13 unmistakable signs you’ve evolved past the need for external approval

Overcoming a desire for outside approval is like learning to ride a bike:

It’s hard and wobbly at first, but once you do it starts to become natural and exhilarating. You can follow your own path instead of worrying what others think or how you’re perceived. 

You’re able to find your purpose in life and work on making it a reality without checking to see what rating and response others are giving it. 

You’re living your life, not looking over your shoulder to see if you’re getting a thumbs up. 

Here’s how you’ll know when you’ve evolved past the need for external validation.

1) Pleasing others isn’t your priority 

If other people are happy that’s great!

But it’s not your priority, and you don’t put your plans last or change who you are just to make others happy. 

You are also very aware of others who do focus on pleasing others and it makes you sad to see:

You can see how people-pleasing undercuts confidence and well-being, and you become much more aware of how harmful it can be to make the happiness of others your focus and your responsibility. 

2) You put your own goals first 

When you’ve evolved past the need for others to approve of you and validate you, you’re willing to put your own goals first.

This means that you have found your purpose in life and you’re not overly concerned with whether it lines up with everyone else. 

If you’re going back to school, starting a business or traveling around Asia with a backpack to find yourself, then you’re going to find a way to do it. 

You’re not looking for a pat on the back from your parents, your friends or society in general. 

Maybe you’re going to Alaska or BC to work on a fishing trawler for a season or to be a fishing guide in the wilds. It could seem crazy to others who hear the plan and want you to stay around places more familiar to you, but you don’t care. 

You’re willing to put your own goals first.

3) You’re comfortable saying no

The power to say no and stick to it can elevate your life in so many ways. 

When you no longer crave external approval or being liked you become much more willing and able to say “no” or “no thanks” and stick to it. 

This means you can begin to assert yourself in the space where there were formerly only the desires and agendas of others. 

Now there is your will and your plans instead. 

This is a massive sea change, a pole shift in which you are now in the driver’s seat instead of anybody else. 

4) You dress and talk the way you want

It was only a few years ago when I realized just how socially engineered many styles and trends are. 

From words and ways of talking to the styles that predominate, I began to realize many are essentially scripted by popular TV shows, music and societal trends. 

Whether or not people realize it, the posters teens put on their wall and the ways adults dress are often part of an underlying image that’s been sold to fit a certain category or role. 

When you’ve evolved beyond this you don’t feel the need to fit an image or role. 

If you are a radical philosopher who prefers to dress like a conservative accountant, you do that. If you’re a stay at home mom who wants to dress in eye-popping dresses that look at home on Rihanna, you do that. 

Why not? You’re not waiting for someone to tell you what you “should” wear or how you “should” be.

This brings up the next point… 

5) You’re willing to be disliked

Wanting to be liked by everyone is a close cousin to people-pleasing. 

Not only is it impossible, it also saps a lot of your willpower and makes your mental process fractured and weak. 

When you come into your power and don’t need external validation, you’re willing to be disliked. 

Many people think they are at this stage but are not. 

They join causes they imagine are revolutionary only to have such causes championed by all their friends, large companies and society. 

When was the last time you felt strongly and openly different about a crucial issue than close friends and you admitted it without shame?

Answer this question and you’ll know how close you are to being willing to be disliked or strongly disagreed with.

This ties into the next point…

6) You’re fine with being different or being the ‘only one’

While you don’t seek out conflict and don’t feel a need to be an iconoclast, you don’t shun it either. 

You’re willing to be different. 

Being the only one is an experience you have had and a feeling you have drunk deeply from. 

You know how it truly feels to be at odds and to be on a different life path from most around you. 

It’s not about glamor, mystery or being special: if life is truly leading you in some unique directions then you own that without the need for external applause. 

7) You don’t react with intense emotions to praise or criticism

When you’ve evolved past the need for external validation, criticism and praise don’t affect you as much. 

People say you’re great or an idiot and you just kind of smile. 

Sure, you care. 

But it doesn’t really shift your primary foundation of living out your purpose and doing your best in your life. 

Your reactions are not dependent on what others think. 

8) You appreciate constructive criticism and discard insults 

At the same time as criticism doesn’t cause you to flip out, you do find it worth considering whether there’s any merit to it. 

You take any constructive criticism under consideration and try to get whatever value you can from it. 

As for random and unwarranted insults, you’re able to let those go without getting too personally invested. 

If somebody has the time and energy to go after you personally that’s their problem. Unless they’re directly threatening you, you’d prefer to just walk away from the juvenile noise. 

Speaking of which…

9) You don’t get involved in petty arguments or debates 

As a person who no longer needs the say-so of others, you stay out of useless debates. 

Not only are they a waste of time, they cloud your mental and emotional judgment and lead you to getting confused and off course. 

In your career, your personal life and your daily interactions, you don’t want the useless static of arguing about useless sh*t.

10) You explore your potential and take risks past the point when most would stop

When you’re no longer seeking to compare yourself with others and seek approval, you’re more willing to test boundaries. 

You push past the limits of what others say are possible or normal and try to invent, innovate and grow. 

You aren’t interested in what others say are possible, because you have your own imagination and your own drive. 

You don’t need to be externally directed or given permission:

You can ask for permission later. 

11) You’re able to enjoy the moment and have fun without worrying about how you look or how you’re perceived

One of the best things about evolving past the need for external approval is that you can have fun and live in the moment without worrying how you look. 

You’re not the one taking selfies and making sure your hair is just right before you head out. 

You’re joking, having fun, engaging in all sorts of activities without being overly self-conscious. 

You’re taking the ride of life at full speed without having to constantly over-analyze or reflect on how it seems to other people or even to ask yourself whether you’re having fun. 

12) You’re able to take a break from social media and not care

Social media is a place many go to these days for validation, likes and commentary. 

Whether it’s “winning” in online flame war arguments or seeing how many likes their new photos get, many folks feel a special dopamine rush from the digital heroin. 

You’ve moved beyond that. 

Your latest photo got 3 likes or 300? Sure 300 is cool, but you don’t feel a fundamental euphoria or reaction at it, and 3 doesn’t really depress you. 

We’re all alive for a short time: why waste it getting high off pixels? 

13) You stick to your decisions even if you get flak for it

Even when you get flak for your decisions, it doesn’t make you back down. 

You stick to what you want to do, while taking advice under consideration. 

But pressure and attempts to get you to do whatever others think is more practical or “normal”? They may as well save their breath. 

You’re on your own path and you’re living your life, not anybody else’s.

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