Love vs. Approval

Judgment does not only take the form of criticism. Approval is also a form of judgment. When we approve of people, we sit in judgment of them as surely as when we criticize them.

Positive judgment hurts less acutely than criticism, but it is judgment all the same and we are harmed by it in far more subtle ways.

Like all judgment, approval encourages a constant striving. It makes us uncertain of who we are and of our true value. This is as true of the approval we give ourselves as it is of the approval we offer others.

Approval can’t be trusted. It can be withdrawn at any time no matter what our track record has been. It is as nourishing of real growth as cotton candy. Yet many of us spend our lives pursuing it.

Ruth Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom

It took me years to stop seeking approval. In fact, it took me specifically, to this month, this year, to understand the difference.

I always hated it when people said positive things about me, or anything that I had done, because I knew it was fleeting. No one thought highly of me permanently. Once I showed myself as being human, the compliment was retracted. So I was always skeptical of anything positive that anyone said. In fact, I would often sabotage myself, in order to hasten the process. Trying to maintain perfection was an impossible, time-consuming task.

We talk about the concept of “unconditional love.” But, actually, all love is unconditional. The thing that isn’t is approval. And that’s what I was experiencing–it’s the poor facsimile for love that we all experience (and give) all the time.

We become perfectionists when we are seeking approval. We internalize the standard and give and withdrawl approval to ourselves.

Love looks at someone as a whole. It sees and, yes, admires their strengths. But it doesn’t require perfection. It doesn’t hate them when they struggle and when they fall short. With love, we help each other grow and become stronger. With approval, there is only fear. We can only grow so much, when it’s done out of fear.

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