One of my favorite songs is Florence + the Machine's Dog Days Are Over.
[Aside: This is a particularly nice running song because multiple times it literally says the words: "Run fast" (run fast for your mother, run fast for your father...) which always makes me smile, just in case I forget I'm attempting to run fast. :)]
My favorite part is where she sings:
"And I never wanted anything from you
Except everything you had and
What was left after that, too."
I had this realization a while ago that—in certain relationships—I have this tendency to want people to give me approval. Not like a little bit. Like constant truckloads of perpetual approval. And then maybe a little more than that.
A perhaps embarrassing personal example:
A while ago, I was vexed over a friendship. As pathetic as this may sound, I just couldn't believe in the validity of the relationship; I couldn't believe this person would want to be my friend. So I made a list of all the things this person had done that would "validate" the friendship—texting me, calling me, hanging out with me, etc., etc.. The list was really long. And finally it was like my hand got sick of making this list, and seemingly of its own volition, wrote over the whole list in all-caps Sharpie:
WHAT MORE PROOF DO YOU NEED, JOYCE?
The problem is, when we seek approval from others—when we decide (perhaps subconsciously) we need external validation in order to prove our own worth, in order to feel good about ourselves—we will never be wholly satiated. We will be like Florence, claiming we don't want anything from another person except for—of course—everything. And then maybe a little more than that.
It isn't our fault. We are conditioned to seek external approval as children (gold stars from teachers, pats on the back from coaches, proud words from parents, etc.), but when we keep up the habit as an adult, we risk becoming drains, siphoning energy from others in a desperate attempt to fill our own wells. Not only does this strain our relationships, but also this never actually works.
Because I did not need this friend (nor anyone) to give me a stamp of approval. In fact, it would have been objectively impossible for anyone to do that for me, even if they wanted to.
I needed to get that sense of approval from myself. You could say I needed me to give myself a stamp of approval—but, furthermore, I realized even the idea of "stamp of approval" is ridiculous. It's another unhelpful social construct.
I was "stamped" the second I was born. So much so that to even talk about a "stamp" is preposterous, because it makes it sound like me being approved is separate from me being me. In actuality, I am, and always have been, enough. I am, and have always been, worthy.
I am, and have always been, pre-approved. As are you.
Now, it's one thing to mentally grasp that and another to feel it.
Feeling is everything.
I've owned Louise Hay's spiritual classic You Can Heal Your Life for a while, but I've been afraid to read it. (Probably some subconscious resistance toward certain areas of healing.) I recently worked up the courage to read a chapter where she recommends silently repeating this mantra over and over to yourself:
I approve of myself. I approve of myself. I approve of myself.
She says—no joke—repeating this three or four hundred times a day is a good starting place. I laughed out loud when I read that because it sounds insane. And then I started doing it; I recommend it.
Look around: so many of us are like little Kindergartners craving head taps and cookies and medals and gold stars. (But we're adults so instead we crave Instagram likes and promotions and invites to parties, etc. But it's really the same shit.) We are looking outside of us to fill our well, unaware of the depths of water within us.
Here's a long excerpt from a poem where Rumi explores this concept in many different ways. I'm sharing in hopes that one or more of his examples will resonate with you:
"Don't look for it outside yourself.
You are the source of milk. Don't milk others!
There is a milk fountain inside you.
Don't walk around with an empty bucket.
You have a channel into the ocean, and yet
you ask for water from a little pool.
There is a basket of fresh bread on your head,
and yet you go door to door asking for crusts.
Knock on your inner door. No other.
Sloshing knee-deep in fresh riverwater, yet
you keep wanting a drink from other people's waterbags.
Water is everywhere around you, but you see only
barriers that keep you from water.
The horse is beneath the rider's thighs, and still
he asks, 'Where's my horse?'"
Perhaps this is the greatest trick of all: We spend our whole lives searching for Love outside of ourselves, only to discover we already have all the Love we could ever need within us. We were simply taught to look in the wrong direction.
You are pre-approved, my friend. No list could ever prove that, because it already is so. It is written.
You do not need anyone's approval to prove your worth. You do not need to do anything to prove your worth.
You are worthy. You are enough.
Only look inward, and start to feel it.
Knock on the inner door, and the door will be open unto you.
with Love and with Light,
p.s. Can you hear the horses? 'Cause here they come. (: