At one of my three-day advanced mini-intensive in Santa Barbara we had a wonderful discussion about the difference between approval and appreciation. I had never thought about the difference until someone asked about it. As so often happens when someone asks a question, the answer came through me and others and delighted all of us.
We realized that approval is something we give from our wounded self. Approval is conditional upon the other person performing in the way we want or expect. Approval is manipulative – that is, we give it with an outcome in mind. We hope that the other person will continue to do what we want as a result of the approval.
Appreciation, on the other hand, is something we offer from our loving Adult. It comes from the heart and is offered spontaneously as the heart wells up with feelings of delight, awe, joy, or love regarding another’s way of being. Appreciation has much more to do with essence that with performance. We are appreciating a person’s core Self, who they are and the results of who they are, rather than merely their performance. There is no attachment to the outcome, no expectation that the other should or will continue to perform. Appreciation is a true gift.
Often when someone says they want appreciation or do not feel appreciated, what they are really seeking is approval. It is the wounded self who is not feeling seen and appreciated within. The wounded self then projects outward the need to be seen, understood and appreciated and pulls from others to get this need met. Whenever I hear someone say that they do not feel appreciated, I know that their Inner Child is not being seen and loved by their Adult.
When we are giving ourselves the attention and appreciation that we need and we then receive appreciation from others, it feels wonderful but it is the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. When it becomes the cake itself, then we need to look within and recognize that we have handed over to others the job of defining and validating our own essence.
When you share something about yourself with the intent of getting approval, attention or appreciation, it doesn’t feel like sharing to other people. Instead they feel pulled at to validate you. When you share something about yourself with the intent of offering something to others, it feels like a gift. This is clearly illustrated in the wonderful movie, Good Will Hunting. In this movie the therapist, played by Robin Williams, shares much personal information about himself with his client Will, an angry and resistant young man. He shared it, not because he wanted or needed anything back, but purely to help Will feel safe in opening to his own pain.
We can all challenge ourselves to be aware of our intent when we offer positive feedback to others – is it a true gift or does it have strings attached? And we can challenge ourselves to be aware of our intent when we share things about ourselves – are we giving or trying to get?
CO-CREATOR OF INNER BONDING Dr. Paul is the author/co-author of several best-selling books, including Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By You?, Inner Bonding, Healing Your Aloneness, The Healing Your Aloneness Workbook, Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By My Kids?, and Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God? Dr. Paul's books have been distributed around the world and have been translated into eleven languages. Margaret holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is a relationship expert, noted public speaker, workshop leader, educator, chaplain, consultant and artist. She has appeared on many radio and TV shows, including the Oprah show. She has successfully worked with thousands of individuals, couples and business relationships and taught classes and seminars since 1967. Margaret continues to work with individuals and couples throughout the world -- mostly on the phone. She is able to access spiritual Guidance during her sessions, which enables her to work with people wherever they are in the world. Her current passion is working on and developing content for this Website, as well as distributing SelfQuest®, the software program that teaches Inner Bonding® and is donated to prisons and schools, as well as sold to the general public. Margaret is passionate about helping people rapidly heal the root cause of their pain and learn the path to joy and loving relationships. In her spare time, Margaret loves to paint, make pottery, take photos, watch birds, read, ride horses, and spend time with her grandchildren.