Spiritual teacher Byron Katie says that if she had a prayer, it would go something like this: “God, spare me from the desire for love, approval and appreciation.”
No matter how many times I unravel this strait-jacket of seeking appreciation, I find it comes again in a new form. Like, for example, when I compulsively check stats on the blog to see how many likes or comments i have in the last half hour. It’s sweetly neurotic at this level but in the larger picture, the desire for appreciation is such a crippling factor in our lives, it ultimately destroys us: forcing us to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like in the first place. Here’s a lovely talk by GD on whether we are spending all our lives seeking appreciation. If you like it, don’t forget to appreciate this blog… or not 🙂
“In school, we wanted to be at the top of the class – for what? To impress our parents, teachers, other students – everyone must see me as a smart, special child!
This desire for approval and appreciation then spread into all areas of our life. And for that, we needed the perfect body, the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect husband or wife and finally, perfect kids!
A friend of mine has fallen in love, but does not want to go out with the girl because she is not very good looking. Why? Because he is afraid that others will not approve and think that he is really desperate!
The job, the salary, the car, the perfume, the clothes, the body language – everywhere it is the same story.
All this so that people can look at us and say: “Wow! You are amazing!”
We are willing to sell our souls just to hear this.
Most of our choices are based on others’ reactions.
Do we ever do what we really want to do?
Do we even know what we really want to do?
This constant need for love and attention seems to be one of the core preoccupations of humanity.
What is this unending need for attention? It is a question we have to ask, otherwise our entire life will be spent roaming around with our begging bowl – seeking love, approval and attention.
This unexamined need makes us dependent on everybody: ‘Give me some love, give me some attention, appreciate me, please look at me!’
We willingly become puppets in someone else’s hands.
And gradually, the more addicted we are to attention – the more fake we become.
The more fake we become – the more miserable and split we feel inside.
No matter how hard we try, we find that some people are impressed and some are not.
The funny thing is: even if you don’t try, some are impressed and some are not impressed!
The ‘false’ you is always trying to get attention, approval, love.
When you want something from someone, you are never at ease.
The false you is always uneasy with people because of this subconscious need.
This need insists that I be seen as a nice human being, as a loving human being, as a worthy human being.
And in order to have this need met, we start behaving in ways which we think others will like.
When we want approval from others, we instantly lose our honesty, our ease and our naturalness.
This begging-mode is a very uncomfortable place to function from. But most of us are so habituated to this state that we don’t even notice it.
When you want nothing from anybody – finally – you are free to be yourself.
When you are yourself, you are – regardless of the situation – simply present, open and playful.
What if you could let go of this need for attention?
What if you become clear and realize: ‘I don’t really need this’.
If the need for attention or appreciation completely disappears – how would your life change?
Can you imagine how different life would be if one was not playing this game?
If you were really, really true to yourself, and not worried about impressing:
What kind of job would you be doing?
What kind of people would you really hang out with?
What kind of a person would you date?
What kind of lifestyle would you choose?
What you need is your own love and attention. That is what’s really missing.
We don’t acknowledge ourselves enough for who we are and what we do. So we constantly need others to do it for us.
Acknowledge yourself. Why manipulate others into doing it for you?
When you start ‘feeding’ yourself, you will stop running around with your begging bowl asking others for scraps.
Then, you feel good about yourself! When you feel good, you find people being drawn to you.
This is the paradox. A person who doesn’t seek love and appreciation starts getting it!
Suppose someone is impressed with you – what do you ultimately get?
Let us imagine this scenario: you have managed to impress someone… so what have you really achieved?
What you will actually get are a few thoughts, which say: I am worthy; I am loveable; I am wanted; I am needed.
This is what you will get, right? That is what gives you a thrill.
These three-four sentences – I am wanted; I am needed; I am lovable; I am worthy.
This is all that you get.
For these few thoughts we sacrifice our whole life.
If we learn to generate these thoughts ourselves, we don’t have to beg for them outside and the whole game changes.
A truly crucial inquiry…
We start by inquiring into how many (if not all) of our choices are meant to impress others. We need to make a genuine and thorough list.
The second question that follows is: why is it so important to impress them?
The third question to be considered is: if they get impressed, are you going to buy it? For example, if someone calls you beautiful or spiritual or a genius, are you really going to believe it?
The fourth question that naturally comes up is: if you are not going to believe it anyway, what is the point of trying so hard?
Lastly, the fifth question worth asking is: how would your life change if you stopped this game?
When you are peaceful, happy and not trying to create false images – you enjoy self-approval.
That’s when you internally say:
It is okay to be me.
It’s okay to be casual.
It’s okay to not pretend.
It’s okay to just enjoy the situation.
That is self-approval.
If you stop seeking approval, you will enjoy immense freedom and peace.
You will be in a state of meditation throughout the day.
It has to be – because you are not moving out of integrity at all.
You are not being false, you are not being fake – there is no manipulation.
The mind starts to dissolve.
Concepts of success and money and fame – all become useless if you are not interested in impressing.
Why do you want to be successful and get awards? So that people come to know how great you are.
Money – why do you want so much money? So that you can show-off with the money; so that you can buy a big house and a big car.
Success, fame, career… what do you need all these for? To impress others.
But this desire to impress never lets you rest.
It keeps you running… like a rat on a treadmill.
You must be the best in the office; you must be famous; you must write a book; you must have your own car – even if you don’t need it.
As long as you are running, you cannot enjoy anything you have.
When you have your own approval – you will start receiving everybody’s approval.
That is the magic of it. But first you have to find your own approval.
If I need you to tell me that I am a good teacher – then I have great doubts about my teaching ability.
Why would I need you to tell me that, unless I have serious doubts and I need reassurance?
We need others to tell us that which we doubt about ourselves.
And since we doubt it, we want to hear it again and again.
But no matter how many times we hear it, it will not be enough.
Deep down, there is a part of us that goes on denying and doubting it.
Better to spend our time healing that part, than to hunt for approval and appreciation again and again.
When you start loving yourself, you will start seeing everyone’s love for you.”