I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Knowledge Project, where the host was interviewing Bethany McLean, author of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. She was speaking about why otherwise good people do bad things and she said something that really struck me.
She said that greed isn't usually about the money, but about "feeling like a bigger person."
Now, I've never defrauded investors. But I have done and said things because I've wanted people to like me more. Because I've felt like I'm not enough as I am.
For me it often feels like a small lack of authenticity, like fumbling a bit for words. In one moment it's doing something I don't want to do because I don't want to upset someone, in another it's talking about my accomplishments in a way that I hope is impressive.
But it all adds up to time and energy spent in service of self image. Notice, not in service of myself: my purpose, my beliefs, my authenticity.
Why is this a problem?
Because I want to change the world for the better and live the most beautiful life I can. And if you do too, then spending time not aligned with your deepest, truest self takes you away from that.
If you want to shift away from being driven by the approval of others, you need to shift towards something. I suggest doing so in the direction of authenticity. Here are some questions to help:
Why are you so driven?
Yes, there is injustice that needs to be addressed; yes, people are in need; and yes, there is opportunity to create value in so many ways. All of these are reasons to be driven.
But are you engaging with the injustice, the need, the opportunity from wholeness within, or from wanting to prove something to others?
Do you think you aren't enough on your own? Just as you are?
You are enough.
You are worthy.
Just for being here.
Do you believe it?
I want you to try an experiment. Have your own back, whatever that means to you, and see how your approach to life changes. I find meditating to be a powerful practice and expression of self-worth, since I'm allowing myself to be completely full and content while literally doing nothing. What are some other ways you can be your own biggest supporter? Make a list and try some this week.
As you start living from your own purpose and authenticity, you might still do all the same things as before, but you'll be doing them from a place of self-love and a sense of deep worthiness. This results in you reinforcing your own self-worth with every step you take, regardless of the outcome or the reaction from other people.
And that's when real learning and growth happens. When live your life in service of your own authenticity, you finally free yourself from the approval of others. What a relief.