People have a great many misconceptions about love. Because of this, we often think that we are being loving, when we are in fact not being loving. For example, parents may think that by controlling their child’s life in the direction that they think would be best for the child, that they are being loving. Actually, they are not taking the child’s own personal truth as a part of themselves and as such, they are practicing the opposite of love. But today, we’re going to talk about perhaps the biggest misconception about love and that is that love is approval. This concept sounds simple, but is a whole book in and of itself. But today, I’m going to give you an overview.
To love something is to take it as a part of yourself. Love is inclusive. It is the energetic movement towards oneness. When you love something, you energetically pull it towards you and include it as you. For a more in-depth understanding about this, you can watch my video titled: What is Love. When you truly take something as a part of yourself, you take their best interests in as a part of your own best interests. Now, their pain is a part of your pain and their joy is a part of your joy.
When we experience chronic disapproval and criticism in our childhood, to the degree where we feel rejected by one or both of our parents (and/or our siblings and/or our peers), we begin to develop trauma around the feeling of disapproval and critique. This experience feels like the opposite of being wanted and accepted and received. It feels like being pushed away instead of being pulled in. It feels like we are being disrespected. We sink into shame. And so, we begin to develop the idea that if someone loves us, they will approve of everything about us, including what we do. Also, since we can’t get actual love, we go for the next best thing: Approval.
To approve of something is to have a positive opinion about that thing. This naturally leads to an allowance of, acceptance of or agreement to that thing. Essentially, it means no objections. At face value, this sounds like a loving thing to do. It sounds like nonresistance. And it can be nonresistance in certain scenarios. But not in all scenarios. Remember how I said that when we are actually practicing love, we take their best interests in as a part of our own best interests… That now, their pain is a part of your pain and their joy is a part of your joy? Can you now approve of things that cause them pain and that are not in their best interests? The reality is, you can approve or disapprove of something without loving something and you can approve or disapprove of something because you love something. Approval and love are two different things. They can exist together or separate.
Let me put some situations before you where approval is not loving:
Someone decides to shoot up with heroin. In the name of acceptance and approval, you prep their needle for them. This one is pretty self-explanatory.
A woman you know has a belief that is making it impossible for her to change her relationship patterns, such as “the men who are attracted to me, are insane”. You can clearly see that the reason she can’t find relationships that work is because she is attracted to unstable men, that remind her of her father. You can see she is still trying to get love from him vicariously. But in the name of approving of her and therefore validating her thoughts, you validate that belief for her and agree with it. As a result, she continues to make it more and more about the men in her life, and ends up a spinster, despite really wanting a relationship.
A man has the goal of publishing his novel. An editor does not want the author to feel bad and so, he or she never gives the feedback that he used the wrong word somewhere and that he wrote a run-on sentence and that a section should be deleted because it slows the story down etc. By not doing so, the editor sets the author up to fail as a writer.
A sous chef works in an upscale restaurant. He aspires to be an executive chef one day. He prepares the bechamel sauce in a way that it becomes lumpy. When the executive chef samples it, not wanting to make the sous chef feel criticized, he says, “good job, I like the color of it.”
There is a fork in the road, left and right. You know that the road heading left leads to a sheer drop off because there was a landslide. The road leading right will lead a person to town. A person wanting to get to town comes by and wants to go left. You tell them not to. You don’t approve of their decision. They distrust your motives. So they yell at you that you are so controlling and critical because you don’t approve of their own choices and because it’s totally wrong for you to think that you know what is best for them. So you say, you’re right… I should stop thinking that I know what is best for people… and trust that you know what is best for you and agree to them going left.
A friend of yours is getting married, she wants a loving, exclusive, committed marriage more than anything in the world. You walk in on her fiance’ having sex with another woman. But you do not object to her marrying that man.
Someone is beating their kid. You can see that they need to be unconditionally loved and you think part of that is approval, so you don’t do anything to object to the beatings. As a result, the kid keeps getting beaten and the person ends up in jail.
