Wednesday, September 7, 2011

approval.

My awesome sister-in-law wrote a post about approval the other day. Read it. She's great.

I was commenting on that post, and the comment got out of control. My fingers just kept going and I realized that this needed to be a blog post, not a comment. Who wants to read a three paragraph comment on Anna's post? Probably not the people who read her blog.

So now I am here. And I'm going to write about approval.

As I was reading her post, I was thinking about how I struggle with approval too. I'm selfish and prideful and insecure quite frequently. Which leads to seeking approval from others. Not good.

When I was in high school, I constantly sought the approval of my peers, my teachers, my coaches, my family. It was honestly probably my main motivation to do things, sadly. Then my senior year came and I didn't have any grades older than me and I didn't have a boyfriend because I got dumped in the summer and I didn't have to worry about college because I knew I was going to NC State and I got this whole "I don't care" attitude. (Kinda like how I don't care about that run-on sentence I just wrote.) Sounds like it would be a negative thing, but it wasn't. It was actually quite refreshing. I didn't care who I sat with at lunch, so I sat with everybody randomly. I didn't care what I wore, and looking back, I actually looked pretty cute - which was rare back then. I didn't care about my GPA, and it turned out much better than the year before when I cared way, way too much. I didn't care about having a boyfriend, so all I had that year was good times with friends - strengthening friendships that are still going strong today, like this one :).

SOOOO did I keep that attitude and do I still have it now? Nope. Not every year can be so carefree. Actually I'm pretty sure that's the only year I could be carefree and get away with it. I had a relationship with God then, yes, but I wasn't trusting Him with everything. I was just kinda living day to day, not worrying, not even really praying about the future and such. Not a good idea, because then college came and BAM everything changed. You know - responsibility and all that stuff. Life altering decisions. Living on my own. Real problems instead of so-and-so was talking about me behind my back during 4th period kind of problems. It was much different. It was back to need approval mode.

I tried out for Storm Squad. Yes, I love the Hurricanes and I thought it would be a blast and such a great college job. But do you wanna know three other little reasons why I tried out? They are the epitome of approval-seeking motivation. They are embarrassing. But I'll share anyway.

Reason #1 - I wanted my boyfriend at the time to be proud to be with me and to not like any other girls. I thought that if I was on Storm Squad there'd be no way he'd dump me or fall for someone else.

Reason #2 - That spring I had gotten a blocked phone call from some meanie buttheads telling me that I was really filling out those sweatpants I was wearing and looked fat. It was multiple guys who left me the voicemail. I wanted them to see that I had made Storm Squad and that they had spoken too soon. Never knew who it was, but for some reason their opinion mattered to me.

Reason #3 - I didn't want to be one of those people who peaked in high school.

How dumb are those reasons?? (The correct answer is "SO dumb".)

Vain, stupid, selfish, etc. I definitely didn't answer with those reasons during the interviews at tryouts.

Fast forward through me trying to gain the approval of different boyfriends and failing each time and searching for the man of my dreams by my own means (way too long of a story). To the part when I finally let go and let God work and He gave me a man beyond my dreams only by His grace and mercy and no act of my own.

You may think I'd talk about seeking Jordan's approval now. Nope. I know he loves me in spite of my flaws and craziness and honestly he's the one person I can truly, completely be myself around. This approval-seeking period of my life has been about all of the other people in his life. I'll explain.

As I've explained in posts like this or like this, Jordan and I have had kind of a whirlwind dating-engaged-married quickly kind of relationship. Also, Jordan had not had a girlfriend before me. So, as you can imagine, his friends and family were kind of taken aback by our whole thing. I can't speak for all of them, but I think a lot of them were pretty shocked.

So basically ever since we started dating, and definitely since we got engaged, I've been seeking the approval of Jordan's family and friends. Beyond wanting them to like me, I've just wanted them to think that I am indeed perfect for Jordan and that they are happy that I'm the one who's with him for good. I've wanted them to believe what we know - that God created us for each other. I know some of them do think that. But in my mind, I want every single person he knows to think that. Haha.

It's just kinda tough when the man you married grew up with the same friends for all of his life and a big family and you're thrown into the mix pretty quickly. They had never been around Jordan with a girlfriend. Now they're around him with a wife. I totally understand why it would be weird. But that surely bumped up my level of insecurity in the approval department. Also, add in the fact that these people are extremely cool and that ups the intimidation factor as well.

It was hard to be myself at first. After a family gathering or a get together with his friends I found myself fretting about how I wasn't outgoing enough or didn't show my personality enough and they probably thought I was boring and not very smart and an airhead girl who just sat there and giggled at everything. I keep switching verb tenses here because I'm not really like what I just described any more - time has helped that, but I still have insecurities with wanting their approval for sure.

