Protect your self identity

“That was the day,” Jerry told me. “The day I gave up seeking my father’s approval.”

“Lean too much on the approval of people and it becomes a bed of thorns.”

— Tehyi Hsieh, Chinese educator,

writer, philosopher

“That was the day,” Jerry told me. “The day I gave up seeking my father’s approval.”

Jerry’s family owned a hog operation and keeping the barn clean had become one of Jerry’s chores. After school and every weekend Jerry was in the barn cleaning. It was a job Jerry took seriously — especially on this day.

Jerry desperately wanted to hear the words, “Good job, son.”

On this particular Saturday, Jerry was up early and down to the barn by first light. He cleaned like he had never cleaned before.

He even restacked the straw bales and all but measured the distance between scoop shovel, fork and broom when he stood them up in their designated spot against the wall.

Jerry checked his watch. By his reckoning, his father would be finishing breakfast and could be expected to stroll into the barn in about five minutes. Time for one more quick inspection.

Noticing that one of the pens could benefit from a little more straw, Jerry carefully broke open a bale, carried an armful to the pen and tossed it over the feeder. The wiener pigs scurried through the fresh bedding like happy children prompting Jerry to laugh out loud.

When I began working on my self-esteem, one of the aspects I found especially challenging to overcome was my perpetual seeking of approval. When I began working with clients in a clinical setting, I soon discovered that was one of the biggest issues facing most people.

Seeking approval can be painful and cause tremendous suffering for the one seeking it — especially when approval is not forthcoming.

Like Jerry, if I believe that I need someone’s approval I begin to say the things I think they want me to say and I begin to do the things that I think they want me to do.

I turn into someone I am not. I turn into the person I think the important “someone” wants me to be and in doing so, I lose myself in the process.

There are plenty of strategies for dealing with excessive seeking of approval and they range from positive affirmations to building a personal success portfolio. I think before any strategy is going to work we need to ask ourselves, “Why is approval so vitally important to me?”

I began to seriously reflect on how I act when I believe I need someone’s approval. I compliment them when I don’t mean it.

I exaggerate about my life so they will find me attractive or interesting.

I say what I think they want to hear. I agree with them even when I don’t agree at all.

It became clear that the underlying cause of my seeking approval was low self-esteem. I was motivated by fear and the equally damaging belief that I was in reality unworthy.

When I began to wake up, I began to realize that people either approved of me or they didn’t.

When I stopped seeking the approval of others I began to notice that I started gaining my own approval. I began to like myself and other people began to like that authentic self that I was becoming. For the first time, I began to see who people really were and not who I needed them to be and that included members of my own family.

This realization gave me a life free from manipulation, games, facades and unrealistic expectations.

Upon arriving at the barn, Jerry’s father took a cursory look around. When he got to the pen where Jerry had added the extra bedding he stopped and peered into the metal feeder bunk. He shook his head, cursed, reached inside and then withdrew a small handful of straw.

“How many times have I told you to be more careful when bedding the hogs?”

Jerry stood there for a moment dumbfounded before walking over to the perfectly ordered stack of straw bales and dropping onto one. His father stomped outside.

Jerry sat on the bale trying not to cry. When his father was out of sight, Jerry walked over to where the perfectly placed scoop shovel stood, grabbed it and with a loud curse, threw it down the alleyway.

When other people approve of us, our egos soar but it doesn’t last. Ultimately, it is we who must learn to approve of ourselves.

We can never truly know the mind of another, and even apparent approval may be untrue or, at best, transitory.

Jerry thought he could win his father’s favour by doing good deeds.

Much to his dismay, he learned it was simply untrue.

Yes, boys often seek the approval of their fathers and many go without receiving it. It is important to note that sometimes approval is not spoken but demonstrated by actions.

You may be longing for something that was always there. Even if approval was never there, to live a life based upon a deep and unfulfilled need for approval or anything else for that matter is incredibly damaging to our self-esteem.

