This is the first month of a new year and we all have our resolutions in place. But in order to succeed, we need to understand the terrain, the challenges we face. That’s what this series is going to address—Enemies of the Art. And yes, I am blogging five days a week now. My goal for this year is to master brevity.
Today’s enemy is Approval Addiction.
We all want approval. We long for admiration, a pat on the back, a nudge or a wink that tells us we have done something right. Yet, the dark side of this is that approval can be a drug. It lures us in with a rush that is fleeting. We start chasing the rush and can lose our art and ourselves if we aren’t careful.
My grandfather started out life on a cotton farm, reading books as he walked behind a plow, his pale skin fried to a crisp daily in the unrelenting Texas sun. He was willing to give up everything to escape the spiders that bit his hands and arms as he picked the bowls of cotton every harvest. At 16, he lied about his age, joined the Army, fought in WWII, used the G.I. bill to get his college education and used that degree to eventually grow a tiny drilling company to rule the NYSE. The company he built was a major rival for Halliburton. Though the oil bust of the 80s decimated the business, his story is still one of American greatness…
…and none of us could ever live up to it.
My father wanted to be a writer, but he wanted outside validation even more. Writing wasn’t a real job. In trying to gain approval, my dad ended up failing at every occupation he tried because he wasn’t being true to his gift. He died still writing poems and short stories in little notebooks, in between fixing bikes for $8 an hour. Tragically, he never earned the approval he so desperately wanted.
Before my father died, I’d fallen into the same people-pleasing trap. Yet, when my father passed suddenly, it was a splash of ice water in the face.
Who was I living for?
Quick History of Kristen’s People-Pleasing:
Was asked to do commercial modeling at age 14.
*table full of family members starts laughing* Kristen, thinks she’s going to be a model! You really should focus on what you have, brains not looks.
Won a full AFROTC scholarship to become a doctor, the most sought-after scholarship in the DOD.
You won? Wow, they must have been short on their quota for women.
Decided to open a green house-cleaning business to help put myself through school (FIFTEEN YEARS before “green” became the vogue thing).
Kristen, you aren’t good at math (was tutoring Chemistry, Physics and Economics at the time). Everyone knows women aren’t good at business.
No matter what I did, the very people I was trying to please were never happy, and did you notice all the contradictions? When I wanted admiration for my looks, I only had smarts. When I sought approval for my smarts, I wasn’t all that bright.
Did they sit up all night thinking of ways to emotionally wreck me? No. They were likely being helpful, trying to spare me from pain. Maybe they were even jealous. They probably had the same crap said to them at one point.
Who knows and who cares? The thing is they never were happy and likely never would be either.
People-pleasing will kill your faith in yourself. It will distract you, drain you and the only one who will suffer is YOU. Last week we talked about burning our ships. One of the major reasons we fail to strike the match is we fear rejection. Burn the ship of approval. Do this for you. Do it for the art.
This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day. Thou canst not then be false to any other man.
~Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Do you struggle with approval addiction? Have you had a hard time going against friends, family or even your spouse? What is your biggest challenge? Have you overcome approval addiction? How did you do it? Tell us about it. What tips might you recommend?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of January I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.
I’m not just an approval addict. I’m an approval whore. Fortunately, I get enough approval to satisfy the worst of my cravings, and I am grateful when my sharpest critic tells me what needs to change.
A few years ago, when I first switched from YA fantasy to adult literary, I was so pleased with it because I honestly didn’t think I could take on something like that. I sent the first five pages to another writer, also an artist, who had read my earlier stuff, and he was stunned that I captured the characterization of an arrogant male artist so well. Then I sent the same pages to my mom. When I didn’t hear from her for a few weeks, I sent her an email to ask what she thought. She said, she tried to get into it but got bored. Ummm… yeah. Thanks, Mom.
Now, no matter how polished and highly praised something is, I don’t send a single word of fiction to my mom. But I have been deligently working on writing upmarket fiction and have found a wonderful crit group who tells me where I went wrong and validates my writing when deserved. And I’m still an approval whore.
Great post. I also love the above comment about being an approval whore. hahaha. How much do we do of this stuff and we don’t even realize it?
Lanette, this reminds me of the time I sent my sexy historical romance to my mom to read. I was a newly published author and highly sensitive. When I asked her about it weeks later, she said she misplaced the book, but that was okay because she’d lost interest anyway. Turns out she had given it to one of her friends, who wrote me an email saying next time I write something, don’t put so much sex in it.
