Guest Post by Theresa Trosky Robbins

About 5 months ago, my husband and I decided to end our marriage.

Actually it was more my decision than his. I had come to the realization that what I had wasn’t what I wanted nor had it been for a long time. But I was too scared to do anything about it. In part because I had given away my power to what my husband thought about me.

I was so worried about his thoughts and feelings, so worried about hurting him, that I held on for far too long, unable to let go. I couldn’t give myself permission to do what was right for me because I believed that the pain he might suffer was more important than my own.

For months an internal battle between my inner rebel and my inner approval addict raged like Mike Tyson on steroids. My inner rebel wanted the freedom to live the beautiful life she knows she deserves, but my inner approval addict simply could not bear the pain of losing my husband’s approval.

Round and round they went. The rebel fighting for freedom, the approval addict wanting nothing more than to do whatever it took to keep my husband happy. It wasn’t pretty. When he suggested we work things out, I couldn’t give him a definitive yes or no answer partially because I was torn between what I wanted and not wanting to hurt his feelings.

So I wallowed in guilt. Spinning, not trusting myself, uncertain, and scared with what felt like the weight of the world sitting firmly upon my shoulders.

Until I realized that by trying to protect his feelings, I wasn’t standing in my power or owning what I want. In essence, it resulted in my stringing him along, failing to release him so he could move into the grieving process.

My attempts to protect his feelings (so I could earn a hit of approval) backfired. In the end, it created far more pain for each of us than just allowing myself to own what I want.

And that’s the thing about needing other people’s approval. You tell yourself you do it to be nice, kind or polite, but you end up being not so kind after all. You end up hurting other people and doing a number on your own sanity and well being at the same time.

The only way out of it is through it. By giving yourself permission to be there for yourself, to own what you want, and to let other people have their feelings, you become a mighty force for good for everyone involved.

Here are 4 Tips to Be There for Yourself:

1. Know your wants and needs.

It might sound like sacrilege to explore your desires and put your needs first, but when you aren’t familiar with them, you end up trying to take care of others’ instead of yours. Taking time to befriend your wants and needs is the first step in giving yourself permission to be there for yourself.

2. Ask yourself how your need for approval hurts other people.

You’ve probably noticed that you end up hurting yourself when you hustle for others’ approval, but have you ever noticed how often you end up in an argument or misunderstanding as a result? Reflect on those times when all you were trying to do was be helpful or kind, but the other person ended up feeling angry or insulted. Those moments of relationship tension are a sure sign your approval seeking is cultivating an opportunity for pain. Keep track of the pattern to more easily recognize when your approval seeking bums out all involved so you stop it before it begins.

3. Notice how giving yourself permission to be true to yourself helps other people.

The next time you choose what you want – without consulting everyone around you – step back and notice what you’re giving them. It might be the chance to get to know who you really are. It might be the opportunity to try something new. Or it might just be letting them deal with not getting what they want…without you trying to make it better. If you are really honest and open with yourself, you will be amazed at what you find.

4. Give yourself a break.

For those of us recovering, this is a process. It takes lots of practice. Beating yourself up for seeking approval only makes it tougher to gain the only approval you truly need: Yours. Give yourself some credit for the miles you’ve come, the awareness you’ve gained, and your desire to create the beautiful life you deserve.

So…How has giving yourself permission to be true to yourself helped others? Leave a comment on the blog because I LOVE that!

Theresa Trosky Robbins is a former self-help virgin turned Martha Beck Certified Master Life Coach, mom to two ridiculously amazing boys, and the Curator for the Home for Wayward Women. She dedicates her practice to helping women break the rules that keep them stuck and create the beautiful lives they deserve. Click here to download her free guide: The Self-Help Virgin’s Guide to Living Authentically.

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5 Responses

  1. Dana says:

    I’m at a crossroads with someone I considered to be a close friend. From my perspective, we’ve had a pretty open and honest relationship. Now I discovered last week she has kept things from me and now wants me to take responsibility for her feelings. Reading your post affirms for me that when I do what’s best for me, I help create an environment that is better for us all.

  2. me says:

    Your post struck me because you put in words what I could not. This was the exact same thing that kept me in my marriage too, unhappy for too long but terrified of hurting him. In the end, I hurt him far worse than I would have had I just understood what I needed and that it was okay for me to need what I did. :(

    Thank you for articulating this.

  3. Sally says:

    Wow. Scary scary stuff……how many of us feel this way? For me: It is one of the most difficult things to be authentic, to even know how to be authentic…..after years and years of approval seeking I am not sure who I am anymore. I only know that my body is sure telling me, as I am stressed to hell and gone… Thank you for such an honest article, I related. It resonated….

  4. Winnie says:

    Yes.. I believe its a very lonely route to take..but the benefits are overwhelming..After I realised that I dont need anybody’s approval to do what I want.. I became happier and my heart became lighter..I found myself more focused..
    Thank you for sharing with me such authentic stuff.. It touches me to the core…

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