“We put so much pressure on ourselves”

Stop Trying to Fit In The desire to be like everyone else, to be accepted and approved of, is rife in our society. As a result, we spend a great deal of time and energy on our image: on polishing and adjusting the presentation we give to the world. I have nothing against taking care of how you look; it is the attachment to approval, which is based on our own inner lack of approval, that is detrimental.

We are so focused on our image, on hoping that everyone likes us, on not offending anyone, on doing the right thing, saying the right thing, wearing the right thing, driving the right thing, living in the right place, and sending our kids to the right school. We put so much pressure on ourselves to get everything right. How do you know when you’re getting it right? When your happiness no longer depends on the external.

“When someone criticizes you, how do you feel?”

If you focus on cultivating inner happiness instead of on creating the external conditions you think you need in order to be happy, you discover the secret to real, lasting contentment. In order to be free of the need to fit in, observe your reactions to approval and disapproval. When somebody appreciates you, how does it make you feel? Does it boost your self-confidence? Does it encourage you to move ahead? What about when somebody criticizes you? Can you receive constructive criticism, or does it unleash an inner deluge of self-flagellation and insecurity? Of course, much of this may not be apparent on the surface: you may endeavor to appear modest or impervious to praise, or to seem receptive to critics. But if internally you are blown this way and that by the opinions of others, then this feigned indifference is simply another layer of the elaborate mask of projected image, itself only present because of our acute need of approval.

Then the first step to transformation is recognizing our own denial, and in doing so, beginning to face our fear of rejection. When we walk toward our inner insecurity and thirst for external validation, we become increasingly aware of our lack of self-acceptance. For the obsession with external recognition stems from our incapacity to give recognition to ourselves. The only way to be free of this need is to find self-love: to give to ourselves that which we seek in others: love, acceptance, encouragement, support. And when we do so, instead of taking from our surroundings, we can give: we can give love to everyone around us and begin to constructively contribute to a society full of people taking responsibility for their own inner joy.