The unexpected praise or apology

I can be ornery. I like to do things a certain way, and I have a hard time apologizing. I am not sure how that happened in life, and how I became so stubborn. I actually think it is an artifact of growing up so fast. My mom became sick when I was 12. The next four years were filled with her. Taking care of her, cleaning our house, paying bills, using food stamps to buy groceries, finding my own way to/from school and other events, the list goes on. It was all up to my sister and me to figure out how to take care of my mom and figure out how to navigate our own lives. In my own way, I grew up so fast, and had to figure out things on my own, that I almost designed my own life very early on. Maybe they are/were coping mechanisms, but those critical years (when I should have been out playing and getting into trouble) I was just trying to keep shit together.

A recent Seth Godin blog titled: “Notes, not received” made me think about how maybe my childhood hardened me into not being the best at giving praise or approval. I rarely got it myself, so how would I learn to give it out to others? The third and last parts are what specifically stood out to me:

An expected apology rarely makes things better. But an expected apology that never arrives can make things worse.

An expected thank you note rarely satisfies. But an expected thank you that never arrives can make things worse.

On the other hand, the unexpected praise or apology, the one that comes out of the blue, can change everything.

It’s easier than ever to reach out and speak up. Sad, then, how rarely we do it when it’s not expected.

I still have so much to learn. I could definitely be better at work, at home, and with friends/family at unexpected apologies AND praise. We probably all can. We all probably have urges and then decide to not act on them. This is my reminder to try harder, let go more, and say what is on my mind. Hopefully it is a good reminder for you too.

Sympathy, Praise, and Approval

A good friend would often remind me in college to: “Never look to others for sympathy, praise, and approval.” I have never forgotten this and often remind myself of this when I feel a void of appreciation or approval from others.

The thing is, I can be a pleaser, and I hate it. I think it originated when I was a kid. Many times things in our house were chaotic, and I think in order to balance out the chaos, I wanted to make everything happy and calm. I think subconsciously I hoped that my parents would notice me if I was just good all the time. I am not sure that ever really worked. I do not think they had the time or space to think in that way, they were too busy trying to just put food on the table. What became problematic about that is that it never really left me. I have days where I hate that I am such a pleaser, and other days when I think it is fine to want to make others happy.

What is strange is deep down I am confident in myself, and I do not really care what other people think, however, there is a part of me that feels validated by the approval of others. Who does not feel grateful and appreciated by the feedback and approval from others?

So when I read this Daily Om this past week, it really resonated with me. Specifically this line:

“We were not honored as individuals in our own right, with a will and purpose of our own, to be determined by our own unfolding. As a result, we learned to look outside of ourselves for approval, support, and direction rather than look within.”

For the most part I think I look within for direction and approval in my life, but I would like to watch for when I might look to others for sympathy, praise, or support and shift my thought back to my own inner guidance and acceptance.

What do you think?