Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to do something big, and were seeking approval from others? If you have ever experienced this, did you go forward with your plans no matter what others thought?
Growing up, I was that kid who desperately wanted my parents approval. I would get a good grade, or find a new hobby, make a new friend or do something especially nice. Each time I had a positive moment I looked to my parents for approval. I wanted them to be proud of me.
I went through a lot of disappointment growing up. I felt like the invisible kid. I had a sister who seemed to hog all of the attention because there was always some dramatic situation going on with her. At the same time, I was pretty low-key and got lost in the shuffle.
I think my parents were so consumed with worry over my sister, that I was forgotten. I rarely had situations that required all of my parents attention. They took me for granted, feeling that I didn’t need looking after in the same way, and I basically disappeared from their thoughts.
I learned to depend on myself. I knew only I could truly make myself happy. I was of the belief that only I would ever be proud of me. It was up to me to make something successful out of myself, because I had no one to depend on or look to except myself. That is how I felt growing up, and it affected my adult life in many good ways, and just as many bad ways.
I became ambitious and strong-willed. I felt if I worked hard enough, I could have what I desired. I was never a good student in school, and so all of my accomplishments were because of street smarts more than anything. I envied the kids who went to college, got a good degree and by their middle 20′s, were living the dream. They had the house, money and a great career. There was a retirement plan and savings in the bank.
I had to find ways to be creative. I learned that I had a talent for sales and entrepreneurship. These were the skills I used to built myself up. I counted on myself and did what I had to so that I could live the dream as well.
My downfall was in the form of relationships. I had incredibly low self-esteem in that arena. I was extremely private and was unable to open up to anyone. I felt that trying to let go and exposing who I was and what I strived for in life would be met with a lack of care for my feelings and that I would be ignored. I held tight to my inner most feelings and let no one in.
My friendships were fairly bland. I really just had a pile of acquaintances. Sure I had people to hang out with. I knew a lot about my friends and I was there when they needed me. Not one friend ever questioned how little they knew about me. I was accepted for who I was or had friends who just didn’t care. I’m not sure which it really was.
Romantic relationships were the most toxic. I ended up with boyfriends with a high need to be the focus of attention. There was always drama and an urgent situation that needed tending too. I became a doormat and little more than a servant. I tended to their needs, but wasn’t thought of in return.
Over the years, I woke up. That’s the best way I can explain it. I had children and I believe that was the turning point in my life. I reflected often on what I had experienced growing up. I thought of what type of mother I wanted to be for my kids. I learned to open up and was able to form close relationships with my kids.
Along the way, I also figured out what I did and didn’t want in a romantic relationship. I went through enough toxic hell to shake myself loose from my learned behavior. I am in a healthy relationship now. My husband knows me as well as I know myself. I finally feel the support and appreciation. I now know what it’s like to have someone love me so much that they stay present in my life. They know what my struggles and successes are. They cheer me on and comfort me when I need a shoulder to lean on.
I realized early on that when I looked for approval, I ended up holding myself back. If I felt that people didn’t approve of what I went after, I would give it up. I felt that if I got enough attention to create a view by another, if they didn’t approve, it must be a bad idea.
These days, I block out the noise of naysayers. I trust my gut and go after what feels right to me. I am open to others and will listen to their advice. I just won’t act on it if it doesn’t ring true when I hear it.
What about you? Have you given up a dream because you didn’t get the approval from others that you were looking for? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]
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