“One of the top human needs is to belong.”

Of course, we care what other people think. I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t.

Deep down, we all want to be accepted and included somewhere. The question is, does your need for approval from others dictate your actions? Are you controlled by your need for acceptance and approval?

In my coaching practice, I hear over and over, the fear of being rejected, criticized, not liked, left behind or left out. I hear stories of people presenting a modified version of themselves just to be liked.

I was one of those people many years ago. I could not express myself for fear of not wanting to hurt someone else’s feelings or them not thinking well of me or even worse, abandoning me completely. Looking back, I was like jello. I had no backbone. I said what I thought they wanted to hear; not what I really wanted or needed to say.

As young children, it is necessary for our very survival, to get the approval and acceptance of our parents. We are too young to be able to function without them in our lives. We learn how to work around situations to ensure we get that approval. And, yes, we still carry those approaches into adulthood. We may never have learned how to simply be our true selves because we didn’t get the response we needed.

Today, I have zero problems saying what’s on my mind. I found the answer was finding myself.

I discovered who I was on the inside which included what lit me up and energized me as well as what didn’t interest me. That was important self-discovery for me.

I pursued more of what energized me and used that ‘feeling of being lit up’ to guide me. People would tell me how my entire body, my voice, and facial expressions showed when I talked about something I was passionate about. That was certainly a comfort zone for me – I just needed to learn more about it. I got more involved in my passions and kept discovering more each time.

I surrounded myself with like-minded people who believed what I believed and enjoyed the same types of activities that I did. It was like recharging my batteries! It gave me strength. There was no effort expended to get approval from others – we all ‘got it’. It was easy and comfortable and fun and exhilarating.

I learned there is a place for everyone. I thrive on positivity, connecting with others and self-development. Why would I want to spend my time with people who were always negative and had no desire for self-development? Once I figured out my passions, it no longer mattered what the negative people thought. I didn’t belong around them.

As I evolved, I started to identify what I valued most; integrity, kindness, passion, connection, respect, and growth. When I found myself in relationships with others who did not share the same values, my first reaction was to back down on my beliefs. I tried to justify this burying of my authenticity.  It never lasted. The real me would always come to the surface.

I learned to agree to disagree with someone. For a long-term close relationship, I discovered I had a choice – lose my identity and keep my relationship or lose my relationship and keep my identity. I’d rather be alone and feel good about myself than to feel miserable and alone in a relationship.

I am happiest when I am Sandra. My beliefs and my values are core elements of my personal foundationThey are my compass system. They give me strength and conviction and help me make the decisions that are right for me. I no longer need the approval of those who I am not aligned with. For all others, it’s automatic.