Most of us have been conditioned to seek approval from others. As children, we mostly try to do the things that get us that approval from parents because then they will care for us. At that stage in our lives, it is useful, because we cannot care for ourselves fully. We develop the habit of proving that we are worth caring for, worth loving, worth having as a worker, a parent, a friend, a companion.

What we’re not aware of is that in seeking approval, we are telling ourselves that we’re not good enough as we are. It puts us always on the back foot and diminishes our self-esteem. This might be worth it if it gained us the approval we were seeking, but it frequently doesn’t. Most of us like someone else for who they are, not for who they’re trying to be to be liked by us. In fact, their effort often makes us feel uncomfortable.

What we can all do is be the best we can be at any given moment. Sometimes this means that we will happily make an effort to help someone because we want to. Sometimes it means that we will sympathise with their plight. Sometimes it means that we won’t even notice that there’s something we could have done. We’re human, we’re inconsistent, we have stuff of our own going on.

If we feel later that we could have done better, we can always apologise or have another go when we’re ready. If we are pleased with our own reaction, that is enough. We all know if we have done our best – we don’t need someone else to approve it.

All of us love people who have foibles and moods as well as some brilliant characteristics. It’s called being human. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone – just be who you are.

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