I saw an interview with Whoopi Goldberg, where she was asked this question. She replied without hesitation, ‘Only my own.’ It made me think about how much approval from others can shape how we behave.
It starts when we are little. We seek approval from our parents because that is a good way of making sure they look after us when we need that care. If they approve of our behaviour we are praised for being a good boy or girl, rather than scolded. And that can be a massive hangover in our adult life, where we mirror that behaviour without even being aware of it. Even now, on the day my cleaners have been, I often say, ‘ Look Mummy – my house is clean and tidy like yours always was.’ (The rest of the time of course it’s pretty chaotic – I didn’t exactly adopt the habit!)
Then there are teachers who give us better reports if we behave well. And peer groups who let us be part of the gang if we follow their norms – and these two influences can be quite contradictory!
As we begin to grow up, we do tend to establish our own norms and values, but we often still seek approval, from partners, friends, family, and those we admire.
It is hard to separate out what our true own values are, and which we just try to match for the sake of approval from others.
I do believe I could answer the question as Whoopi Goldberg did, although I had to think it through first! I enjoy and appreciate it when I do get approval from others I love and admire, but it doesn’t drive my behaviour – it’s an added bonus rather than something I aim for.
What about you? Whose approval do you seek?