I recently identified that I have been putting off making a major change in one area of my life, which will, of course, affect every area of my life. It’s a change I WANT to make, yet it seems to have been relegated to the back burner.
After some compassionate self-inquiry I discovered a deeply buried subconscious fear of disappointing others, which translated into a fear of losing their approval, therefore feeling excluded, and losing their acceptance and love.
Who knew such a monster was lurking in my subconscious? I wonder how many decisions it has derailed over the years?
I *love* how the universe shows us different flavors of the issues we consciously choose to transform so that we can see them from many perspectives. This ‘fear of disappointing others / losing love’ began showing up in conversations with family members, friends and clients. Each had a different version, but the theme was the same.
For example, one of my family members recently shared with me a difficult experience she was having. It was clear to me that she was putting others’ needs (and therefore their approval, which she perceived as love and acceptance) above her own needs and desires. I shared my perspective, and told her that nobody else was going to put her needs first. She had to do that for herself. Sure, ‘everyone’ would kick and scream and try to make her feel guilty, but she HAD to take a stand, assert her needs, and if that didn’t work for them too bad.
How many times have you put off making a decision – big or small – because you were afraid of letting others down, of disappointing them? Because you were worried that your decision would be met with resistance, disapproval and possibly loss of love?
We have all experienced judgment from others that feels like rejection, loss of approval, and love from those around us (in our minds, if not in reality). So, one of the reasons we delay making changes in our lives is because we’re afraid of others’ reactions. Of their advice-giving. Of their disapproval. Of their judgment.
Over the years I’ve discovered that this is a subconscious block that many people struggle with because they so badly want to be liked, accepted, approved of, and loved that they unknowingly sabotage themselves in order to receive it, even though the approval they receive from others is conditional. It’s based solely on someone else’s approval of your choices, thoughts, habits, beliefs, worldviews and performance.
However, love is unconditional. It has no bounds, no conditions, and no rules. It simply is.
But we’ve learned to associate approval with love. After all, children who grew up feeling safe, cared for, appreciated and approved of felt loved. Children who grew up feeling unsafe, neglected, abused, and disapproved of didn’t feel loved.
“When you say ‘Yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying “No’ to yourself.” – Paulo Coelho
This week I’d like to offer some questions that will help you begin making your needs, desires and wishes a priority.
Identify one or two things you would love to change in your life, but you don’t because you’re afraid of making other people uncomfortable – rocking the boat – and therefore experiencing disapproval, rejection, shame, or loss.
Examples: taking an art class, starting a business, going back to school, leaving an unhappy marriage, moving to a different state, moving to a different country, switching careers, cutting your hair, updating your wardrobe to reflect your authentic self instead of your social self, saying “No” instead of “Yes,” quit attending obligatory family functions, asserting your needs, desires, ideas and beliefs without needing others to feel OK about it, firing a client who isn’t committed, shows up late, gives excusitis, letting go of a friendship that no longer serves, and anything else that shows up on your radar and in your life….
- Explore your anticipation of disapproval and judgment from the “everybody” in your mind.
- Whose voice(s) of disapproval do you hear? What do they say? Whose face(s) do you see? What do their expressions communicate to you?
- What is the worst thing that might happen if you implemented the change(s) anyway?
- How likely is the worst possible outcome?
- What is the most probable outcome? (Reality check)
- Finally, are you willing to be uncomfortable with others’ responses in order to heed the guidance of your heart and soul, and ultimately experience joy and fulfillment?
As I wrap up this article to send it off I am reminded of three sayings I have heard over the years, which seem relevant. I don’t remember the sources, but they go something like this:
- You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please everyone all the time. And if you DO try to please everyone else, you’re not pleasing yourself. So, stop trying to please everyone else and just focus your time, energy & resources on honoring your own heart and soul.
- What is best for you is ultimately best for everyone.
- What other people think of you is none of your business. Their judgments of you are based on their life experiences, which have shaped and formed their expectations and values, which created the filters (also called lenses) of perception through which they see the world.
Remember, you have a unique, amazing, magnificent purpose to fulfill. Call it a soul contract. Anything less than living your purpose is selling yourself short, and NOTHING less will satisfy your soul.
To your freedom,
“Putting yourself first is not selfish. Quite the opposite. You must put your happiness and health first before you can be of help to anyone else.” – Simon Sinek