We all seem to be born with a constant desire for approval. We want someone to affirm that we are valuable, that we are seen, and that we matter. From our early days we look to our parents to see their reactions to our behavior. We want the attention and to be told we are good or doing well. It’s not bad to want to be liked and approved but our problem comes when we become dependent on what others think, when our sense of self-worth is strongly tied to the words and actions of others toward us. I have been guilty of allowing my emotions and sense of value to ebb and flow based on the feedback (or lack of) I received from others.
It is not healthy to base your approval or validation on another person. People are fickle and can change their opinions daily. Often people are more focused on their needs and circumstances and do not have time to bolster the self-esteem of others, especially on challenging days. God, however, is faithful and is always available to remind you that you are loved and accepted. His desire to share his love for you with you does not wane. He does not get tired of being needed by you. He does not condemn you for needing constant reminders of your value. He created us to live dependent on him, to seek him for our daily/hourly/minute-by-minute needs. Why not tap into our ever-present, ever-full cistern of love and approval?
If we are constantly disappointed by how our friends don’t live up to our need for encouragement, the problem might be that we’re expecting the kind of soul validation they’re not equipped to give.
That greedy, desperate black hole hungry for affirmation, acceptance, love, and validation down in our guts will never be satisfied by what humans dole out in small, limited portions of approval.
~Lisa-Jo Baker, Never Unfriended
I have definitely made the mistake of thinking another person can fill up my lonely places. That job is way too big for a human being. My lonely places are there to cause me to seek God and to depend on him to fill me with his love and acceptance and peace. This lonely place is a never-ending hole and only something infinite can ever hope to begin to touch the depths of it. We are finite beings, we are not meant to do God’s job of completing another person. It has taken me awhile to really get this truth.
When the urge for validation from another person rises up in us we need to recognize it for what it is – a signpost.
To learn to spot those panicked urges for approval as a big, loud, screaming neon sign that my universe-sized hunger for affirmation needs to go to the universe-sized God.
~Lisa-Jo Baker, Never Unfriended
This is why it’s important to know what God has said about me and to stay in his Word. It is beneficial for me to memorize scripture for exactly this reason. If I remind myself of what God has said about me – that I was known before I was born, that I have been specifically gifted and purposed, that I am loved and accepted and fully known – then I do not need people to approve of me. But, when I am not consistently reminded of the truth, insecurity will begin to creep in and I will be more susceptible to the opinions of others and begin to crave acceptance from people. I hope that when I begin to feel insecure, I will recognize that as a need to turn to God for encouragement and a reminder of the truth about who I am.
Have you also fallen into the trap of seeking your approval from others? What has helped you when you struggle in this area?
This is the second post of a series exploring some of the ideas in Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships by Lisa-Jo Baker. If you’re interested in reading the other posts, please click on a title: The Fear of Missing Out, Guilt-Free Friendship, Celebrating, Mourning and Other Aspects of Friendship, The Comparison Trap and Working Through Negative Feelings.