This is a big one for me. I spent years trying to figure out what I could do that would make a certain segment of my family proud of me. My husband kept saying, “Sweetheart, you could be a NYT bestseller and they still wouldn’t be proud of you. Forget about what they think.” And as it turns out, when I stopped trying to make them accept me, I became much happier and more confident about who I was.
Wow! When I read your families comments it reminds me of my life. I finally decided I don’t care if I get support from them or not, I’m going to do what makes me happy. I’m 42 and I finally decided to stop being a people pleaser and follow my own path. Thanks, for the inspiraton.
I’m not sure if I’ve conquered it, but my MIL had a go at me over Christmas, saying why was I still doing stuff I don’t have a boss. I wouldn’t mind, but I’d cut right back for them being there. To some people if you are at home your house should be spotless and you have endless hours to chat. I don’t care anymore so that’s a step in the right direction.
Great post and will address on twitter. I never knew it until I retired and started doing what I really wanted to do. As I prep my novel and to create a blog I listed all the jobs I’ve had in my working career. I’m guessing it was about 25 things that I did, while my wife had about 5.
Hi Kristin, Thanks for the thoughtful insights into your own personal experiences with this topic. As writers, we require being read, and that requires an investment of time from people…something most individuals are very short on these days. SO to actually have people READ what I have written and thoughtfully comment on it (!) it does make me feel good, I must admit.
As women we are taught from a young age to be pleasant, complimentary and polite. As adults this can sometimes warp into bendng over backwards to assure our acceptance. We are a product of our environment, to be sure.
Great post and lots to think about. I’m off to go develop my own thick skin with more querying.
It’s tough for the child of a soldier to live up to their father. You are right, we have to live our own lives and set our own standards, and dream our own dreams.
The need for approval and validation are never really banished. I think most of us, especially writers and other artists, struggle more with it. This is, in part, because our success depends on it – we need to sell our work. Keeping a handle on that is a constant mantra, a narrow path that we stray from so easily.
Criticism in the form of a red pen crushed my writing passion after elementary school. When the stories wouldn’t go away, I returned to the craft for my own enjoyment. But at some point a writer has to test his merit. My first beta readers loved my writing and from there I was hooked. Now I’m like a dog with my tongue hanging out waiting for the next pat on the head. “Did you like it, huh, huh!” Did ya! 😉
Approval is a powerful thing. It was my fear of not receiving approval that kept me on the sidelines for so long. i mean i completed my first novel over a decade ago, but was so afraid of rejection I did not even try. I was always happy with the phrase some day soon. I was reading something on here just after I joined and anothe blogger said “if you are not seeing rejection letters you aren’t really trying.” The truth is I was living on the firnges with no hope of ever moving into the arena until i began offering my writing for critique and rejection.
I still want approval, because I am still human. I get a smattering of it through this blog and that is a good bit of encouragement. But now I am seeing turn downs on my submissions and that means qulaified people are critiquing my work and that is a positive step for me. It will improve my writing and make he hungry for the right kind of acceptance.
For years I tried to live how others wanted me to live. Life got in the way of my writing. I prostituted myself to jobs that paid the bills but did nothing to validate who I really am. A couple of years ago I said no more and since then I have done what I know I really want to be doing. Thank you for validating my need not to be validated by others. (What an oxymoron!)
The current world of writing and publishing is set up for the approval junkie. A demand to “Like” my book is the new mantra, and anything less than a five star glowing review is seen as an insult to a struggling artist. For some writers, no matter how sales might soar there is still that need to be “liked.” I think it has a lot to do with our world of social media, where too many people share what they had for breakfast and our closest connections are on the other side of the world.
I’ve spent over forty years in purebred dogs, and wasted too many of them looking for the approval of everyone instead of accepting that my dogs need to please me first. Fortunately I learned fairly early on that it’s MUCH easier to fix a book than a dog and as much as I love my stories and characters my world doesn’t end when they’re cut out of a book.
Reblogged this on ChantelC and commented:
This is me in some real scary ways. Right down to the things my family would say to me, dang it! I wanted to do art instead of nursing, I wanted to move away for college, I wanted to write. Always told it wasn’t smart or practical by my family. Is it any wonder I’m wrecked when someone says they don’t like my writing?? Maybe I need to quit doing that.
Do you need to as well?