Your spouse wants to have an open relationship. You agree, despite the fact that it is the opposite of what you want, because they say they can’t handle being judged negatively for their desires and needs anymore. They need your approval of their true needs… even if it is to your detriment.
We could consider these examples, the shadow form of approval… Holding a positive opinion that leads to an allowance of, acceptance of or agreement with what does not benefit someone. This is resistance in fact. It is resistance to including something as part of yourself to the degree that you align with the wellbeing of that thing. Or resistance to aligning with your desires/wellbeing.
If you are someone who equates approval with love, you can very easily find your way into validation-based relationships, where ‘everything is approved of and agreed to’ whether it is actually in the best interests of either person or not. For you, respect from others and self-esteem means approval. Instead of healthy, this becomes a dysfunctional relationship based on negative enabling. It becomes a relationship where either one or both people are out of alignment with their actual desires and actual best interests. Essentially, the motto in the relationships you feel good in is “Let me be free to do whatever I want and approve of everything I think, say and do and I’ll do the same for you!”. Whenever you experience disapproval, you feel as if it is an expectation and obligation to stop being and doing whatever is being disapproved of and this feels like losing yourself and being conditionally loved. When someone is approving of you unconditionally, it is the only time you are not trying to shape yourself to conform to what someone else wants you to be. You feel free! When someone expresses disapproval, you take it as an expressed expectation that you change yourself into something else for their best interest. So you start to feel controlled and resentful.
When love becomes approval for you mentally, you run around trying to do everything right and good by everyone else’s estimations and when you can’t get that to happen in a way that feels good, you look for people who will make you feel right and good no matter what you think, say and do.
As a child, you felt so controlled that love feels like the opposite of control. And since disapproval feels like a tool of control, you are looking for the opposite of that. You are looking for a relationship with no consequences and no pressure. That is also a form of resistance.
Subconsciously what is going on is that if you simply approve of others, you don’t have to take responsibility for other people’s poor decisions and actions. In fact, you will not criticize unless you perceive that what something a person is thinking, saying or doing, will affect your life directly. It’s a “feel free to ruin your own life’ attitude. And if you simply get approval no matter what you do or don’t do, you don’t have to carry the responsibility of molding yourself into something that would make someone else happy and therefore carrying the responsibility for someone else’s wellbeing.
It is ironic, but people who have a desperate need for approval, secretly want zero responsibility for the wellbeing of others… You don’t want the pressure of having to mold yourself for their wellbeing and you don’t want the responsibility (also pressure) of making sure they make the right choices for their wellbeing. Your whole life has been carrying other people’s wellbeing and carrying it for people who took no responsibility for the way they felt and so, you are done and utterly exhausted with it. You don’t want to take responsibility for someone else feeling good at all. You want connection when it feels good to you, without having to have the pressure that comes with a ‘relationship’. But this feels selfish and you’ve been so socialized to see this truth as bad, that your shame keeps you from admitting it to yourself and others. You’d rather be alone or around people who unconditionally approve of you whenever it feels good to you to be around them. Which is why this form of approval you are looking for is in fact a ‘push away’. It is distancing by its very nature. Because you couldn’t get love, you could only get the next best thing (approval) you are longing for a relationship where unlike your childhood, approval is unconditional. You have suffered the wound of the loss of self/conformity. As a side note, many of the people who relate to this relationship with approval, were the golden child in a family system.
There is a difference between people who want approval and need approval. To people who want approval, approval feels like a closeness/intimacy and you want that closeness and intimacy. Maybe you’ve been pushed away in your childhood. So getting approval finally feels like not having opposition and finally being seen, felt, heard and understood. Approval feels like the opposite of a push away. It feels like people aren’t resisting you anymore. It seems like something that was reserved for ‘other people’ and not yourself. Approval feels good, it is natural to want, but do not confuse it with love. As a side note, many people who really want approval for this reason were scapegoats in the family system.
