It has recently come to my attention that if I don’t receive praise, then it must mean that I am doing something wrong. Nobody is telling me anything negative, but I perceive silence as just that. I then begin to doubt myself. Now, please understand, this doesn’t mean that I should receive more praise. It means I shouldn’t need the approval of others in order to remain motivated. Somewhere along the way I have become an approval junkie.
This doubt has begun to creep into several areas of my life. With parenting, I want to be told that I’m a good mom, and for others to recognize how well mannered my children are. With homeschooling, I want others to be impressed with how much my children have learned. With writing, I want to be told that my words were helpful. With my house, I want to know that my cleaning and cooking are appreciated and enjoyed.
Do you see it? Do you see the pattern? It’s all about me. It’s about my achievements, my talents, my sacrifices. I’m glorifying myself and expecting others to give me praise. The really pitiful part is when I go fishing for compliments. You know, the whole woe-is-me mentality. Telling others that I’m not good at something just so they will tell me that’s not true and I really am great. That’s so pathetic.
This also indicates to me that I find my identity in what I do, not who I am. There is nothing I can do, and nothing I cannot do, that will ever change who I am. And I am loved by God. He fought for me, and died for me. Whatever may happen, that truth remains.
No doubt that it feels good to be recognized, and to be given a sincere compliment. Realistically, however, I will never please everyone. And I’ll never please anyone all the time. I can’t expect to receive compliments for everything I do. I’m either going to be too honest, or too guarded. I’m either too permissive with my kids, or too restrictive. I’m either too healthy and intimidating, or I’m a slacker and need to do better. I want to feel justified in my thoughts and actions, so I look to others for affirmation.
Before I can stop looking to others for approval, I have to stop making myself the center of attention. When I focus on myself, everything else in life loses focus. My parenting suffers and I become short-tempered with my children. My teaching slacks and I become frustrated when they don’t learn quickly. My writing becomes empty and pointless. My house begins to be a point of resentment because of the never ending supply of laundry and dishes.
First things first, I have to repent. I have to say I’m sorry to those I have offended and put unrealistic expectation on. And I have to apologize to my Savior. I have placed myself in the position that belongs to Him alone. After this I can change my focus, and redirect myself back to The Lord. I am then able to let go of the need for approval. I want to live this life seeking only the approval of my Lord. People die, family moves away, friendships fade, and marriages end. But God remains.
Unfortunately this has not been a one and done lesson in my life. Several times a week (or day) I have to repent, and then re-position my focus on what my main focus is, which is to glorify God. I want to love Him and to be obedient to Him and to what He has called me to do. I want to be a woman who exudes love because that is what is within me. I don’t want to hold back that love because of fear that it will not be returned in the way I think it should be. I want to encourage others because that is what God has created me to do, not because I secretly crave it for myself.