I knew a doctor who tried everything he could think of to get the approval of his parents, to no avail. He was a chiropractor but his older brother was a brain surgeon and the “golden child,” so my friend could never measure up. I realized one day that he spent all his time and energy groveling for crumbs from the table of his parents’ validation, and that was all he was ever going to get. I couldn’t help him, but seeing his dilema for what it was freed me from my own crumb quest. I realized that denial of validation is nothing but a powerplay, and that it says much more about the validation-denier than the validation-seeker. Breaking out of such a dysfunctional relationship is the bravest thing any person can do, and that action alone is worthy of great applause! The best thing we creative folk can learn is self-validation; after all, that’s all we have any control over.
Great post, Kristen! I considered it an honor to have worked in your grandfather’s oil company. Thanks for the tribute you gave him.
You are correct about our perceived need for approval. We should rather, heed our convictions.
My grandfather was and still is my hero and role model. I don’t think the fault was with him, rather our flawed perceptions. He has been one of the biggest champions in my writing and I know I would never have made it without him. Once I started pursuing MY strengths instead of trying to (badly) emulate his, that’s when I started getting the approval I desperately wanted. BUT, I had to risk disapproval to earn the respect and honor that eventually came…after a TON of hard work, :D. Thanks for mentioning you worked for him. We still run into people who worked for his company and who dearly loved his leadership. Many left when he did.
I don’t seek my family’s approval, I’ve always been the loner marching to my own beat — but it sure stings when they criticize my work.
Wonderful post and great stories. Thanks for posting five days a week, you’re doing great.
I think the principle you laid out here goes hand-in-hand with the idea that we should write what we know and love. If we do that we’ll do it with passion and it will be reflected in our work. If we try to target certain markets or write what we think everyone wants… well, if it’s forced the reader can tell.
I’m right there with you. My career choices thus far were a compromise between what I wanted for myself and what my family wanted for me. They want the best for me and with hard work, I’ve become very good at what I do. I also make decent money, which is hard to let go of. So I’m not complaining. However, it’s time for a change. My husband is probably the biggest driver toward getting me to write, let go of my past and move to a future full with traveling and writing adventures.
It’s a home-run essay, Kristen. Brava! This one is moving to my morning meditation cycle. Thanks so much.
That puppy pic nails the theme of your post. Tail wagging, drooling, and cute as hell.
Sometimes my family is supportive and sometimes not. I’ve made it clear that I’m not going to stop, and I find comfort in discussing this with my writer friends. Many of them deal with the same thing. Yay for you pushing forward, despite all the negative comments. That shows how strong you actually are. We appreciate you sharing your story with us. Your grandfather sounds an amazing man!
Great encouragement, Kristen. Thanks.
In my writing, there were three big hurdles I had to cross concerning this issue of acceptance. The first hurdle, finishing a novel and making the decision to go public and not keep working on it forever. The second hurdle, following the traditional route of submissions and rejections, hardening myself against whatever criticisms and rejections might come my way. And thirdly, more pride than fear of acceptance, deciding whether to self-publish my works at this point in my career. I have not regretted crossing over each hurdle, and look forward to what might be next.
Again, thanks for sharing your own personal experiences.
Wow. This hit very close to home. I heard a lot of familiar voices–shudder. My son is in Grade 11 and has been thinking of career choices for a while now. I knew he had the best father in the world, when my husband told him not to worry about what the other kids were doing and saying, but just to follow his passion–which incidentally is music and not brain surgery or accounting. Out of the park!
Wow. I’ve heard bits and pieces of this before, but putting it all together – wow. I guess I’m lucky (or just stubborn) – I’ve always gone my own way, not needing the approval of the people around me. But that caused its own issues, like not listening to good advice, not giving myself the time to study, not allowing myself to fail, not – well, you get the idea. I like to think I’ve grown from there…
As with many of the commentors, I have had these same issues, but with different antecedents. My family has always been very supportive of what I do. My problem is trying to live up to an unreal ideal (that of my dad) when I should have been living my own life. My writing has always been praised by my family and they have been wondering when I would seek to be published rather than ppanning what I do. My issue is more in the fear of failure and perfection lines. However, as I am sure is true with most writers and other aritsts, as I mature, I realize that my voice is just as valid as anyone else’s and deserves an airing.
Great post. The problem is we can’t please everybody in the end, so might as well not even try.
