Growing up, was there always someone you were trying to seek approval from?
For me, that person was my mom. I don’t know that it was ever specifically verbalized, but there was definitely a standard of excellence in my house growing up and that standard was set by my mom.
Actually, if i really think back, my dad was pretty consumed with excellence as well. I remember when I was in preschool and my brother was in 1st grade, my dad had suddenly quit his job and my mom who was a stay at home mom had to get a job to help support the family.
Since my dad was the one at home, he would help my brother with his homework. The job my mom had acquired was in teaching so she had old workbooks lying around for math and writing. So, while my brother did his actual homework, I was expected to do pages in these workbooks.
These workbooks were probably more at my brother’s level, but I quietly sat and did what I was told. (My dad had a bit of a temper.)
Later, once my dad stopped living with us when I was in 1st grade, the expectations remained high. Straight A’s were expected along with perfect behavior.
Even in extracurricular activities, my mom could be very critical. In dance, she critiqued every performance; in sports, every play. Even good things could always be better.
While I get the sentiment, sometimes its important to end the day feeling satisfied and leave worrying about improvement the next day. To celebrate today’s win before immediately jumping to tomorrow’s challenge.
While my mom no longer reads my report card or judges my hobbies, the idea that good is never good enough and that you are never done trying to accomplish something sticks with me.
Who is it for you?
When you were a kid, who was the one whom you were always seeking love or attention or approval from? Who’s the person who you never seemed to be able to satisfy but you wanted to so much?
Really think about it. For some the answer might come quickly and for other’s not so much. Either way, its important to figure out who that person was for you.
Next, think about what you did to try to gain that affection. Did it make you a workaholic who was always striving to prove yourself to everyone? Did it make you sink into depression every time that person did not appreciate your efforts? Did it make you feel un-loveable? Did their lack of physical affection (hugs, pats on the back, etc.) make it more difficult for you to show physical affection?
This is another one to really think about. Whether you feel unable to even start living your dream life or if you have made progress but don’t seem to be able to go further, this may be the thing that is holding you back.
The things that we compensate for in our childhood stick with us as we grow older unless we really think about them and make a conscious effort to change.
As adults, we can look back and see that the issue wasn’t really us. It was that person trying to do their best but not really being equipped to handle the situation.
If you have someone you trust, it might be helpful to talk it out with them. Ask if they continue to see these tendencies being played out in your adult life. Otherwise, therapy can truly help you to work through this so that you can live without these limitations.
So, think about it. Who are you still trying to prove yourself to?