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The quest for approval

Pastor Michael Walrond Jr | 3/22/2012, 4:07 p.m.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we all desire the affirmation of others....
Temper tantrums and handcuffs

Whether we like to admit it or not, we all desire the affirmation of others. We seek external validation that makes us feel better about ourselves. The child wants his or her parents to give approval in order to feel valued. The employee seeks a good performance evaluation to verify competency and efficiency. The student desires the teacher's approval and recognition as an indicator of accomplishment and achievement.

No matter the arena, there is a seemingly inherent desire to be affirmed. In some cases, I believe that the desire for affirmation can be healthy. For many people, it serves as a form of motivation-it becomes the rationale to strive for excellence. The desire for approval becomes the force that pushes individuals to maximize their potential and move beyond the boundaries of ordinariness.

I have found it to be true that the need for external validation can actually be an impetus for greatness and a stimulus for achievement. Still, there is a crippling dark side to the desire to be affirmed. This dark side is unveiled when the desire is not just a contributing factor for one to gain prominence but instead becomes a manifestation of massive insecurities.

There are those whose self-esteem is so low that the only way they feel any value is when others give validity to their existence. They live day to day in that fragile space where the approval of others is tantamount to the air they breathe. It is tragic when the only way that one feels some sense of worth is when that worth is confirmed by other people.

We all know people like this-those whose spirits are so sensitive that they have found themselves emotionally paralyzed by negative evaluations or opinions. I know this to be true because I was one of those people who lived with a low estimation of who I really was.

In my younger days, my insecurities had such a stranglehold on me that I became a person who constantly yearned for validation from others in order to value my own significance. But when you live life that way, pretty soon you find yourself so dependent on the opinions of others that you lose the ability to develop internal mechanisms of affirmation. I had become so consumed with what people thought about me that I lost myself in the maze of others people's appraisals and was no longer recognizable to myself.

Fortunately for me, people are inconsistent; this knowledge helped me realize the foolishness of placing my eternal value in the hands of people who are inconsistent at best.

Ultimately, I was forced to look within and engage in a journey of self-discovery. When I engaged in this retrospective introspection, I was able to reflect on the whole of my life and conclude that my desire for affirmation was based on my insecurities, my insecurities were based on the things I felt I lacked as a person and the things I felt I lacked as a person were based on other peoples' assessment of me. It was a revolving door.

In other words, as long as I continued to need the affirmation of others, my insecurities would remain intact-and as long as my insecurities remained intact, I would desire the affirmation of others. In order to create a different reality for myself, I had to get out of the revolving door.

I made my escape when I recognized that the value and worth of my life is not determined by who others think I am but by the measure of my life against my own heart-a heart that was created and is loved by God.

There is nothing greater than a child of God who recognizes his or her connection to God. Recognition was the key to my own deliverance, and that same recognition of who you really are can be the key to your deliverance. Recognition births connection, connection births confidence and confidence births affirmation. When affirmation comes from within and from God, the heart begins to heal and the insecurities begin to diminish.

Recognize your connectedness today: You are the beloved of God, God's spirit rests on you and in you God finds favor!