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.