We spend most of the first part of our lives in approval training.
For good reason, the people around us – perhaps especially those who care for us most – do their best to ensure we fit in to the particular family or culture into which we’re born. It can be an act of love to do this, because without the capacity to get along with others in socially acceptable ways we’d quickly find ourselves friendless, and perhaps unable to support ourselves in the world.
But the consequence of this necessary kind of care is that we quickly find ourselves in a kind of approval school. Some parts of us are welcomed, applauded and cherished by others. Other parts of us are not seen, unappreciated, or actively and forcibly denied to us. We learn that seeking approval of one kind or another from other people is one of life’s central tasks if we are to survive and thrive.
And then we take our approval training into adulthood, long after it’s stopped supporting us.
How much we hold back from the world because of it. How much art, creativity, insight and mischief is denied because of our ongoing attempts to look good in the eyes of others.
And then how much we build our organisations and institutions to perpetuate, reward and encourage approval rather than the genuine, brave, unsettling, surprising, life-giving contribution all human beings are capable of making to one another when we give up faking.