The Approval Syndrome
Payal and Reeta, the promoters of the website, suggested that I write articles based on women every fortnight. One I have already written which is 10 Mental and Emotional tips for Women. Now that I have to write 24 topics a year, I interviewed women and also men for prospective topics. This exercise not only helped me list topics related to women, it also helped me understand the thinking of women towards women and men towards women.
The first on the list was Approval and the need of women to seek approval. Ramayana depicts the “Sita Swayamvar” (an event of marriage where Sita has a choice to choose the groom). The irony is though Sita was allowed to choose the groom, she was then given in Dana (Kanyadan) which Hindus consider as one of the best dana.
Simone de Beauvoir (1949, p. 446) mentions, “But man does not make his appeal directly to woman herself; it is the men’s group that allows each of its members to find self-fulfillment as husband and father; woman, as a slave or vassal, is integrated within families dominated by fathers and brothers, and she has always been given in marriage by certain males to other males”
So where does the need to seek approval begin? Perhaps childhood, where girls need to take permission from their parents especially the father. Then the adult phase where they seek approval or in many cases not even asked for their choice of grooms. Once married, they seek approval from husband and in-laws.
The main reason could be the deep routed conditioning of her upbringing. The way she is brought up by her parents especially her mother with strict dos and don’ts. So the only thing a woman knows if she has to move forward, she needs to take approval. I remember Anu Aga (Thermax) saying in one of her talks that how her deep routed conditioning prevented her from doing lot many things and how uneasy it was to take over the charge of Thermax. She further said that she tried her level best not to instill the same conditioning in her daughter.
So fine we are conditioned to seek approval. So who stops us from coming out of it.
There is no blame.
1. Be aware – Awareness is the first step. Being aware of the situations, events, incidences that women feel the need to seek approval from parents, in-laws, husband, children, friends, and colleagues. Seeking approval is like an addiction that takes over so much that the only hope to get over is therapy. Modern psychology has documented evidences in this area.
2. Take 100% responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and actions – When a woman seeks approval it is easy to blame the person who approves. Learn to own the decisions. I agree that it is easier said than done. However, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest, rate your approval seeking habit. You yourself are the best judge. When you take 100% responsibility for your actions irrespective of the consequences, you get the confidence to take decisions without seeking approvals.
3.Stop – Once you are aware and 100% responsible for our own actions, STOP.
- Stop asking how you look (let it be good, bad, ugly) – It is only you and your thinking that matters. Remember, in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs the Evil Queen asks, “Magic mirror, on the wall – who is the fairest one of all?”
- Stop expecting – Stop expecting that because you do so, the other will also do things for you. In Tipitaka (Buddhist Philosophy) it is mentioned that the expectation is the root cause of frustration.
- Stop the self-pity mode – Oh! I am a woman and people do not treat me well. I only have to do everything. Try to identify the root cause of why people do not treat you well.
4.Identify the root cause – When you identify the root cause, you will notice the thread and reasons of why you need to seek approval in the first place. Is it a lack of knowledge or lack of self-confidence?
5.Raise your confidence level – It is fine to make mistakes. Life is a learning curve and making mistakes (I will term it as an experience) is a part of your growth. Have the confidence that you have all the power in you to make the right decision. After all there is no right or wrong decisions; it is the consequences that matter.
6. Make a diary – Identify your daily actions, where you seek approval and note them down. Track it so you know your highs and lows, strengths and weaknesses.
7. Do not pass it on – Most important as mothers and friends do not pass the approval syndrome to your daughters. That is the best gift you can give your daughters. The power to make a decision the power to raise her self-esteem.
Needless to say, men and women may debate as to even men have a need to seek approval. I do not deny that and that is another context to be discussed. Enough literature is available in psychology on the percentage variation for the need to seek approvals in men and women.
So do you feel the need to seek approval? Do share your experiences on firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
Lots of Love
Dr. Sonali Wagle
- Simone de Beauvoir. The Second Sex, translated and edited by H. M. Parshley, Vintage Books, 1949.