t! What will he think of you???!”
There it was. My greatest fear in that moment was that my husband was going to be disappointed in me if I quit. That external approval again! I wasn’t hiking for me. I was hiking for him? This fact made me even more grumpy, glaring at him for making me do this…(which he didn’t make me do at all)! But in that moment, I was pissed.
Then this calming little voice came into my head. (I like to think it was the voice of the magic forest foxes, which I later read were put there to be positive messengers).
“Change your thoughts and this experience will change.”
So I did. It was a weird moment. Almost out of body. It was no longer about the mountain or getting approval from my husband, but suddenly it became about my career. Why?… I don’t know. But it did.
There was this whisper that kept saying…
“Keep going, Keep going.”
“You’re talented Rachel and no amount of rejection is going to stop you. Keep going, Keep going”
Up the stairs we went.
“This mountain is all the people who told you no. Prove to them you’re not going to stop until you get a yes. Keep going, keep going.”
An hour flew by, I was drenched, and my shoes were sponges, but we kept going…
“Success isn’t just in reaching the top of mountain, it’s in each of these steps. Let them guide you to the top. Keep going. Keep going.”
So, what you’re saying little foxes is success is in the journey not just the destination. How cliche of you! But I hear you. (Insert eye roll) We keep going…
Suddenly in shifting my thoughts from self-loathing to self-loving, the hike got a lot easier. A lot more beautiful. Yes, I was out of breath, wet, tired, but I was also energized, more present, and excited by the challenge. More importantly I was hiking for me.
Three hours later, I got to the top of the mountain. I lit a candle under the shrine at the top and I felt 22 again. I felt full of hope. I wasn’t “the fat lard loser,” I was at the bottom of the mountain. I was strong, hopeful, talented, me. Yeah, maybe I’ve been beaten down by life a bit. But what became really apparent to me was how much I had been beating myself up. That’s what I needed to start to change. I can’t control the rain, the mountain, the tourists. I can’t control what my husband thinks. What I can control is my own thoughts. I can start to choose to be excited by challenges, not defeated before they even begin. I don’t need anyone to believe in me, I NEED to believe in me.
You want to know the last thought that came into my head as I left that mountain-
“Dreams don’t have an expiration date”
I guess you could say I’m an “approval addict” in recovery. I need to stop chasing the gold stars, but instead start to be them. No one is going to see my worth if I don’t see it myself.
Kyoto tips coming soon!!