Shawn: I love the work you did in our session last night. Good to lose the old “love, appreciation, and approval” (LAA) story and find out that it’s YOUR job to give and receive it in those moments (first to yourself so you get that you didn’t need it from them after all!). How freeing to find–without blame or shame–that you were the biggest offender in putting yourself last. And that when you start to celebrate your choices, you will no longer feel like a martyr or victim of others choices.
When you get the focus off of your mind-made conditions and prescribed timing for how others “should” appreciate you, you’ll start to notice how often they ARE appreciating you; but it will no longer feel like the big “relief cry” (i.e., someone finally telling you what you’ve been needing to hear from yourself and you tear up). That’s because you’ve already been filled by getting that affirmation from yourself and God :-). It’s one of the big life shifts that changed everything for me and that I love to pass along to others!
Once you’ve given that LAA to yourself, in exactly the way those littlest parts of you need to hear, you realize that your path to freedom and empowerment is also to give it to the very person you were craving it from! You’ll start to be able to re-image your critical daughter, for example, in that moment as someone who’s cup is not very full, as someone who is stressed and annoyed and even fearful about the circumstances. You’ll be able to see and acknowledge her instead of getting little and slinking away and withdrawing in hurt and anger. You’ll be big enough to admit with lightness and self forgiveness that you did do that thing (no longer needing affirmation from her).
When you stop seeking love, appreciation, and approval when it simply isn’t coming, that interaction we just worked on–and in fact your whole life–becomes a different ball game. With the ball in your court you get to set the tone for yourself and the relationship you want with others and it’s not dependent on how they show up!
Client the next morning after our session about needing appreciation:
My daughter kissed me on the head this morning. I felt a little surprised and happy.
Shawn: That’s great about her kissing you on the head! That’s the kind of thing you might not have even noticed or been able to really take in if you had still been withdrawing and angry at her for being critical. You are truly taking charge of questioning your story of her not appreciating you, and noticing all the times she does.
And what I find is that when we shift into holding ourselves, everyone else shows up differently. We end up getting what we need from them and from life — but we also don’t need it as desperately, so it’s kind of just like icing on the cake!
The other cool thing is that, over time, as you work your side of the street, you’ll know if it’s time to negotiate for different terms; for example, if someone really is being OVERLY critical, abusive, or not holding up their end of the deal.
Yes, you still work your side of the street first — and make amends to yourself and others when you find your part. But you don’t just become a doormat or keep having these unequal terms. You can now USE them as your teacher and have the courage to negotiate new terms if the relationship continues to feel too painful or out of balance.
As you gain clarity, compassion, and confidence, you’ll see where you need to ask more for what you want and also pull back from giving in ways that you don’t have to give, then resenting it. You’ll often notice that others do step in and fill the void. In taking more responsibility for what you have been doing to yourself and to her via your over-functioning, you are beginning to see that you have been doing things for her and her husband that you don’t really want to do, and not doing them any favors by rescuing them from the consequences of their own choices and then feeling used.
You also are beginning to see how you are NOT a victim of their wants and needs. As we found, you have happily chosen so much of what you are doing and wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s so much fun to catch that “I have to” phrase and turn it into “I want to,” “I choose to,” or “I get to!” Then, when no one seems to notice all you’re doing, it is thrilling to step in and give yourself the love, appreciation, and approval you were seeking in all the wrong places.
And that leaves you free to notice how often those little appreciations or kisses on the head do show up!
P.S. Readers, here’s a free download to my Forgiveness Flip. It’s an amazing tool for quickly addressing and moving completely past the complex interplay between blaming ourselves and others. Blame and shame are the flip side of the same coin, and our pain is simply a call-to-action to free ourselves from a preconceived notion that life or others need to show up in a certain way for us to be happy.
When we flip the whole story that we were wronged on its head and find that our happiness never was contingent on others’ behavior or their willingness to change or apologize, we find true freedom. So often forgiveness actually lies in forgiving ourselves, because lack of forgiveness of others is often about holding them responsible for the needy or reactive behavior in ourselves that we despise.