We all want to belong. Everyone needs to feel accepted, approved of and loved. These are basic and necessary aspects of being human and must be provided in the first stages of our lifetime by our caregivers. When love, acceptance and approval are not given unconditionally from day one it creates a sense of lack or something missing in us. Thus begins the search to fill that void.
It is rare that any of us received unconditional love, acceptance and approval in those first crucial years of life even though most parents truly desire to provide the very best for their children as did their parents and theirs before. However, as parents ourselves and our parents and theirs we can look at our parenting and how we were raised and see that notwithstanding ours and their deepest desires to give love, acceptance and approval unconditionally we in fact did not. So we ourselves, our parents and our children are equally wounded and seek to fill that need as that hole creates an over-riding emotional pain within.
As we go through life with this basic need unmet we develop methods of surviving with this hole we carry. When we picture a hole we think of it as weightless however this hole we carry is terribly heavy. It is a black hole pulling to be filled.
How does this need for love, acceptance and approval manifest in a person’s life? In so many various ways they are as numerous as the stars. How do you try to fit in? Look at the arenas of your life and notice patterns or behaviors. In your family who did you look up to most and what kind of attention did you receive from this person? If you got the attention you wanted what did you do to get it? If you didn’t how did you try to get it next? How do you feel when you don’t receive the love, attention or approval you were hoping for? How do you react?
A Short Story
Once upon a time there was a baby girl born to parents who loved her very much. Her Mommy and Daddy were very intelligent, well-educated, well-read people. Their expectations of life were high and they were enthusiastic about what their future held in store for them. They were certain their baby girl was very intelligent too and that she would grow up to make them proud. They would provide for all her physical needs with the best of everything and they would ensure that she got the best schooling available. As well they would augment this schooling with extras they felt were important to experience and they would instill logical thinking and moral tenets to be sure she could get along well in this world.
As this little girl grew up she learned from her parents “right from wrong”. She learned what behaviors would illicit approval from her parents so she decided she would try really hard to behave in those ways because she liked feeling approval from her Mommy and Daddy.
One of her most important lessons was that she needed to be smart. She needed to be able to make her point clearly and convince her audience that her opinion was the right one. She noticed though that when she expressed an opinion that was different from her Daddy’s that he really didn’t approve of her and that he seemed angry with her. So she decided that because he seemed to want her to think the way he did she would be sure to always agree with him and espouse those same ideas and make them part of herself.
Most of the time she was a very good girl and got along so well with her family but sometimes it was hard to stick with the plan and another side of her would emerge that was a little rebellious. At these times she would behave counter to the good, respectful, appeasing part of her and tell a different truth. She was angry and adamant, demanding she be listened to. Of course she got plenty of attention but definitely not of the approval variety. Afterward she would feel shocked and ashamed of her audacity and of how she had acted.
Eventually she began to see her pattern of swinging between acquiescence and rebellion in her desperate search for attention and especially approval. She can now see that seeking approval from others cannot fill that black hole. Even if her parents approve of her now that approval would not close that hole. They are no longer parenting her and she is no longer that little girl. She must approve of herself in order to close that hole up. She now expresses her truth and some members of her family don’t approve. And that is for them to choose. She cannot make anyone approve of her. What she can do is love and approve of herself and them unconditionally.