Others Will Not Approve. Carry On Without Approval.

The Twelve Ideas That Can Change Your Life (Part 5)

The approval of our peers is something we have a natural tendency to desire.  And our society seems to continually reinforce the message that the most important thing in the world is to elevate your status and thereby to win the begrudging respect of others. The problem is that since we cannot control how others view us, to see approval as something we MUST have will lead to misery. More than that, it is simply not possible to make everyone happy. Every goal that you complete in your life will carry the risk of making someone, somewhere unhappy with you.

Living to please others, or living to win admiration, is not the path to a satisfying life. It is, rather a way to feel perpetually uneasy with your standing. After all, if you must be admired by others to attain your worth, your worth will always depend on their whims. This is hardly the stable ground to build your identity upon.

You were not put on this earth to win universal admiration. You can live well even if others do not approve of you. In fact, in order to live the best life you can—in order to be true to your values and sincerely pursue your goals, it may be necessary to lose the approval of some people. But rejection doesn’t kill us—particularly if we are being rejected for something we believe in.

One particularly damaging arrangement is to believe that not only do you require admiration but that you require a specific person to admire (need, desire, love) you.  How much collective heartache do humans experience the world over from the belief that one specific person’s love is their unique opportunity for happiness?

In a Nutshell: It’s just not true that it is mandatory to be admired. Some people are not going to like you, and they don’t even need a good reason for it. And while it is natural and often sensible to prefer to be liked and admired, it is never mandatory. Your worth as a person is not based on the views others take of you.

HOW TO USE THIS IDEA:

When you find yourself smarting from some real (or imagined) rejection, say to yourself, “I’m disappointed. I would have preferred others to approve of me…but this is not a catastrophe. I can live with this rejection. I do not NEED approval. My worth is not tied to what other people think of me.”

THE FINE PRINT:

Now this doesn’t mean that you should purposefully behave in a way that others will find despicable. This isn’t an excuse to be a hermit, a miscreant, an internet troll, or a recluse. It is healthy to have friends and loving relationships. It is also healthy to be respectful of others, even when you are not doing what they would wish you to do. But if living according to your values results in others rejecting you, or if there is nothing you could have done to win their admiration, then you should accept that they do not HAVE TO admire you (even though you would have preferred that they did), that you do not NEED admiration, and that you will be OK without it (even if it is disappointing).

WHAT THIS WILL HELP YOU AVOID:

Leaving behind the notion that others must approve of you will go a long way to reducing social anxiety and the paralysis that comes with it. Needing approval limits our ability to interact with others (or to be our authentic self in their presence).

WHAT THIS IDEA WILL HELP YOU GAIN:

Needing approval leads to stagnation—particularly because not everyone values the things you do. Not everyone will approve of you reaching your goals. So achieving self-assuredness will help you gain a sense of meaning in your life because it will allow you to live according to your own values—not the values of others.

THE SOURCE OF THIS IDEA: 

In Stoic Philosophy the admiration of others, even the love of your spouse is seen as a “Preferred Indifferent” meaning that it is something we are right to prefer. But it is not innately a good (or necessary) thing because only those things that are up to us, can be good. Because we cannot control what others think of us, it is not required for our virtue. This idea is echoed in the psychotherapy of REBT created by Albert Ellis who cited the irrational belief that we must be loved as a source of much human misery.

Next: People Suck Sometimes. Accept them Anyway.

The Twelve Ideas That Can Change Your Life (So Far)

Idea #11: You Can Do Good Work or Seek Perfection, But You Can’t Do Both

Idea #10: Your Path Will Not Be Easy. But Ease is Not Required.

Idea #9: Emotions are not your guide. Without reason they will lead you astray

Idea #8: You are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings.

Idea #7: Whenever it seems that other’s must change, accept that they don’t.

Idea #6: People Suck Sometimes. Accept Them Anyway.

Idea #5: Others will not approve. Carry on without approval.

Idea #4: The world is unjust. Live there anyway.

Idea#3: To live is to confront adversity. But to be alive is to have limitless resilience. 

Idea#2: Life is risky. Live anyway.

Idea#1: Be curious. Learn what you can, but hold lightly to your truths.

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The World is Unjust. Live There Anyway.

Part Four of the Twelve Ideas That Can Change Your Life.

Life requires you to accept that the world is often an unfair and unjust place.  Despite injustice, a poorly-designed society, the existence of ill-informed people, and destructive movements, you can live well in the world. The secret to doing so is to focus on your own choices and what you can control.  You do not need total control of the world around you or the people in it, you just need a small sphere of influence—a zone around you in which you can act. This zone includes everything you can do, every life that you can affect, every resource or institution you can call on, every person you can ask for help, and every movement you can lend your strength to.

One human being can do quite a bit of good. I know not everyone feels that way—injustice or unfair treatment may have reduced your sphere of influence from what it might have been, but you have a sphere of control none-the-less—even if that sphere is no bigger than a jail cell. And it’s within that sphere that you have to work to achieve your goals, to make your life better, to accomplish good, or to create what happiness you can. 

How To Use This Idea:

Continually divide problems into what you can and cannot control.  Here is a handy rule of thumb: If you can’t influence, it’s not your problem to solve.  Accept the state of everything that is outside your control and focus on what you can change.

The Fine Print:

Now, I am not saying that we should enable the world to be unjust, or to give up our efforts to make the world a better place. If there is something you can do to make the world a better place, then that is within your sphere of influence. So you don’t have to accept it, you can address it! But what I am saying is that you should not squander your energy on what is outside your influence.

