How To Stop Waiting For The Approvals Of Others


No one can hurt you without your consent. – Eleanor Roosevelt

If you struggle with boundaries, this workout could be life-changing. When it comes to our business partners, our friendships, and even random encounters on the street, we all have boundaries around what people can and can’t say. Boundaries, in many respects, go both ways. But if your boundaries aren’t aligned properly, or they’re inappropriate, they can cause huge problems on both sides. And that’s not good.

Imagine for instance your mother. She loves you, she’s cared for you your whole life, even at 29, she’s controlling every little part of your life. From what house to buy to what spouse you want, she’s trying to maintain a metaphorical grip on your life, and she’s refusing to let go. The worst part? You’re passive, and you give in.

Worse, Mom isn’t around. Yet you hear her voice in your head, but it now sounds like you. You are shopping at Crate and Barrel or house hunting with your spouse and Mom is not there physically, but she is inhabiting your mind. Now you are attempting to pacify, satisfy, and attain the approval you so desperately seek. But Mom isn’t there. She is home having an iced tea, enjoying a summer day.

Decision after decision is made all to get Mom’s approval. Years later, you wake up in a home that Mom would approve of with a spouse Mom would approve of in an outfit that Mom would approve of, but where are you? Where is your voice in making these very real life decisions?

That’s an example of when boundaries aren’t just out of whack, but are in desperate need to be readjusted before too much damage is done. When it comes to our relationships, there are things that are uniquely and solely our responsibility and there are things that are uniquely and solely the responsibility of someone else. Trying to dip in both pools can cause unwanted outcomes to both sides.

If you don’t have clear and strong boundaries, you’ll let people steamroll over you and choose your life for you. And if you don’t respect and understand the idea of boundaries, you’ll step into other people’s lives.

The Emotional Workout

Understanding boundaries is important. Here’s how to maintain strong boundaries even in the face of someone who’s trying to control you.

Warm up

  • Pause – Don’t take action when emotions arise
  • Awareness – Check in with yourself
  • Breathe – 5 intentional slow breaths
  • The Workout – Mental Steps
  • Don’t try to control others – it’s impossible
  • Don’t allow others to control you – it’s disempowering
  • Other people’s opinions can be helpful, but leave it there
  • There’s no right and wrong way to make a decisions – it’s your life
  • Cool Down
  • Pause – Don’t take action when emotions arise
  • Awareness – Check in with yourself
  • Breathe – 5 intentional slow breaths

Trying to control other people is like trying to control the weather – it’s basically impossible. So don’t try.

And don’t let people control you. If you are overly sensitive to the opinions of others, you are doing this to yourself. People can only influence you if you allow it. The beauty of getting older is that no one can influence you unless you give permission.

Allowing others to overly influence you is disempowering as well. When someone is telling you to do something and isn’t helpful, it can slowly feed you desire for approval and make your sense of self slip away. You have outsourced your birthright to design the life you desire. Once you have given your power away, offered your final life choices to another, you have lost the deepest, most precious part of yourself – your voice. The cycle of disempowerment starts and you are now dependent on those around you to decide how you live your life.

And this is not to say that other people’s input is not helpful, necessary at times and critical to avoid the trappings of repeating the lessons learned by experience. Opinions are helpful – but understand that if you feel disempowered that’s a red flag that you need to reset your boundaries. It’s your life – you get to choose your boundaries, your decisions, and your life.

In short, be useful by offering an opinion – that’s all you can do. Be smart and get someone’s opinion. Problems arise when you attempt to control someone else or are controlled, either through anger, guilt, blame, or withdrawal. Efforts at control diminish one’s sense of self, feeling capable and, empowered, and take away agency from the other person. Even if they follow your advice, they run the risk of losing themselves in the process. The choice needs remain, where it has always been, in their control, not yours. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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