How to Start Giving Yourself Approval

by Michael Pietrzak September 30, 2016

How to Start Giving Yourself Approval

Or, 10 Reasons to Wear that Stupid T-Shirt

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes


This article started with a simple question on Tuesday.

“What’s holding you back?”

A friend has been pushing me for weeks to get comfortable talking with others about my business. I’ve been avoiding it.

“I’m afraid of how I’ll look,” I told her. I had many failures before I got to this point.

This sparked a chain of realizations for me.

This Week’s Revelation

It has come to my attention that I care far too much what people think of me. Worse, I’ve unwittingly given those judgments power over my actions for my whole lifetime.

This is an especially tough pill to swallow because I always thought I was above outsider opinions.

The upside? When you bring something from the shadows into the light, you can change it.

In Memory of When I Cared

My favorite t-shirt says, “in memory of when I cared.” I feel unreasonably joyful when I wear it. Today I figured out why: because it reminds me that the outside world’s judgments don’t matter.

When I give less weight to outside opinions, mine matter more. I realize that my approval of myself is more important than others’ approval.

If you’re normal, you probably share my challenge.

Here are 10 reasons to care less about what people think:

1. You Know Yourself Best

You know your whole history of triumphs, failures, adventures, and defining moments. You know what you like and loathe. You know what you want and what you want to avoid.

Other people? Most have only a vague overview of your life. Why let someone with partial information decide what’s best for you? Trust the expert: you.

2. Outside Judgment Often Comes From Ignorance

Most people are a walking bundle of neuroses trying to get through their own day as best they can. They come loaded with rules about how the world should work, and even how strangers should act. Some of them watch Fox News.

Often the people with the least information or understanding of the world are quickest to give opinions and judge. If you know that many people do a questionable job of running their own lives, why take their assessment of your life seriously?

3. You Can’t Love Others if You Don’t Love Yourself

Yes, this phrase has been beat to death. But something beautiful happens when you put faith in yourself: your relationships improve. There’s a concept in psychology called projection that says when someone criticizes another, it’s a reflection of that quality in himself.

I gave an ex-girlfriend an incredibly hard time about being defensive, only to discover later that I acted defensively in most situations, a habit that grew out of a lack of self-assurance.

The best relationships are made up of partners that have strong self-esteem and independence. They love themselves, so they are free to love their partner. People that don’t love and trust themselves give their partner grief about being late and not doing the dishes. Let it go.

4. Approval From 100 Outsiders is Worthless if You Don’t Approve of Yourself

Imagine you’re a writer and get a call from a publisher telling you they want to honor you for something you wrote. The only problem is you know what you wrote was not nearly your best work, and if fact you’ve come to see that your article’s whole basic premise was wrong and your argument invalid.

Would you feel good about the outside approval? Probably not. Even though 100s or more people may shower you with approval, it doesn’t mean a damn if you can’t give yourself the same.

5. It Gives You Power

I’m talking about the kind of power that springs from a deep control over yourself, an alignment between your values and your actions. When you de-prioritize others’ opinions, you are free to act without an internal debate.

When you make your own opinions and needs primary, you generate a lot of personal power that drives you to do great things.

6. Self-Approval Lets You Produce Better Work

Fail to give yourself permission to work on what is important to you, and the world is deprived of your best work.

Imagine Steve Jobs listened to the critics who said he was finished after leaving Apple in 1985? No Pixar, no iPhone, no $700 billion company today.

Imagine Elon Musk listened to naysayers when he was told he couldn’t compete with the established car brands. No Tesla.

What major contribution to the world might we miss if you put outside opinions above your own?

7. Wanting Everyone to Like You is a Sign of Mediocrity

We all know a people pleaser. They avoid all conflict, try to please everyone, and do everything. They can’t say no.

People who try to be all things to all people don’t change the world. The best business leaders and the best politicians make enemies. Sticking to your guns will inevitably piss off a lot of people. But it gets results.

It is the dreamers, the iconoclasts, and the people who relentlessly take what’s in their hearts and make it reality who radically change the world.

8. It Frees up a Lot of Energy

Worrying about what other people think of you is exhausting! The first year I dated my partner, I never let her see me wearing my nerdy glasses or without having some gel in my hair. At the time I didn’t own a single pair of sweatpants (I didn’t know what I was missing!).

After a while, this wall I’d put up – this lack of vulnerability – was preventing me from relaxing around her. I suffered from low-grade anxiety almost all of the time.

When I let my guard down our connection deepened. I took the energy I used to expend on crafting my image and invested that in authentic relationships, and on building a business that gives value.

9. People Will Respect You More

One of my closest friends is refreshingly frank with strangers. He won’t hesitate to tell people he meets about losing his license for drinking and driving, about his weird fetishes, and his mental demons.

As far as I can see, he doesn’t care what people think about him, so he puts his whole self on display. Rather than losing respect, people love him for this authenticity.

10. You Will Make More Money

Let go of what others think about you and you’re free to follow your vision. All great leaders have something in common: a clear vision. Dwelling on outside commentary blurs that vision.

Whether you work for someone, you freelance, or run your own business, you will be more successful in your work if you know where you are going. People pay good money for novel ideas that are well executed.

“It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Do not mistake activity for achievement."
― Isocrates

Taking Action

There’s no quick fix to renouncing outside judgment, no “do this then your problem is magically solved.”

The best advice I can give is this: wear that stupid T-shirt. People may judge or question your sanity, but you, and only you, can give yourself approval.

Trust your gut.

ps. Want one of those shirts? Get it here...

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Michael Pietrzak
Michael Pietrzak


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