Also, keep in mind that acceptance is not the same the advocating or endorsing. I accept that there is racism in the world and that for the time being, a world beyond racism is likely out of reach. But I don’t endorse it. I don’t support it. And if some little bit of it creeps into my circle of influence then it’s my job to confront it.

What This Will Help You Avoid:

Helplessness and exhaustion. The demand that we must live in a world without injustice and where everything is fair will sap all of your energy. It’s also incredibly unrealistic. All of the 107,602,707,791 people who have ever lived have had to endure living in an unfair and mostly unjust world. And for nearly all of those people, the world was savagely more unfair and unjust than our world.  Despite the contemporary injustices we face, we live in a veritable golden age of peace, prosperity, and technology that would have made our ancestors weep in awe. And yet all of those humans that came before you found a way to live out their lives—and I’d wager that most of them were able to find some way to create at least a little bit of good within their sphere of influence.

But even if you disagree with my assertion that the world is fairer and more just than ever before, that doesn’t change the crux of my argument. Even if it’s not—and even it is is considerably more unfair for you than it is for most, you can still live well and use all of your ability to affect change to create good in the world.

What This Idea Will Help You Gain:

Dedication. Giving up the idea that the world must be just will help you focus your attention on what you can do to make the world a better place. You can tend to the little patch of earth that is your Sphere of Influence. Care for what you find there. Foster growth. Make your tiny world a better place, and trust that all over the world, other people are doing the same.

This blog post draws heavily on REBT psychology (and the work of Albert Ellis) as well as ancient Stoic philosophy.

Next: Other’s Will Not Approve. Carry On Without Approval.

The Twelve Ideas That Can Change Your Life (So Far)

Idea #11: You Can Do Good Work or Seek Perfection, But You Can’t Do Both

Idea #10: Your Path Will Not Be Easy. But Ease is Not Required.

Idea #9: Emotions are not your guide. Without reason they will lead you astray

Idea #8: You are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings.

Idea #7: Whenever it seems that other’s must change, accept that they don’t.

Idea #6: People Suck Sometimes. Accept Them Anyway.

Idea #5: Others will not approve. Carry on without approval.

Idea #4: The world is unjust. Live there anyway.

Idea#3: To live is to confront adversity. But to be alive is to have limitless resilience. 

Idea#2: Life is risky. Live anyway.

Idea#1: Be curious. Learn what you can, but hold lightly to your truths.

Limitless Resilience

Part three of the twelveideas that can change your life

To live is to confront adversity. But to be alive is to have limitless resilience.

Resilience is your birthright. But resilience is not like a potion in a jar that you can run out of in the moment of need.  Rather, our resilience flows from an endless source, greater than all the typical misfortunes that fill a lifetime.   If it is called for, it will come, in equal measure to the task at hand. If you must know pain, grief, sorrow, fear, or anger, then you will find that it is within your ability to endure all that you must experience. These things come from the mind, and the mind will not create more sorrow than it can withstand.

But, if is this true, why then do we at times feel overwhelmed? We feel overwhelmed when we assume a situation is worse than it is—when we exaggerate its severity. The resilience we find is equal to the task at hand—the task as it really is—not to the catastrophe we are inventing in our mind. Resilience results from clear perception and a measured assessment of reality.  Do not be too quick to declare your current challenge a crisis. If you call something a crisis, you will make it one.  It is far more likely that the mishaps you face will be moderate in intensity. Label them as such. And it it really is a crisis? You can endure that too.

2017-06-25 07.53.01 pm.pngAvoid declaring that you, “just can’t take this” because you can. Much of our anxiety results from believing that we are fragile things, on the verge of collapse (death, imminent mental breakdown, universal disdain, or spontaneous human combustion).  None of these things are going to happen. Your psyche is simply not that fragile—unless of course, you convince yourself that it is.

THE FINE PRINT:

Am I saying you will always be able to solve every problem? No. Surely not. We humans are limited in what we can do and change. Resilience is not omnipotence. Having resilience does not mean you will always have success, won’t be impoverished, or that your body will not eventually succumb to its mortality. But what I am saying is that disappointment, sadness, and anxiety are not going to destroy you. You may still be left in a very unfortunate situation—but if so your human spirit will not fail you.

Another important caveat is that your human resilience does not show up until it is needed. So if you’re imagining some future tragedy, don’t be surprised if you can’t fathom getting through it. You can’t cope with something that hasn’t happened yet.  You might be able to come up with a contingency plan—but that is not the same thing as coping. Planning comes from your intellect. Resilience comes from a deeper place. So if you find yourself confronting the specter of something horrible that may or may not come to pass, remind yourself: “That is not reality. At this point, it is just a scary story. If that does happen I will deal with it just like I have dealt with many challenges in my life. But I don’t have to cope with something that hasn’t happened. I only need to know that if I need it, my resilience will be there.”

WHAT THIS IDEA WILL HELP YOU AVOID:

If you accept that you, as a human being, are resilient enough to face whatever befalls you, then you will avoid secondary anxiety—the most problematic of all forms of anxiety. Our natural (primary) anxiety is not truly a problem. It is just a part of life. The type of anxiety that cripples us is the anticipation of anxiety (the fear of future fear). That is why a belief in your own resilience is so important—it would effectively eliminate secondary anxiety. Yes, you may become anxious but if you already know that you will be able to withstand it—that you are stronger than your anxiety then the battle is already won.

WHAT THIS IDEA WILL HELP YOU GAIN:

Determination. As we work towards our goals and strive to live according to our values, we will face setbacks and heartache. But knowing that when we do face these things we will be able to endure them allows us to take more risks and open ourselves up to new experiences.

Let me know what you think.  Comment here.

Next: Part Four: The World is Unjust. Live There Anyway.