Have you ever overheard, or been in, a conversation like this?
“Is there something wrong with me?”
“No, not at all.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes of course.”
“I don’t feel that I’m a good person.”
“You are a great person! Funny, generous and thoughtful.”
“I don’t think I’m like that very often. I’m not a very nice person at all.”
“You are lovely (said with less conviction)”
“I don’t feel like it”
“But you are really.”
“Do you really mean that?”
“Yes (with more irritation)! Why do you always go on like this?”
“See! I told you there was something wrong with me!”
On the face of it, this exchange is about unhappiness looking for reassurance and not finding it. Unfortunately we usually only address the surface unhappiness with ever greater reassurance.
However great your reassurance is, it isn’t going to help the deeper wound.
Just below the surface, in the bigger game, the engine that drives the self-doubt swallows up reassurance with ease. This kind of unhappiness is fuelled by shame, guilt, self criticism, even self-hatred.
These wounds can’t be healed by reassurance alone, they need something else.
Tackling the causes of this conversation needs more courage and determination than asking (or begging) for reassurance. It requires being uncomfortable, at least for a little while, as you undo those patterns.
Once that work has been done no reassurance is necessary. When you know that you are a worthwhile person you don’t need to be told, and if you are told you can believe it without difficulty.
‘To seek approval is to have no resting place, no sanctuary. Like all judgement, approval encourages a constant striving. It makes us uncertain of who we are and of our true value. Approval cannot be trusted. It can be withdrawn at any time no matter what our track record has been. It is as nourishing of real growth as cotton candy. Yet many of us spend our lives pursuing it.’
~ Rachel Naomi Remen