Our family embraces anxiety as a lifestyle. It’s a gift, really, because it is such an uncomfortable way to live that it continually invites us to learn new ways of being in the world. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
In yesterday’s example of unsolicited feedback that surely triggered insecurity and anxiety in my adult child, this kid chose to practice some of what anxiety has taught us.
First off - it is a constant challenge to give up on this notion of being liked and the constant fear of disappointing people. That is really the most important thing we as anxious people must try to practice to mitigate the devastating effects of approval anxiety.
Just because we are not liked does not mean we are unlikeable. We all have preferences when it comes to interacting with various personalities, we are not going to be universally beloved!! Constantly seeking approval from others is unrealistic and requires a massive and aggressive campaign to hide huge parts of who we are from others. Exhausting!
We disappoint others ALL THE TIME. This is also reality. Heck, I disappoint MYSELF - why shouldn’t I expect to disappoint you too? Again, it is exhausting to the point of pathological tiredness to try to avoid disappointing others. Think about all the different competing expectations we have. Who are we going to decide to not disappoint?
When my mother was dying, my daughter was giving birth to her first child and our first grandchild. My mother was dying in Atlanta and my daughter was bringing new life into the world four states away. Joy and anguish both filled my heart. I had to make a decision that no daughter or mom should have to make - stay in Atlanta, where I had driven at breakneck speed upon hearing of my mom’s collapse? Or drive back home to be present when my grandson made his arrival? I chose to go where my presence legitimately mattered - to my daughter’s side, where she needed me. I was a HUGE disappointment to some in my family; I was a blessing to others. Who dares to decide the rightness of my choice? I cannot judge it and do not try. I did what I thought my mother would have wanted and what I absolutely knew my daughter needed. I suspect that if I had remained in the crowded house with plenty of others on hand to serve her last needs, mom might still be fussing at me from the other side of eternity for failing my daughter in her hour of need.
I am at peace with my choices BUT it requires me to discipline myself to do what my kid is practicing - give up on being liked and stop chasing after the approval of others. How about you? Are you ready to lay down the heavy and loathsome burden of people pleasing? Are you ready to take responsibility for doing what your core values indicate is pleasing, regardless of the response of others?