Breakthrough to Your Potential! Let Go of the Need for Approval By Brian Biro

For many people, the need for approval is the single greatest barrier to peace of mind and joy. It can become more addictive than a drug because once you move from simply appreciating recognition, acknowledgment, and praise to craving these outside validations, you can never get enough.

Fear of rejection is the fuel that powers the need for approval. As outside approval becomes a deep-seated need in your ego, you become a slave to your reputation and what others think about you. The internal motivations that drive your actions are thoughts about what you’ll get rather than what you can give. There is no chance to access the fulfillment that resides in the present moment because your thoughts are always looking ahead for that future praise. When you do receive that occasional morsel of recognition, it is hungrily consumed but never fully satisfying. You wonder what will happen if you’re not as good tomorrow as you were today. The cycle spins out of control until you lose all sight of who you really are.

In the first few years of my career as a professional speaker, I lived and died for the participant evaluations. As soon as the seminar was over, I couldn’t wait to read these comments and ratings. I would rush off to some quiet corner and devour every single evaluation. And what was I looking for?

As I look back now, it’s really quite humorous. Because my presentations are very positive, fun, and engaging, virtually everyone rated the seminar at the highest level. But there were always one or two who would give it a four out of five, or heaven forbid, even a three. As soon as I found those one or two less-than-spectacular reviews, all the others meant absolutely nothing. No positive comment could stand up to that one less-than-stellar rating. In my ego, I had failed and been summarily rejected.

This wasn’t just a momentary disappointment. The impact it had on me physically was intense and lasting. My chest tightened, and my stomach tied up in knots. I was as exhausted as if I’d just run a marathon. For days and days, I’d see the evaluation in my mind, and those same intense feelings would return. Eventually, my thoughts would turn to the next event, and some of the intensity would wane. But instead of thinking about how I could serve and what I could give, all of those emotions would congeal into an even more extreme drive to receive adulation. And so, it went in a continuous cycle.

As with all ego-based challenges, the first step is awareness. For me, the breakthrough was one of the most transformational moments in my life. After finishing a half-day seminar in St. Louis, I rushed off to the airport and immediately pulled out the participant evaluations. Did they love me this time? Was my score perfect, or had someone seen me as less than wonderful? Literally shaking with desperate anticipation like an addict needing his fix, I tore into the reviews when suddenly a couple of questions popped into my mind. I asked myself: Why am I doing these seminars? What is my true motivation and purpose?

The questions jolted me into the present moment, where I could detach and see the truth. Instantly, I saw clearly that my speaking was completely focused on receiving approval. I became aware that this need for external validation was insatiable and could never be satisfied. And then I realized that what I truly loved most in my speaking wasn’t to be found in the response at all. What gave me the ultimate “juice” was the heightened alertness and sense of being completely in the flow of the present moment that filled me when I was speaking and teaching. It was effortless and energizing as if God was speaking through me. With this fresh consciousness that my real purpose was simply to be present when I spoke, it felt as if a gigantic weight had been lifted from my spirit. I was suddenly light and energized, whereas moments before, I had felt bone tired.

Participants still offered feedback, comments, and appreciation as much or more than ever. But I no longer focused on this input through the ego-driven lens of a rating scale. It became natural to replace the need for approval with simple gratitude. In fact, this is the secret to breaking through the need for approval—to replace dependence with appreciation. I truly appreciated the wonderful positive comments I received, but I no longer blew them out of proportion. I enjoyed them but didn’t depend on them. Similarly, I no longer died from constructive criticism. Instead, I felt thankful for the opportunity to learn from perspectives and ideas that differed from my own. What really mattered to me was that feeling of sublime presence that filled me when I spoke.

No matter how long you have been tormented by the need for approval, you can seize the WOO, and break through now by first becoming aware of that need and then by replacing dependence with gratitude. Rather than responding to praise with false humility, you’ll receive recognition with heartfelt thanks, and then you’ll let it go. You’ll no longer take criticism personally as a form of rejection. Instead, you’ll be able to detach and consider the different viewpoints as a gift that can ignite fresh ideas.

When you release the need for approval, you will also discover that comparison with others no longer matters to you. Comparison is a form of judgment driven by the ego’s compulsion to feel superior.

You will find it tremendously freeing to let go of the unquenchable thirst to be “the” best, which always leaves you at the mercy of other’s evaluations, and instead focus on giving ‘your” best in the present moment…

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Brian Biro
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