I spent the better part of my whole life seeking the approval others. I liked the praise of others for the things that I had done. From an early age I wanted others to like me and so I did what I could to keep everyone happy. I did well in school and that pleased my parents and my teachers. It didn’t always win the approval of classmates but they weren’t that important in my life, they weren’t people of influence.
So I learned very early on how to people please. I also learned to be very good at certain things so that they would turn out a certain way and others would like the results and I became a perfectionist. In high school, university, work life and relationships I sought, I craved approval.
I basically stayed that way until I came into recovery. With the help of the Steps of my program I was able to dissect my perfectionist attitude and see that at its root was pleasing people: seeking approval because deep down I didn’t think I was likable enough. I had low self esteem. I didn’t feel that I was, of myself, worthy of regard, like or love. I felt I had to earn it by doing things that others wanted me to do.
As a result, I didn’t try a lot of things because someone else might not approve. If I didn’t think I could pull it off ‘perfectly’, I wouldn’t even start. I placed impossibly high standards upon myself and my abilities: anything less than perfection was a failure. I had dreams of writing the next best selling novel, but I knew that was so doubtful that I gave up before I began. I wasn’t going to be the next Faulkner or Hemingway or Steinbeck, then why bother? I damned myself before I began.
My program has taught me that life is a process. It starts with me being me. It starts with me accepting myself as I am and learning to love that self. I am learning that I am enough. I don’t need the approval of others, I only need to love me. I have nothing to prove, nothing to earn. Whether you like me or not is really none of my concern. I have to be who I am.
I’m still working on it. I still want others to like me and what I do, but it’s not so important to me. I try to impress the ‘right’ people, but now I catch myself and know that I am enough. If it pleases you, that’s very nice, but it’s not as vital to me as it used to be. I am learning to say yes to things that I wouldn’t have done in the past because it is an opportunity for personal growth and understanding regardless of how well I do it. I guess I’m learning what it means to be leave my adolescence behind and become a human adult. One step at a time, and one day at a time.