“You’re wise beyond your years. You have the body of a god(dess). You’re a total badass.” These are the words that levitate us.
“You’re not clever enough, not skinny enough, not brave enough.” These are the words that obliterate us.
Why is this dangerous? Because regardless of whether we’re being applauded or ridiculed we’re still putting all our trust in someone else’s judgment — judgment that has little to do with us in the first place. Words are powerful. They have the capacity to build empires, make us fall in love, and heal our wounds. Unfortunately, they can also sever alliances, drain our confidence, and make us wish we could rush ahead to our own funerals. But most of the time they’re nothing but a reflection of ego. They are the result of psychological projections and conditioned creeds. Hence why we mustn’t place anyone’s opinion on a pedestal no matter how much cheap flattery is thrown our way.
It’s impossible to absorb praise without also absorbing criticism. If we’re susceptible to one, by default, we’re susceptible to all. That is why gleaming from compliments can be just as dangerous as weeping from insults. Either way, we’re discrediting ourselves. We’re relying on someone else’s endorsement to feel worthy when our worth should always come from within.
As Marcus Aurelius once said, “It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people but care more about their opinion than our own.”
Needing approval makes us more likely to engage in behavior that contradicts our character. It can make us dissociate from our ethics and misplace ourselves in the wreckage — a slippery slope that’s hardly worth the fall.
Demanding the approval of audience members so vastly different from one another sets us up for failure. If we’ve gained approval from some, we very likely risk losing approval from others. If we are successful in our careers and generate more wealth than we can imagine, we may earn exclusive entry into some elite societies, but there are certainly some that will regard our success as gluttonous and our priorities askew. Women who decide to start a family later in life will be respected by some but terrorized by others, along with those who do so too young. We won’t win. And even if we did, it may come at the cost of our dignity, and with the stakes that high, is it even worth the gamble?
Perhaps we should aim to do the things that merit our own admiration instead. At least then there’d be no running around in circles, trying to oblige those who are still learning how to oblige themselves.
Be the kind of person who would make you proud, the rest doesn’t matter.