"I think Instagram has something against me," I told my brother on a recent phone call. "I mean, my posts used to get more than 400 likes. I deleted a few old posts and now my new ones only get 50 likes. I think my IG is broken. "
I said that jokingly, but at the same time I felt frustrated and a little discouraged. The quality of my work hadn't changed, but the exposure had changed. In a way that was beyond my control.
I thought about it a bit. So the number of little red hearts I received for a post could affect how I felt about myself and my writing skills.
Grateful, at least for self-confidence, I knew that if I started to find self-esteem and approval in the opinions of people I had never met, and an algorithm I had no control over, something had to change.
In her book Quit Checking Your Likes, Susie Moore writes: Shake off the need for approval and live an incredible life: “Likes have become the current measure of external approval. To adapt. How good we can feel. "
But why? I wondered. Could our brain be wired to get positive feedback from others?
Yes, absolutely – if we are not careful.
Brain performance expert Jim Kwik explains that the external approval causes a serotonin boost. Serotonin is increased by events in our external environment that awaken self-esteem and attachment to a whole – the approval of others can do both.
External approval (social media likes, compliments, positive feedback) actually increases the levels of feel-good chemicals in our brain. And this can make our brain look for more and more of this high – especially in women.
Finding out that there was a recurring chemical reaction in my brain when an IG post received many likes was eye opening. No wonder I craved more. And no wonder that “likes” have become a modern measure for as many as they feel valued, accepted or wanted.
How can we shake off this need for approval? I decided that awareness was the first step. But what about action? What could I do every day to stay centered without needing external approval and staying true to the “real me”?
Here are 5 ways to overcome (or get rid of) the need for external approval:
1. Vote for yourself daily
In his book Pivot and Go, David Nurse, coach for life optimization, says: "You are who you say you are every day." Let me repeat. You are who you say you are. This is the strength, because you can ultimately choose which voices you hear and believe. If you vote for yourself every day, you plant positive messages in your subconscious.
If you say to yourself every day that I am a good writer, speaker, photographer (you fill in the blank), your subconscious begins to look for ways to confirm that this is true. The nurse even suggests publishing such written affirmations at your home. When you change your mindset, outside approval no longer confirms your worth, but rather your positive beliefs about yourself.
2. Build an inner self-worth
Life coach Elyse Santilli says: "Nobody is you and this is your superpower." Truth. They are here for a reason and have a unique purpose. You can make a difference in this world that others cannot. But not by being someone you are not, and not by wishing you were someone else.
Take the time to get in touch with your passion and then develop the mission, purpose and vision of your life. Talk to friends or a mentor who knows you well and let them help you identify your strengths and talents. Develop a clear sense of self-purpose and you don't have to look beyond yourself to find your self-worth.
3. Trust your inner guidance
Take a look around your home, your social media posts, and your life choices. Are the decisions you've made based on you or someone else's influence on you? Are you striving for the "American Dream" because you were brought up that way, even though it doesn't meet your core values? Are your social media posts an attempt to get others' approval or are they a true expression of yourself?
Trust that you know exactly who you are called to do. Take the time to get in touch with this inner guidance (through prayer, meditation, diary). The next time you make a decision, you'll see how well it matches your real self. Stay true to yourself to measure success and determine how you feel about your actions.
4. Agree to criticism and rejection
Get into the habit of asking yourself the following question: "What would I do if I couldn't refuse it?" Avoiding suffering at all costs hinders our ability to take risks – and ultimately grow. Accept that suffering and criticism are part of life and allow them to happen. Realize that while they're not fun, they always fit and you're still fine. Hard moments often make us stronger and more confident. You have the option to decide how to deal with rejection – either as a setback or not a big deal because something better is coming. And this ability not to fear rejection is powerful and liberating.
5. Counteract the approval-seeking thoughts with measures
Practice watching your thoughts and catching those who seek approval. Suppose you post on social media and soon start guessing yourself. They wonder if a slightly different post would have generated more likes and even thought about it. If you find yourself doing it, it's time to take action. Your brain craves a serotonin hit. So find a way to get that boost. Walk in the sunshine, call an uplifting friend, find a way to serve someone, or identify three things you are thankful for. This will resolve your recognition seeking thought patterns and leave you with the positive feelings you were looking for.
According to new data from a Nielsen study, the use of social media apps has increased significantly during the corona virus pandemic. While we distance ourselves socially, we immerse ourselves in social media in order to get in touch with others safely.
There has never been a better time than now to overcome the need for external approval.
Take the time today to take a self-confidence test and see how much you are affected by others' approval. It could come from social media, family members, friends, or co-workers. But if it gets you under control, now is the time to free yourself.
Life is too short to live and impress others. Be true to yourself – your life will be immeasurably better for it.
About the author: Julia Ubbenga is a freelance journalist whose teachings about minimalism, simplicity, and deliberate living have reached thousands of people worldwide through her blog www.richinwhatmatters.com. Julia practices what she preaches in her apartment building in Kansas City with her husband and two extremely lively young daughters.