The Invisible Prison #1 – Need for Approval

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

One of my favorite past times is watching YouTube videos. Recently, I stumbled across a minister I had never heard of–Dharius Daniels, Senior Pastor of Change Church, Ewing Township, New Jersey. The title of his message on this particular video was titled, “The Invisible Prison”–immediately I was intrigued. Pastor Daniels defined an invisible prison as an “unidentified, unaddressed, invisible, emotional issue that you erroneously assume would be straightened out by your spirituality.” He went on to say that an invisible prison is difficult to identify because it has no visible bars. Although thousands of people are incarcerated in penal institutions for various crimes annually, I would venture to say more of us are confined to our own invisible prisons. So let’s name a few–low-self-esteem, insecurity, anger, jealousy, bitterness, control, anxiety, and a need for approval or acceptance. Each of these emotional issues can imprison us without we realizing it. We can go to church every Sunday, sing in the choir, usher, and serve on as many boards as we want; however, Pastor Daniels warns if we do not address the root of these emotional issues, we will continue going to church on Sunday for praise and worship and walk right back into our invisible prison cell when we leave the church building.

In an attempt to minister to the inner self, God has moved me to write a series of blog posts addressing invisible prisons. The first emotional issue I would like to address is the need for approval or acceptance. In an article titled, “What Drives Our Need for Approval?,” Lauren Suval states, “When we aren’t met with approval, we no longer feel safe and protected. When we meet ridicule or rejection, it can undermine our view of ourselves. If we internalize this kind of negative feedback, we can begin to doubt our personal worth. This threatens our sense of security and disrupts our inner harmony.” Because I believe social media has escalated this emotional issue, I decided to interview my 19 year-old son, Kevin, to get his perspective on the subject:

MOM: Kevin, have you experienced the need for approval?

KEVIN: Yes, in high school, I was struggling to fit in with crowds. At the time, I didn’t know who I was so I was trying to figure out what crowds to be in; oftentimes, steering  down wrong roads. I would get lost in the crowd, but wasn’t really working on myself. I wasn’t spending time with myself to figure out who I really was. In high school, I always needed to be around someone to make me feel good about myself or to be cool

MOM: What do you think caused your need for approval?

KEVIN: I began to feel that way after quitting football and after my weight gain.

MOM: What were the repercussions of your need for approval?

KEVIN: I started losing myself. Everything was negative–I was a negative person and did negative things. I didn’t take care of myself (i.e., weight gain); I was just lost. I was partying in crowds that I shouldn’t have been in.

MOM: How do you believe young people are seeking approval?

KEVIN: As a young person, we want to be popular and for everyone to talk about us.

MOM: How do you believe social media has played a part in the need for approval?

KEVIN: I feel social media is a battleground. You are competing to have more followers, competing to be seen, and competing to be cool. If you have a lot of followers, everyone knows you. Everyone looks at how many followers you have.

MOM: How did you overcome the need for approval?

KEVIN: The turning point in my life was when I was by myself and closed off from everything. I could talk to myself and God. Also, meeting new people bringing new positive energy in my life was a big part. As soon as I started finding myself with the positive energy, I started eating right, losing weight, and became a positive person.

MOM: Do you feel that a need for approval is an invisible prison? Do you know what I mean by invisible prison?

KEVIN: Yes, an invisible prison is when you are locked or incarcerated inside. I believe the need for approval is an invisible prison because people can act like someone they are not, but their inside is trapped.

MOM: Thank you, Kevin, for allowing me to interview you.

My son and I have had our challenges, but I am extremely proud of him for acknowledging his emotional issue. I am grateful for his insight, maturity, and his newfound sense of self. He has lost approximately 70 pounds and is coming into his own. There is nothing more rewarding than finding the YOU that God has destined you to be.

Just because I interviewed my teenager, does not mean adults do not suffer from this same emotional issue. If this issue goes unchecked, you can be a 75 year-old still seeking the approval and acceptance of others. In an article titled, “Ten Steps for Overcoming the Need for Approval,” Jo Tavengwa offers a few simple changes you can use to address this emotional issue:

  1. Acknowledge the fact that you are hunting for approval. Once you are aware you are seeking approval from others, you can begin to attack the issue within.
  2. Practice the art of speaking your mind. Stop saying what others want to hear. Hold on to your ideas, values, and beliefs–they define who you are. Speak your mind and let the chips fall where they may.
  3. Find your crowd. Seek people who accept you for who you are. Choose people who choose you; the ones who you can be your true self with.
  4. Do things for you. When you set yourself to new tasks, evaluate whether it is for your own self-growth.
  5. Take control. Trust your intuition, your gut instinct, and do what feels best for you. Take advice from others; however, you must always make the final decision in anything that concerns you.
  6. Meditate. Meditation will feed your soul. It will help you to relax your mind and reduce all the anxiety you feel you need from external validation.
  7. Allow yourself to grow. When you always have room for improvement, you are more likely to free yourself from needing approval. Challenge yourself everyday and accept failure and feedback as a platform for growth.
  8. Change your focus. One of the best ways to eliminate the need for approval is pursuing activities or tasks you are interested in, without asking others for their permission. Prioritize yourself and do things for you.
  9. Establish who you are. Have a clear definition of who you are. Know what you believe in, and understand your morals. Be confident with those ideals, and let them keep you grounded. Stand up for what you believe in, and do not let people sway you from what you believe in. If you stay headstrong, nobody will dare push you around.
  10. Be yourself. Stop worrying about what others think of you, and focus on yourself. It is often very difficult to accept all the little things that make you YOU. If you learn to love yourself fiercely, you will find that nobody will dare to love you halfheartedly. Let go of all the insecurities that are holding you back, and in turn, learn to love yourself for your flaws and your quirks.

If you have a need for approval, determine where this emotional issue took root so you can work toward being released from this invisible prison. By doing so, you can be on your way to being the best YOU you can be. As always, I would love to hear your comments on the subject and please share with a friend. Also, please check out Pastor Dharius Daniels on YouTube–he has an amazing ministry on change and transformation.

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6 thoughts on “The Invisible Prison #1 – Need for Approval

  1. Excellent and relevant subject and material. Today people are under so much stress…social media, a 24 hour news cycle, inhumane and uncivil leadership at the highest levels are just a few circumstances that may contribute to an invisible prison. But God! Thank you for your commitment to this blog and providing grist for the mill for your audience to ponder and support positive change.

  2. Thank you for providing us a tool to examine ourselves and heal. Insightful ,thought provoking and well done as always! I am awed by the insightful in-depth interview with Kevin. A job well done as always.

  3. Another great read from you – you really brought it home with the help from Kevin. It really get you to thinking. Thanks my forever friend.

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