(My riff as a transwoman in recovery on the PurposeFairy series 9 Reasons Why You Should No Longer Care About People’s Approval; all creative credit belongs to to that author.)
Every time I hit a Like Facebook button, I take a calculated risk. I am saying to that person or page and indeed to a larger world that I approve of what I’m seeing, hearing and reading. The converse – when somebody else approves of what I’ve said, they also share in a calculated risk.
I cannot live purely on the strength of another person’s approval. Approval itself is to0 nebulous, too fleeting. I need to be able to stand on my own when approval does not come. I need to realize that approval from those about me carries a price tag for that person which feels real even if it is not.
I also know that someone else’s approval has to be based on incomplete information. No other person can truly know what is in my mind or in my soul. She can approve of something I’ve said in which I was simply wrong. He can miss the truth of what I said because I did not communicate clearly and not approve.
All told, my personal self-worth, my happiness cannot depend on external approval. But that doesn’t mean it feels any less important or fulfilling when I do get it.
Within my goal in life to be authentic, I work to appear as a mostly normative middle-aged woman. I dress like a lot of other women, appropriate for where I am, whether in grocery store or church. I learn how to walk as other confident women I observe. I meet people’s eyes with an openness but not necessarily with a challenge. My name is Denise and I expect and request that others use it appropriately. In the process of this transition, my authenticity makes me happy and at the same time usually gives me some kind of tacit approval, some subtle validation from those around me.
I wish it always worked that way. Approval is nice when I get it. I’m grateful for the willingness to at least try to understand who I am. But when I don’t get it, I’m no less happy. I’m happy because I finally get who I am.