The immediate and biggest issue that you are going to have with the whole concept of disapproval being something that can be loving is this: When someone else disapproves in a loving way, it implies that someone else thinks they have an accurate assessment of what is actually good and right and in the best interests of themselves or someone else (maybe you). So I’m going to ask you the question. Do you believe that someone else can know what is good and right and therefore best for you? If your answer is no, why? If your answer is yes, why? And if your answer is “in certain circumstances”, how do you accurately determine when and when not?
‘Best interests’ is a philosophical debate in and of itself, for example you may see that a person getting into a car to drive drunk is not in the best interests of their safety or anyone else’s safety. But is safety in their best interests? Maybe getting in that car crash is what causes them to get sober and clear about what they want in life and change course and find the existence here on earth that makes their life worth living. But imagine that a person’s ‘objection’ in the form of disapproval is the universe’s first reflection to them of something that must change. Something is ‘out of alignment’ within them. Imagine that if they did change in order to find alignment in response to that first reflection, the universe would not have to escalate things and they would still line up with getting sober and clear about what they want in life and change course and find the existence here on earth that makes their life worth living without needing a car crash to get them to do that.
Taking your hand off of the steering wheel of creation by saying “I don’t ultimately know what’s best for me or for anyone”, is simply a cop out. In that same vein, some people love to take the ‘can be empowering’ saying “no one can know what is best for you, but you”. And believe that this is absolute truth. It isn’t. It is true in a given scenario that maybe other people do know what’s best for you more than you do. It is also true in a given scenario that maybe other people don’t know what’s best for you better than you do. Their capacity to accurately see this depends on their capacity for awareness (ability to see objective truth) and their capacity to take you as a part of themselves.
People who can’t do either of these things, tend to project and tend to have agendas. Instead of fully, objectively understanding a situation, they will project their subjective perspective, as well as their own best interests, over a situation and over your best interests. Their disapproval is resistant in nature. And chances are extremely high that this was the case with your parents, which is why you have trauma around the idea of someone knowing better than you do, what is and isn’t in your best interests. Which is why you are distrustful of feedback. So, here is the next question to ask yourself: How do you know whether someone is actually taking your best interests as a part of their own? How do you know whether they are or aren’t projecting? How do you know what their actual agenda is? How do you know when you can trust someone?
If you are on the receiving end of disapproval, ask yourself WHY a person is telling you what they are telling you. Why are they giving you a negative reflection? Why do they disapprove of something? Why is their objection in the form of a disapproval unloving, and why might it loving? Ask them directly too. Because you are not immune to lack of awareness and projection either. You might just be wrong about the WHY. And they should be able to tell you why they think something benefits you.
If you are on the giving end of disapproval, make the effort to first understand the other person’s perspective fully and to become as aware as possible of the situation as objectively as possible and communicate this understanding. Listen to what a person really wants and really needs as well as why they think something is in their best interests. Projection is not love. Include them in your process of coming to the conclusion that something is not benefitting them and your process of coming to the conclusion of what would benefit them and why.
What if when someone is disapproving of something, they are not objecting to you but instead are objecting to something that they think could be detrimental to you? If you’re honest, you want others to approve of something that benefits you and to disapprove of something that hurts you. And in fact, if they are doing that, their disapproval is a way of pulling you closer. In doing so, they are aligning with your best interests and desires. If someone really loves you, they should object to things that cause you pain and are not in your best interests. Are they always right when they think that something is going to cause you pain and is not in your best interests? No. Are there people who literally only think of their best interests? Yes. But is what you really want for people to approve of things that cause you pain and are also not in your best interests?
If you are looking out for someone’s best interests, you can’t be in a space of approval 24-7. This means you can’t be loving and be approving of everything. What you can do is to be in a space of understanding all the time. What you can do is to practice awareness and practice taking others as a part of yourself.
You can disapprove of something and by doing so, be with and for them instead of against them. And therefore, in alignment. You just have to be very, very sure that you are actually right about what is actually in their best interests, what will actually hurt or benefit them and what is actually wrong for them. Awareness must go hand in hand with love in order for it to truly be love and in order for your behaviors to be truly loving. And part of that awareness is to see that approval and love are two very different things.