Do you feel hurt when others disapprove of you?

Those whose approval you seek most give you the least (Rozanne Weissman)

A reader writes, “I read your article about the need for approval ( and I wanted some more insight because this is something I deal with on a daily basis. Here are some questions I have:

1. “I understand what you said about not needing approval from people, but why is that when people disrespect me I feel terrible?”

A: It’s not surprising that you feel hurt when others disapprove of you. After all, “The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” (William James, 1842 ~ 1910). The craving to be appreciated is embedded in our DNA. It serves a useful purpose. You see, the wish to be accepted causes us to act in a way that the group approves of. When we all act as expected, harmony prevails. That’s the benefit of this innate desire to be appreciated.

But there are disadvantages as well. For example, what if the group you belong to is prejudiced and treats a minority unfairly? At such a time we shouldn’t behave in the same way to win their approval because their behavior is damaging, detrimental, divisive, and destructive. There’s no point in promoting harmony in a small group (our community) when a larger group (our country) will suffer. No, at such a time, you must stand up for what is right. But lead by the power of your example, not by the example of your power. That is, don’t try to force others to change and don’t attack them, as that will only create resistance and cause them to dig in deeper.

Make it a rule to always do your best and do what is right, for when you do so, you will win the approval of yourself, and won’t be dependent on others. Remember, if you are worried about the approval of others, you become their prisoner. Don’t fall into this trap. Set yourself free by being your own standard-bearer.

2. “I am troubled by events that happened years ago. I know it shouldn’t bother me but it does.”

A: When someone disrespects you, the first thing to do is consider the source. For example, if you realized the attacker was mentally ill, rather than feeling hurt, you would feel sorry for that person. What if the person attacking you was prejudiced? If their attacks were based on misinformation, misrepresentations, half-truths, distortions, and false conclusions, wouldn’t you want to correct them?

Read this carefully. A major cause of your problem is the attacks you are experiencing from a biased person. That prejudiced person is YOU and the attacks are YOUR OWN SELF-TALK. It is time to fight back, time to challenge your thoughts. The next time you find yourself thinking that someone is disrespecting you, ask yourself a barrage of questions such as, “Why am I so mistrustful of others? Do I really believe everyone has nothing better to do than spend their time thinking about how to attack me? Does thinking it is so, make it so? Do I really believe people are so mean, or is it just my imagination that is being fueled by my own insecurities?”

Don’t be discouraged. This is actually an exciting time because you can start studying the fascinating world of what makes us tick. Learn why we do the things we do, why we self-destruct, why we are our own worst enemy, and how we can heal ourselves. Pick up a copy of this highly readable and helpful book: WHY GOOD PEOPLE DO BAD THINGS, How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy by Debbie Ford, HarperOne, 2008.

3.  “Recently I stopped helping coworkers at my job because I felt the teamwork wasn’t reciprocal and I was never thanked, so I didn’t feel appreciated. Did I do the right thing?”

A: Do you realize what you are saying? You withdrew your support because the cooperation wasn’t reciprocal? Do you mean your support was conditional? You felt that you would help them, but only if they helped you? What type of “cooperation” is that? Do you really think you can feel that way without the members of the team sensing how you feel? Tell me, would your feelings drive others away or attract them to you? You complain about being disrespected, but you disrespect others by judging and evaluating their performance. While they were working, you were taking notes on how well they reciprocated. Your cooperation did not flow from your heart, and they could tell. And note that YOU DO NOT APPROVE of your team members. Isn’t your nonapproval driving them away from you?

Even a thief loves those who are kind to him. Even a gangster cooperates with those who reciprocate. But we are called upon to do better. We are asked to do what needs to be done and asked to do the right thing. Shouldn’t our only wish be to do that which ennobles us? When we live by these principles, life itself will shower us with approval. What more can we ask for?

We have to give away what we wish to receive. Do you wish to be respected? Respect others and you will be respected! Do you want cooperation? Cooperate with others! Do you want kindness? Be kind to others! But this law only works when we act with a pure heart. If you are polite to others because you want something in return (such as an ingratiating waiter), it doesn’t work because people will see through you and realize you are insincere. But when you act out of love, the world will come clamoring to your doorstep, anxious to help in every way.

Here’s another point: “People who want the most approval get the least and people who need approval the least get the most.”

(Wayne Dyer) This idea was expressed differently by Rozanne Weissman who wrote, “Those whose approval you seek most give you the least.” Can you understand why these two statements are true? You see, when you badly want approval from others, they see you as needy and desperate. This is a turn off that drives people away. But, if you are comfortable with yourself and don’t demand that everyone treat you with respect, others will find you easy to get along with, which will result in many friends.

4. “Nowadays its hard for me to even fake a smile because I don’t want people to try to take my niceness for weakness and disrespect or mistreat me.”

A: Think of someone nice. Perhaps a relative, former school teacher, or friend. Do you think that person is ‘weak’? Of course not. Kindness is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. The fear that kindness will be thought of as weakness is a sign of weakness. Stop listening to that negative self-talk in your head and start challenging your negative thoughts. In addition to Debbie Ford’s book, which I mentioned earlier, another valuable tool is Shad Helmstetter’s book WHAT TO SAY WHEN YOU TALK TO YOURSELF, Powerful New Techniques to Program Your Potential for Success, Pocket Books, 1987.

5. “People rarely approach me, probably because they think I’m standoffish.”

A: People don’t avoid us because they THINK we are standoffish; they stay away because we ARE standoffish. The best way to make friends is to become one. Friends don’t have conditional relationships; they don’t judge and evaluate one another. Let go of your fears and be the friend you want others to be to you.

Follow this suggestion and you will end up with more friends than you can handle.

Isn’t it great to have problems? They give us the opportunity to study, develop our problem solving skills, grow stronger, acquire wisdom, understand more about the complexity of life, and experience the joy of overcoming difficulty. Elinor MacDonald speaks to everyone – including me and our reader – when she writes, “All of your problems and difficulties are the instruction of life, pointing out to you where you are wrong, where you are lacking in wisdom and understanding, where you need to change so that you can open yourself to a greater degree of good than you have yet experienced.”

I thank our reader for writing and wish him great success and happiness.