Here’s what happens when we look outward for approval

Well, it’s starting.

My second child, who has been so fiercely independent up to this point, has begun making decisions based off of her big sister’s actions.

Is Dorothy wearing socks to bed? Did Dorothy brush her teeth before or after she got in her pjs?  

Some of this is normal and natural, of course. We are often inclined to admire and imitate our older siblings.

But it still gives me pause. I don’t want her to start consistently looking outward for guidance and validation. I know where that gets her.

A favorite author of mine, Glennon Doyle, writes about this pattern of thinking and how inherent it seems to be for women, especially. She was reminded of this when she once asked a group of kids at her house a simple question: Are you hungry?

The boys in the room quickly answered “yes.” The girls, however, paused and looked at each other. Doyle writes that it was in that moment she realized just how conditioned women are to turn outward for permission and approval—even for the most basic things.

When we make a choice based on someone else’s actions or opinions, we’re ignoring our own experience and intuition. This leads to jobs we don’t really want, relationships that aren’t fulfilling, and commitments that feel like burdens.

Do this enough and your gut can go quiet. I have a client who’s unsure if hers even speaks to her. (Of course it does!) She’s always turned to her family before making a decision, so tuning into her own instincts now feels foreign and uncomfortable.  

So what do we do, then, to break the cycle of seeking outward validation, and to instead turn sharply and deliberately inward?

I’ll tell you what I told my smart, strong, autonomous child.

You are born with an internal compass. So stop asking for directions, and start sitting still. Seek some silence. Get really good at hearing the whispers in your mind. What are they telling you?

You already know what you want, what you need. Trust that compass to guide you. (And if you need some help locating it, I’m here.)