Approval - You Dont Need It

Yesterday, after receiving a massage to help ease my computer-aided muscle tension, I was described as an over-achiever. That got me thinking about value-laden language and what it really means.

These kinds of labels can sneak into our thinking very quickly.

So what is an over-achiever anyway, or an under-achiever for that matter? (or overweight, underweight, overemotional.. etc). They are a subjective description described as a fact (because if you are over or under something it must be measurable, right?).

What it means is not that you have achieved too much, too little, or spent too much time at the computer (although, I agree that I should sit with a better posture), but that the person who said the comment has a different interpretation of what it means to be an achiever.

Someone who always looks to others for approval must feel like a yoyo. Who could ever keep up with the expectations of everyone else? What one person considers too much, another person may consider too little, so how can you keep everyone happy?

I don't believe you can. But I used to believe I could - and not only did it not work, but I made myself unhappy in the process.

These days, I think the best way to interpret other people's comments is that when they say 'You are too...' or 'You are a...' they actually mean 'I prefer to...'. For example, if someone says 'You are over-emotional' they most likely mean 'I prefer to share fewer emotions'. Or if someone says 'You are over-excited' they probably mean 'I prefer not to get so excited'.

Now you might be thinking that someone you know really is 'too selfish' or 'too uncaring' and that they should change. But really, you just prefer to be more giving or more caring, and your behaviour towards that person is your own responsibility.

So next time someone comments on your behaviour, treat it like a game. Rather than feeling like you have to change yourself or that you have not been approved, rephrase their sentences in the 'I prefer...' model. And if you find yourself accidentally imposing your values on others, make some effort to speak more clearly about what you prefer for yourself. You will enjoy much better communication as a result!

(C) Copyright Petra Rankin 2005

Petra Rankin used powerful techniques to beat her own long-term depression. She is now dedicated to teaching others how to be happier and lead more successful lives. Her first book Fast Track Your Success and Happiness is due to be launched in September 2005 and is currently available for download as a free e-book instead of paying $19.95. Limited time only!

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