It’s amazing to me, the thoughtlessness of some people. And even though we shouldn’t need approval it sure the hell stings when we get the exact opposite. I don’t talk about my writing anymore. I still do it. I just don’t talk to family about it. I talk to my mom and when my dad was alive I talked to him about it too.
Kristen, my dad studied Journalism at the University of Minnesota, graduating Suma Cum Laude and then went in to BANKING! He still wrote poetry (like your dad) and he’d share it with his kids, but he never sent it in.
I asked him once, “Dad, why don’t you send in your poetry to The New Yorker?”
He answered, “Because it’s none of their business.”
Ugh. Approval. I’ve been crippled by it for my whole life. Every time I post an entry to my blog, I feel sick to my stomach, because I’m afraid someone will tell me it’s crap.
I think I stopped trying to please long ago…says the middle child…have plenty of examples of it in my family…grandfather who graduated from Rensselaer in 3 yrs *with* engineering degree, only to go home and run a fixit shop with his father because “what will we do without you?” Clearly do I recall my father telling me that the path to success was essentially working your brains out for 30-40 years, and then you get to enjoy life. I declined that worldview. I may not always know what the heck I’m doing (stumbling in the dark comes to mind), but am moderately more content than my sister, biologist who wants to be a sculptor (She said to me, “What will I tell Mom & Dad?” I said, “You’re 30, you tell them, not ask them. Period.”).
The only approval I think I want at this point is the honest admiration of anyone who likes what I have to say – and the honest input from anyone who sees how to improve it. It’s scary, but it has to happen, I guess. Right now, I am epublishing, and editing on my own…hoping that I’m being tough enough on my frivolous tendencies in first drafts…but the biggest thing is reminding myself that some will like whatever it is, some won’t, and you have to please yourself in order to be genuine about it (as long as you’re not writing self-aggrandizing fantasies with you as the main character, I guess…..lol).
Thank you for the reminder. Too much attention to the approval, the compliments, the followers, etc., or too much worry about the lack thereof, just takes focus OFF the main goal. And if approval IS the main goal, how empty it proves eventually.
This is exactly what I have been working out in my life for the last couple of months since I became aware I was doing it. In learning to let go of all fear it is quite a journey.
I can relate to this as I spent years looking for the approval of others. Its never gonna happen, you have to find the faith in yourself you have for other people. It takes courage to put your self out there but it is worth its weight in gold, when you recieve the rewards. I have learnt to face the fear and do it anyway.
Thanks for tackling this subject, one that’s applicable to so many, especially in these days of rampant self-publishing. Writers often work in a vacuum, until the project is finished, then it’s gingerly handed over to others with a load of insecurities and other baggage. Will they like it? If they say they like it, do they really mean it or are they just trying to not hurt my feelings? Am I wasting my time doing this? All these things and more go through our minds as we anxiously await feedback.
Our instant gratification society where we award medals for participation has a lot to do with our problems in this area I believe. We are rarely shown the toil undergone when someone succeeds in a big way, only the rewards that come after. It makes it too easy to forget that hard work and persistence come long before most success stories.
O.M.G. Can you say resonate? And didn’t I have staying power? Trying to please the unpleasable. Thank you thank you for speaking so directly to this trait. I’m getting my lighter out right now.
Hmm. You’re making me think. My family has never criticized my decisions (this doesn’t mean there wasn’t ever conflict, however), but they’ve been (and still are) huge cheerleaders of mine. I love getting approval, but I don’t actively seek it. And I take little personally.
Of course, this may all change when my book comes out in three months…
Congratz on getting published! 🙂
Shirtsleeves, this is why you are so resilient. And also so assertive. You aren’t afraid of anything. 😉
Love your post, and the comments. You’ve struck a chord. We write in solitude, pouring our hearts and fantasies out and then …. have to show them to others. Scary as hell.
I always look forward to your column,
Ironically the point where I’m the biggest people pleaser right now is probably my health. I suffer from some problems and have some ideas of how to fix it … but that would include extreme changes to my diet, and people aren’t too fond of that.
And it’s crap, too, because the people I think of pleasing when it comes to this are people like my mother’s sisters and my grandma etc. The people that really matter, the people who see my PAIN every day, my siblings, parents, best friends, just want me to get healthy.
I think it’s also about pleasing the RIGHT people.
Excellent post. I agree, seeking validation is a dangerous game. Yet it is human nature. To be aware of it, as you say, is everything.
