Independence of Approval

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We all have it in us and most of the time we are driven by it without even recognizing it-our need for approval! Whether it’s delivered by our friends, parents, colleagues or partners -a compliment or approval of our actions & beliefs is like a gentle stroke for our ego. This is a basic human need and also necessary to build various relatiosnhips. The value of these relationships doesn’t have a physical, measurable currency, but value is still exchanged between people and it has a much higher value than dollars or euros since being part of different groups can provide security, love and support.

Although social approval is important, there is also a fine line between healthy and unhealthy need for approval. The unhealthy level is one where a person becomes totally dependent on social approval and make all her decisions based on the opinion of others and whether they will approve them or not. By being dependent on the opinion of others, such a person would oftentimes make poor decisions and have difficulties to follow their personal plans and beliefs. The concept of Independence of Approval is comparable with financial independence which is much easier to measure. It involves that one has an equal balance of trade or that he earns more than he spends-he creates more value than he access. He doesn’t depend on parents, the government, friends or the society to provide him  financial help. A person who is independent of approval would create more social value than demanding social approval.

This doesn’t imply that when speaking of Independence of Approval one has to be totally ignorant of other people’s help or that they don’t need friends. However, an independent person contributes (at least) as much  value to society as they take. Furthermore, those people realize that their contribution is valuable and therefore don’t allow someone else to cheat on them on social transactions, just like a financially independent person would end relatiosnhips where the other person was betraying him.

Accordingly a person who has a healthy level of need for approval (is independent of approval) would not stay in a friendship where trust and respect is violated. The person would recognize his value and exit the toxic friendships with the assurement that he can create healthier ones with other people. His decisions wouldn’t depend on other people’s opinions but on his own value and beliefs.

Different Levels

Independence isn’t measured as all or nothing. One can have different levels of independence. You can be either hopelessly in debt to someone or just owe a small amount of money or social value.

On a scale from severe dependency to complete independence, one could probably find these types of people:

The Solitary This person completely relies on the few relationships he does have in his life for social support and security. If those ties broke, he would be completely alone. Therefore, he would do almost anything he can to keep those relationships.

The Yes-men. This person provides value to his group, but he makes too many devotements to support the relationships. He makes fast and dramatical changes to his life to accommodate the wishes and opinions of friends and family, while neglecting own plans and beliefs.

The Replacable. This person is dependent on one groups for all social support and approval. Although he contributes value back to his group, he’s taking more than he gives. In Addition, he lacks the social skills or self-confidence to build new friends, should this group leave him.

The Independent Networker. Not only does this person have many friends, but he is also confident of his ability to manage his social life. Relationships that are exploiting him are abandoned for equal transactions. He does have close relationships, but is confident that he could build new ones if these people were disloyal.

The Social Enhancer. This kind of person takes independence to the highest level. Not only is he completely independent of approval from others, but he uses that independence to enable other people to get rid of their dependencies.

Recognizing where you are on that scale may encourage you to move to higher levels. The benefits, as already mentioned above, are healthier relationships and also a higher level of self-confidence.

Once you see the value and importance in something, you have the ability to work towards it. If you don’t consider your relationships to be important, chances are high you’re going to end up lonely and miserable. I recognised my shortcomings in the beginning of high school. I was rather shy and very dependent on the approval of teachers, class mates and friends and I hated it. I’m still not on the highest level yet but I understand the principles and importance of this independence and keep working towards it. By being (mostly) independent of approval, I make better decisions which are based on my own values and beliefs while having relationships which are healthy and respectful.

By being aware of this concept and seing the importance behind it, one can use it to recognize the relationships he’s in and the influence that approval has over him. This is the first step towards independnce, halthy relationships, better decisions and self-confidence.


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