Today, when people approve of me, I believe them because I did absolutely nothing for it. The bigger question is, “Do I approve of me?”

“I have found my own approval,” wrote Byron Katie Mitchell, creator of The Work. “And that is really what I have been looking for and I didn’t even realize it.”

Ask yourself the question, “Can I live my life without the approval of (name)?” I think you know the answer. Of course you can, and once free of the need for approval you just might become who you were meant to be: free, learning, growing and approving of yourself.

Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at

Just Posted

The second Leah’s Light 5K walk/run for overdose awareness was held at Kiwanis Picnic Park in Red Deer on Saturday morning. Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff
Child advocate calls for provincial youth strategy to address opioid crisis

Twenty-nine young Albertans died from opioid poisoning in the first three months of 2021

(File photo by Advocate staff)
Youth faces weapons charge after incident at Sylvan Lake Beach

A 16-year-old male has been charged with possession of a weapon for… Continue reading

The viewing tower at Medicine River Wildife Centre is part of the centre’s walking trail. (Photo from Facebook)
Cross-country skiing coming to Medicine River Wildlife Centre

Recipient of $10,000 from 2019 Canada Winter Games Legacy Fund Society

The City of Red Deer is reaching out to the community to see if anyone wants to move and maintain the Scout Hut from 1937. The land it sits on is needed for a women’s shelter expansion. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
City of Red Deer calling for proposals for preserving, moving Scout Hut

The 47th Avenue land it sits on is needed for women’s shelter expansion

Students at Olds College will be learning what’s new in agricultural technology at the facility’s Smart Farm. (Photo contributed)
New agricultural technologies explored by students at Olds College

Olds College is launching a new SmartFarm program to help farmers and… Continue reading

Vaccination, Maple Ridge, March 26, 2021 (Ronan O'Doherty/Black Press Media)
Alberta confirms two patient deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant at Calgary hospital

EDMONTON — A health official says two patients at Calgary’s Foothills hospital… Continue reading

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan's decision to travel to Arizona for a holiday has been sharply criticized by many.
Advocate file photo
Jason Stephan: Quebec’s actions undermine interests of Alberta

Prior to serving as a MLA, I structured many commercial partnership agreements.… Continue reading

FILE - Great Britain’s Andrew Matthews, from left to right, Ben Simons, Toby Olubi and Lamin Deen celebrate after their second-place finish in a four-man World Cup Bobsleigh race in Whistler, British Columbia, in this Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, file photo. British Bobsleigh and Skeleton announced Thursday, June 17, 2021, that the four-man team of Deen, Simons, Olubi and Matthews has been upgraded to the gold medal for a race that occurred Nov. 25, 2017 in Whistler, Canada. The Russian crew that beat them that day has since been disqualified. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Britain upgraded to World Cup bobsled gold from 2017 race

Driver of Russian sled was sanctioned for doping violations

Leylah Annie Fernandez, of Canada, returns a shot Marie Bouzkova, of the Czech Republic, in round 1 of the Rogers Cup women’s tennis tournament in Toronto, Monday August 5, 2019. Leylah Annie Fernandez lost 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3) to No. 2 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in the second round of the Viking Classic Birmingham on Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez loses third-set tiebreaker against Ons Jabeur

Jabeur now heads to the quarterfinals at the WTA Tour 250 grass-court event

Feist performs during the Polaris Music Prize gala in Toronto on September 18, 2017. Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist is hitting the road with what’s described as an intimate and “unconventional production” featuring all new music.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Donovan
Leslie Feist to debut new music in ‘unconventional’ and intimate ‘Multitudes’ show

Calgary-raised artist will debut show at Kampnagel Festival in Germany

Letter: Improvements coming to two intersections in Red Deer to help cyclists

A letter in the Advocate on June 9 with complaints about cyclists… Continue reading

Opinion: Trudeau tight-lipped on Constitution attack

When exactly did Canada become a Constitution-bashing country? For nearly 30 years,… Continue reading

Most Read