A thoughtful post Kristen and I can so relate. Many years ago I told my mother I wanted to be a writer, but she just laughed at me, so I never mention it to her again. Sometimes she now asks how my writing is going and I’ll just say ‘good’ and leave it at that. I know she’s not really interested. Same with the studies I’m currently doing. I’ll be finishing up this year after seven years – she doesn’t even know what I’m studying or how well I’m doing. All she cares about is if I can get a job at the end of it. For her everything I do is all about money. I refuse to be that way for my kids – if my kids wants to be artists, they can go for it. I won’t stand in the way of their dreams. With the support of my husband, I am slowly accomplishing my own.
Every time I’ve had to work to please my mother, I invariably end up miserable. To save my marriage, my career, and my sanity, I now live according to what works in my world, not hers. Does she shake her head at me sometimes? Of course she does. But at least I am happy and successful, which was her ultimate goal for me in the first place.
Thank you for writing this post, Kristen. It was exactly what I needed to hear right now! It seems everyone has to fight against the approval monster at some time in their lives.
I do not have a problem with approval addiction. I am the man who believes that I can be an island. Sometimes, I prefer my solitude. But I believe in knowledge is power. I just have not learned how to succeed in my own way or given situation, but I am learning. I have been dealt the cards so I have to play the cards. You are very correct about your Internet blog approach to success. I can be an introvert or an extrovert. If I had the big bucks, I would invite an editor to lunch at the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Trump Towers near the United Nations building, just so I can pitch my novel. Or fly to London to meet Harper Collins editors and eat fish and chips battered with the best British beer. But since I do not have money, I am very introverted and I am trying to encourage E-MAIL submissions. I have Internet connection and there is always the Internet Cafes using money from selling plastic Coca Cola bottles and tin cans after eating sardines in Spanish style oils, (cold sardines pasta dishes with the Spanish spicy oil). I am impressed with the air force scholarship. Did you have to do push-ups? I tried to tell someone that he was being trained to be an officer, but go ahead do not do the push-ups when ordered. (Winded to get the daily newspaper) I am teaching Indoor Warehouse Farming with collecting the rainwater by rooftop for a man-made irrigation, a push button rooftop sprinkler system. It is to help with food shortages during bad weather of typhoons and dry weather droughts. The water is saved in water tankers – to help end the poverty. I may never make a million dollars writing novels, but the poverty at the Philippines is ending. God gets the credit. I do not hear voices. I have thoughts.
My perception growing up was very similar. I could never do enough, never be enough. As an adult, I was on a hamster-wheel of doubt trying to stay one step ahead of being found out as a poseur. I’ve come to understand is that hear the words of doubt more clearly and remember them longer. My parents are fully supportive of my writing, and I suspect always were more supportive than I give them credit for.
Comments like this make my heart hurt! We are our own worst enemy sometimes.
This really used to be me at my old job. It was a place where everyone was literally stepping on each other to get ahead and that just wasn’t me. I just wanted to do a good job and know that I was doing a good job. I was like a golden retriever. Just pat me on the head, tell me I did a good thing and I’ll go do more of it… And all I ended up with was a drained sense of self and no energy. So I left. Now, I control my happiness in an environment where autonomy and success is camaraderie.
Writers wanting approval? Surely you jest-eth?
Talk about a paradox. We struggle to be original, walk our own path, write what makes our heart sing … and in the great irony is, in the end, it’s other peoples approval (someone liking what we write/buying our stories) that defines success out ‘there’ in the world!
Perhaps the definition of sanity is that we understand that, and can still walk our own path.
I learned early in life that success is nothing more than a serious of failures that eventually turn if you are persistent and thoughtful. Unlike fiction emotional drive isn’t good. Success is about thinking, not feeling, for way forward. Truth is, like any good story, the hero fails over and over but never gives up and so wins in the end. Every success fails first. Arthur C. Clark wrote one million words before his first paying publication. It’s just a matter of putting in the required effort and not letting emotions dictate action.
Thanks for sharing this personal insight. I can only imagine how tough it is to live up to people’s unrealistic expectation. I think my issue is the opposite; lacking confidence. Sometimes I don’t think I can live up to people’s praise. I’m blessed with a supportive family, but it’s just as easy to dismiss my mom’s comments that I’m a good writer when she’s never studied writing and doesn’t know what makes good writing. This isn’t necessarily the case, but it’s another battle to work against self-defeating attitudes.
Really enjoying the comments. Some very thoughtful writers here!
