Let’s face it: Everyone wants to be liked. It feels good when someone pays you a compliment or likes a photo we post to Facebook.
But do you ever feel preoccupied with wanting attention from someone? Have you ever found yourself obsessing over what that person could be thinking about you, or stuck on that time your friend made a negative comment? Most of us can say we’ve experienced—or continue to experience on some level—that annoying anxious feeling.
When we’re focused on people’s responses to us (good or bad), what we’re really doing is looking for their approval. We want to know that we’re liked and what we do is good, and if all that lines up, then we’ll feel accepted. We measure up. While this experience is entirely common for us as humans, it brings huge problems.
1. We are only making assumptions.
Despite our most well thought-out theories, we often can’t be sure why someone does what they do. Sure, if a person doesn’t respond to your text message as quickly as usual, they could be mad at you for something you did. They could also be facing a mini emergency at work that is taking tons of time to fix. It could be that after that moment of chaos they even forget to respond all together. Of course you don’t have all this information. And if you blame yourself it’s just wasted energy on a false assumption.
2. How others act is a reflection of them.
The Bible says, “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.” What a person says, or what they do for that matter, comes from within them. It all flows from their life experiences, along with their own potential insecurities and past wounds. It has nothing to do with us. We shouldn’t take responsibility for something that comes from within another person. And we certainly shouldn’t label ourselves by biased messages.
3. Others don’t have the knowledge of God.
When we are grasping for feedback from other people, we give them an authority in our own lives. In essence, we’re asking them to tell us who we are. Not only does this dishonor God, who alone is our creator, but it also just isn’t accurate. Even the closest person to us doesn’t know us as well as God does. They haven’t been around our whole lives, seen us through our journeys, known our inner world or potential as God does. And they also don’t know what the future holds for us.
Another person can’t determine your status if they don’t know you from the inside out.
The Issue Comes From Us.
One of the main problems with looking for validation from other people, is that it can’t actually fix that restless feeling you feel. And here’s why:
You see, that nagging desire to get responses from others is not actually about those other people. What it’s really about, is how you feel about yourself. If you are on a quest for another person’s approval—it’s because there’s a part of you that doesn’t completely approve of yourself.
It could feel like a tinge of dissatisfaction, a concern that we aren’t where we “should be,” or a large gaping hole of inadequacy. We might not even be aware that we feel that way until someone’s action hits a nerve. We feel suddenly injured or restless to fix their opinion. We then know we’re lacking the inner security we maybe thought we had.
Truth be told, if we accepted ourselves completely, we wouldn’t need to look for validation.
The problem is, the more we look for approval outside of ourselves, the more we reinforce the feeling that we need it. It perpetuates the cycle. And it doesn’t help us. The positive attention we receive feels good temporarily, but it can’t fix the source of our discomfort. Of course the (even perceived) disapproval just fuels anxious feelings, sadness or resentment. Peace can only be found as we address what’s going on inside us, because that’s where the problem lies.
And this is actually good news. While we have no control over others’ behavior or thoughts, we do have control over our own. If the problem is ours to fix, we can indeed fix it.
Shifting Our Focus
The foundation of who we are lies in seeking the perspective of our Creator, rather than the false gods we can make others into. But it takes a deliberate shifting of our focus.
When I feel tempted to rely on a person’s opinion of me, I try to put that energy toward drawing out what God is saying to me in that very moment. I may ask, “Lord, how do you want me to see myself right now?”
Now, many of us feel it’s easier to trust in another person’s opinion than in God’s. It may be the same kind of thing children face when their mom says how wonderful they are and they say, “You have to say that, you’re my mom.” Let’s keep this in mind though. As we said earlier, God knows us even better than our parents. He is also unable to lie. Unlike human beings, He can’t “stretch the truth.” When He says we are inherently valuable and He rejoices over us (Zephaniah 3:17), it’s true.
And there’s more.
Once discovering what God says about us, we then have to turn it toward ourselves. It’s actually not enough to say, “God accepts us fully and says we’re important.” We have to agree with Him—and tell ourselves the same thing.
We won’t experience the freedom of His truthful words until we believe them, take them in and say to ourselves, “God values me, and therefore I value myself as well.” We have to start paying attention to how we talk to ourselves. Rather than just being pulled along by a flow of negative thoughts, we need to stand up to them. We need to say what God would say to us in those moments. If He has accepted us and thinks highly of us, if He loves us and hopes in us unconditionally, perhaps it’s time we did the same.