Detaching Self-Worth from Others' Approval
Why do we care? It is because we attach self-worth to meeting such expectations. If they are our own expectations, it is the belief we carry, which impacts how we feel about ourselves. For example we may be saying to ourselves: “if I clean, I will deserve a rest.” Whist it can sometimes be a good motivating technique, in instances where our self-value is at play, it is a dangerous one to use, for example if we said to ourselves: ‘No doubt she is angry with me, I did not call her when she asked me to’. (The belief here is that I deserve that treatment as I did not call.)
Others may also use this ‘technique’ to get us to do things e.g. 'if you perform well you will be rewarded.' The key is to recognise the pressure we put on ourselves in situations when we do not want to do something and in those situations we need to ask ourselves honestly: Do I have to do it? Is it helpful? Is it serving me? Or finally: Is it in line with what I want? And again, it will depend on circumstances and a situation.
In liaison with others, when we feel pressured to do or achieve something, we need to recognise that others may expect this of us, but we have the right to say ‘no’. The trouble is not as much with saying ‘no’, as with the emotion associated with saying it. We may be asking ourselves: What if they don’t like me? What if they don’t accept my choice?
Of course they may not. It is then worth having a look at such a relationship, re-evaluate and set new boundaries and naturally, the outcome will depend on the circumstance, the dynamics of the relationship and its history.
Most importantly, the key aspect to being able to let go of high expectations of self or others is not to attach self-worth to meeting those expectations. And for that we all need to work on developing self-awareness, understanding and our own identity. As, the more we accept ourselves for who we are, the less we depend on others for that acceptance and then the decision can be made based on what we authentically want rather than just to please others.
Another thing, which helps with overcoming stress is learning mindfulness and learning to distance oneself from negative thoughts. Recognising that thoughts are not me (and I am not them either) is the most important step towards reducing stress and bringing more awareness into the present moment.
A thought is just one perspective and like with everything, things are sometimes great and sometimes not. I am sometimes successful and sometimes, I fail. The key is to not associate oneself with a thought and source self-worth from it, and rather to perceive a thought as something that comes and goes – just like an experience that can be uplifting or terrifying – both come and go. The bottom line is to acknowledge that we are all worthy of what we all strive to achieve in life the most, and that is: belonging, love, connection and respect. We all deserve it no matter how we are at any moment, as in both – a moment of success we are worthy of those things and in moment of failure, too.
Some techniques on how to overcome stress and negative self-talk:
- Practice asking more questions to avoid assuming or judging others, be curious instead, to find out people’s motivation or reasons. Curiosity is not intrusive (if respectful) and rather encourages openness. Be open to others’ questions, the more they understand the more likely they are to be understanding and you may also inspire or empower them to stand up for themselves and in interactions with you, they will know to not assume and will ask instead.
- Practice politely refusing requests or demands (saying ‘no’) if you know that what you are required to do is against what you stand for, your ethics, values and goals.
- Invest time in getting to know yourself better and not just what pushes your buttons. Dig deeper to identify what hides underneath, there is always work to be done. Find out what is important to you, what are the most important aspects of your life (your dive, motivation, your values, your long term goals) and prioritise accordingly. The more you know about yourself, the more your decisions are congruent with who you are.
- Practice Mindfulness. Bring yourself to the present moment by focusing on your senses, e.g. if seated, feel your feet flat on the flour, focus on the sounds around, breath deeply and in that way connect with the surroundings rather than voices inside your head. This is a very useful technique to use in meetings or while having difficult conversations;
- Remember that everything in life is balanced. Good and bad thoughts will come and go. Practice distancing yourself from your thoughts by recognising that a thought is not you, and it will pass. No point in beating yourself up about thinking negatively. Also, recognise when you have a positive thought and treat it the same way. Don’t let it kidnap and run you.
- Meditation and breathing exercises help to be more mindful and present.