OMG, this is SO TRUE. It completely echoes my experience. My Mom wanted me to be a “good Christian”. When I went to college (Theology Major, double Minor in Psych and Lit) and became an ordained minister…there was always something wrong with it. I used to joke that if I were an alcoholic, lazy ass loser, I’d FINALLY get approval! Then, I wrote two traditionally published Tarot books. “Tarot is evil. I wish you’d write mysteries..” So I recently began a cozy mystery series (for myself, I assure…I’ve wanted to do this for a LONG time) and after reading the first chapter, she says “You know I don’t like that Tarot stuff…”
LOL! It doesn’t END. Only my husband and son are truly glad for me and they approve of everything I do (or don’t do). Even if I quit writing they’d adore me.
But approval addiction is insidious, and can influence our choices–even or joy–if we don’t have a heavy dose of self-examination and soul excavation. So thanks for pointing this creative cancer out and showing it for what it is, Kristen!
This post (as are most) is extremely well timed as I find I’m presently ENJOYING my craft. Why? Because I’m not chasing anything. I’m throwing the line out there without expectations and then getting back to what I love to do. WRITE. Too often I tie the fishing portion of the business (looking for agents and/or editors) with approval. This is a great reminder of what a spirit-suck the need for approval can be.
Thanks, and we all need reminding. Easy trap to fall into for sure.
Reblogged this on The Spidereen Frigate and commented:
Hey my doves, I’m sorry for the intermittent transmissions of late. The holidays effed my chi and I’m having some trouble getting back into the swing of things. I promise, it won’t be long now before I start swinging again.
That came out wrong.
In the meantime, check out this blog from Kristen Lamb–she as some excellent advice on not being a slave to the approval of others. It’s something that I still struggle with, and I hope to overcome.
Well, you know my family. Everything you have written there. Yes, yes and yes. Until no.
However, I would say there are other enemies of the art.
For example, people who try to sap you of your energy in different ways. Like how do you handle it when someone plagiarizes a post? Or what do you do if someone submits a really nasty comment? I’m sitting on a very mean comment right now based on today’s post. It’s not without merit, but the person doesn’t exist. It is linked to a fake WordPress account. So what is the point of allowing that drivel onto my blog if there is no one to dialogue with?How do you decide when to allow something through?
PS: Just finished retyping my entire WIP post computer crash. (And Adina learns how to say no, too! Kind of.) 😉
We’ll get to those enemies. Trust me. There are LOTS of them. Thrilled you finished your draft! *happy dance*
I have definitely been an approval addict for most of my life. But I am happy to say with my current relationship, my boyfriend is helping me to see that respect is a lot more satisfying than approval.
Reading this was almost spooky. It’s all me. And not just the here and now me, but rather, YEARS of me, wondering if I was nuts, needy, crybaby fool, or just too sensitive. On one hand it’s just pitiful when family/friends/strangers can so easily crush our spirits, but then there’s the super fabulous truth that we can bypass impact by diligently bypassing (chin-up, boots on, eyes focused on the horizon) the dreaded approval whore syndrome.
This is a treasure of a post and the comments are fantastic. I could go on, but there’s no need. You’ve [once again] said it perfectly.
Printing this out and tucking it into my holster–ready to reread in weak moments when the attention whore gets hungry.
I was just talking about people pleasing this morning! Your blog reinforced exactly what I was thinking. Seeking approval kills authentic communication and waters down our art. Thanks for posting! 🙂
Holy shit … this cuts to the quick. Hard to believe u aren’t in a straight-jacket drooling given the “support” u enjoyed back when. As an artist, I thrive, by nature, on approval and do not adhere to the “making work is the end in itself” school. Somebody cooks and somebody eats and all get healthy. However, since having kids after a profound struggle to do so, much of that ego has evaporated like mist in a fire. I guess personal satisfaction goes a long way in trumping the need for kudos. Tho kudos are nice!
To be honest, this is the part that scares me the most about publishing. Is it possible to ignore the comments from people who don’t like my work? And how much of an impact will negative criticism have on not only my self-confidence but my passion for writing? Is it possible to publish and continue to live in a bubble?
You just have to grow rhino skin ;).
I wrote a couple of children’s picture book stories when I first decided I wanted to write. I wrote a story about class pets who kept disappearing from the classroom. They were kept by the Venus Flytrap which kept getting bigger and had tufts of fur in it’s trap. In the end it became the class pet. I gave my dad a copy to read, very excited to see what he thought. He said it wasn’t for kids and seemed appalled. He said I needed to work on my transitions, but then told me nothing positive at all. I didn’t write for two years after that and then even later came across a book called “Plantzilla.” A children’s picture book in which a Venus Flytrap grows uncontrollably and eats the family dog. I don’t even tell my parents I’m writing anymore.
