MattAndJojang's Blog

God. Life. Spirituality.

The Hunt For Approval

with 4 comments

Photo: Stephane Photographie/Flickr

It is a good idea to look at how much we keep looking for recognition altogether. It can be embarrassing, but often, as soon as we do anything of note, it is as if we were little children at a playground shouting. “Watch me, mama! Look at me! Look what I can do!” And when whatever we have done is not acknowledged or recognized, how quickly we get puffy and upset.

This gives us a chance to examine our whole relationship to approval and recognition, even fame. The idea is not that recognition in itself is a bad thing, or that we should not encourage or recognize others. It can be inspiring to see the kinds of creative works, intellectual insights, ingenious problem solving, and acts of heroism and kindness that people have accomplished: it can inspire us to do similar things. Especially in a world dominated by bad news and focus on the many problems we face, it is good to applaud people who do good. The problem arises when we expect our actions to be rewarded.

It is surprising how quickly our expectations trigger emotions such as anger, jealousy, righteous indignation, and self-pity. Instead of being able to appreciate what comes our way, we fester about how we didn’t get the praise or recognition we rightfully deserved. And if what we are doing is all about being seen, when we are not seen, the wind goes out of our sails and we founder.

Another problem with the hunt for approval is that to gain approval you must buy in to the dominant values of the society around you. If what gets approval is getting rich, that is what you strive for; if it is beauty, that is what you obsess about; if it is power over others, that is what you focus on. The desperation for outer rewards goes hand-in-hand with an increasing sense of inner poverty. If you are successful in your quest for recognition, you may be able to ignore what you have given up to achieve it. If you are unsuccessful, you may simply blame the system. But in either case, since you have given over our power to others, you are left empty.

When you notice you are expecting applause, explore what lies behind that expectation. Notice the subtle shift between when you have done something and when you begin to look around you for recognition.

~Judy Lief

Written by MattAndJojang

August 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm

4 Responses

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  1. A nice entry, and a wonderful photograph that illustrates Lief’s point beautifully. It’s titled “Applause”, but it’s really about relationship.

    I just saw this dynamic illustrated in a film I saw yesterday – “The Help”. While the young white mothers of Jackson, Mississippi were seeking recognition through their social structures – Junior League and so on – the “help”, the black women who raised their children, were busy developing relationships. It was a good film, and worth seeing if it comes around.


    August 21, 2011 at 10:01 pm

  2. That’s quite an insight into this article. I never really saw it in that light – that it was about relationships…

    The film seems to be a good one, and ,I guess. the black women got the point. Life is essentially about relationships. It doesn’t really matter in the end even if we are successful in other areas of our life if the important relationships in our life are broken.

    If the film comes around, I’ll surely watch it.



    August 22, 2011 at 9:54 am

  3. It’s also about the concept of selflessness and whether we are able to accomplish it or not, huh?

    Trying to touch God

    August 28, 2011 at 9:52 am

  4. Yes, Kris, it’s about selflessness. Often we seek approval or reward when we do something. As one of the Catholic saints puts it we have to learn “to give and not to count the cost.” Easier said than done…



    August 28, 2011 at 10:38 am

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