When I told my partner my new year’s resolution was to enter at least one short story competition a month, he let out a deep sigh and said ‘You’ve been writing for years and not getting anywhere, isn’t it time you gave up?’ Not very encouraging, though it makes me even more determined to succeed!
From an early age I was conditioned to gain the approval of my parents, family, teachers, church authorities, etc. By the time I reached college, I became severely depressed and wanted to die because I felt like a failure to everyone. I could never live up to their expectations. Around my senior year of college, I made a decision to live for myself and never looked back. It set me off on a journey to purge needless suffering my life and focus on what matters most in life. I’ve never been happier and more fulfilled. Seeking approval to the point of excess can prove fatal. This post reminded why I should keep the course and not lose sight of where I want to go and how I want to grow. Thank you!
I definitely struggle with approval addiction, and not just in my writing career, sadly.
I was blessed with a mother and friends who truly loved and rooted for me, and I make sure I do the same for my daughter. Of course, sometimes that can also be a double-edged sword; it’s possible to find ourselves getting a little bit greedy for more and more approval, us being human and all. 🙂 That’s when I come down to earth and count my blessings, or if necessary, I firmly say to myself, “Okay, that’s enough of that” or “Relax, toots!” 🙂 Great post, Kristen!
I can definitely relate to the naysaying bit here. I’ve been told waaaaay too many times that writing for a living isn’t practical, and I need a Plan B. Well, all my Plan B’s seem to be flops, so I’m at the point where I think I should be focusing on pursuing the dream. (How did Plan /B/ get prioritized anyways?)
Great post, as always Kristen. You gave me something to chew on. So here’s my masticated reply. We’re social animals, that’s first; we don’t live well in isolation; it takes a village; yadda, yadda, yadda. At the same time, I’ve got a mantra I say to myself when I start feeling critical and it appears it would work just fine flipped around when others are critical of you (or me, or them, etc.). “When you point a finger, remember there are three others pointing back at you.” I stretch the metaphor a bit to say that the criticism others give, the disapproval, says more about them then it does about you/me. Change the pronouns to fit the case, of course.
“Every good idea has been stolen from someone else.” I must have bad ideas. I am the type that can be at home with a crowd all trying to fit in, but I would prefer to be alone during my privacy than put up with things I do not want to from someone I do not like, what more if they are being intentional. To succeed I have a high tolerance for mental anguish; you have to decide how important the success with the bad company is. But in the privacy I dictate who is successful to have my attention. It is why the blog word is a great idea. One can simply point and click or for those that can touch a screen, if they do not want to read the words from those with intent to annoy. It is easier than to ask a relative to live the house.
I’ve sought approval, but I didn’t rely on it to keep doing something I loved. I’m taking the same approach with my writing. I have to be happy and my husband has to approve of the methods and overall budget. Everything beyond that is gravy.
(link to this post on my blog – will post 2-8-13)
Early on, yeah I most definitely so. Even a critique members approval was enough to feed the addiction. Sometime later, (much) I found a middle ground that accepted both rejection and approval with a more even tempered response. It will never go away, that desire for approval. I guess it’s time to lay blame on my parents during my childhood. Yeah…I’m sure that’s it.
When I was younger, I lived for approval and only tried new things if someone suggested it, and easily gave it up if I faced disapproval. I was an absolute people pleaser. After I turned 50, though, something happened to my sense of craving approval: what people thought just didn’t matter anymore. What mattered was doing the things I wanted to do, and others’ opinions about it took a back seat. I think it had something to do with being much more sure of myself and realizing that life is too short to run around trying to gain approval. I am happier at this point in my life than I have ever been.
Lots of pressure to be conventional, even if it’s not as overt as the comments you endured…
Words of wisdom shared by all of us who are creative and day dreamers. We were never given a chance to be what we loved to do most when we were ten years old. Our parents did not approve of our passion because it wasn’t who they wanted us to become. The happiest people are those who have discovered what they love to do and care less if it is approved or rejected. Do something,anything, that makes you happy. Do not do something that makes you unhappy. Do not do something that makes you money, but makes you unhappy. A simple Zen approach to life.