So now that I've reflected on my struggle with approval from pretty much my whole life (if you read all of that, then you probably know way too much about me now so bless your heart), I realize that ultimately the approval I've been seeking isn't about those people. It's about me and the pressure I put on myself. I mean, what am I waiting for, someone to come up to me and say, "Ashley, because of your great personality and high level of likability, I now officially approve of you," and then stamp me?

Do I need to return to an "I don't care" mode? How do I balance between not caring at all and wanting approval too much?

Well, the amazing thing is that God "approves" of me. And it has nothing to do with me earning it. Because Jesus died on the cross for me and took my place, God counts it as righteousness. Pretty mind boggling when I think about it. It makes me thankful beyond words. I'm not only stamped with approval, but a giant stamp of "REDEEMED" is what God sees on me.

"For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for He was looking ahead and including them in what He would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus." - Romans 3:23-26

Wow. And I worry about how much certain people like me? How selfish is that? Basically I'm wanting to bring glory to myself, when all I should be doing is focusing on bringing glory to God.

This is definitely something I need to work on. Like...right now. And when I say work on, I mean change my attitude completely. Through God's strength, because my sinful little self can't do it on my own.

Any other people besides me and my sweet sister struggle with this?

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post, Ashley! I think as a response to your response to Anna, I will blog as well. :)

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  2. it's funny how the Lord works through people we don't even really know to speak on the exact kinds of things we really need to hear. i think a lot of time pride blocks us from being able to see that if we'd stop worrying about who "approves" and start focusing all of that energy toward blessing others and honoring the Lord, our lives would be so much more fulfilling.

    thanks for your perspective and honesty, ashley!

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  3. Hi Ashley,
    I am truly blessed by your post. I struggle with this whole thing about "everyone else" approving of me, rather than fully relying on Gods approval.
    It's definitely hard to try to conquer all of the getting everyone else's approval, it seems like very way you turn, you fail. I know what you mean and it's also hard to get into the mode where you just let God have total control over your life. Thanks for posting!
    Faith

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  4. I remember in high school always wanting to be friends with the cool people. I hoped that if only I could be friends with them, then everyone would like me. But instead of trying really hard to fit in, I just kind of did the opposite and acted like I didn't care; I just created a tough exterior. By senior year, I had come out of my shyness and started trying to just be myself no matter what others thought. And you know, that's when I started making friends with new people!

    I had also been jealous that everyone else had boyfriends all through high school. But if I couldn't even make friends, I sure wasn't going to have a boyfriend. Once again, senior year, I decided that I was going to stop worrying about it and leave it up to God. The next two years of my life came with a lot of changes, but in that time I had completely stopped worrying about finding the man for me. And then one day, there he was!

    I think it's hard to not worry what others think of you when the whole world is telling us we should worry about it. That's why we should trust God and His plan! It works every time!

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  5. I definitely feel like this a lot! I am always wanting approval, and like you said it's vain, selfish, and stupid. I find myself wanting approval of people I have just met and probably won't ever see again, or of people who are around me a grocery stores such as cashiers etc. Why? I have no idea except that I want to be liked no matter if I ever see that person again. Once again, stupid!

    But moving on to you wanting to be approved of in our family...I for one approve very much!:) At first I was definitely shocked, that Jordan was getting married, not only that, but to a girl that he had only been dating a couple months! Skeptical is probably the word I would use for how I was feeling...but after I sat down and really thought about it, I realized that this had nothing to do with my feelings, (which in reality I think it was me being jealous that I was losing my closest cousin to another girl!) but that it was about Jordan and him being happy and following God's plan for his life. Once I put that aside and decided that it was either lose Jordan completely or get to know you(his soon to be wife), I decided hey what can I lose from another cousin my age! And surprise surprise, I love you!:) And see now how perfect y'all are together!! And that was a very long and drawn out way of saying, I love you very much, and have loved getting to know you:)

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  6. agreed. It's totally in the depths of who we are as women to want acceptance (but to seek for it wrongly)! Another thing that I've thought about blogging for a long time, which I think goes hand in hand with this, is comparison. oy.

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  7. Absolutely, Ashley! If I worried half as much about what God thinks of me as I do what others think of me, I'd be a much more godly woman. It is a constant battle, but one that is won by daily reminding myself about God's thoughts of me and love for me - which makes me worship Him - so my thoughts turn to Him instead of myself. . . most of the time. :-/

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  8. Sweetie, WE APPROVE, WE APPROVE!!! We love you just the way you are and know that you're so right for Jordan! It's so incredibly hard not to seek man's approval but it is completely unnecessary when we're accepted in the Lord Jesus and seeking His pleasure above all else. I'm still learning this, too. Know that we adore you and are so thankful for you in all of our lives!!! "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe." Proverbs 29:25. I love you! Thanks for sharing. :)

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  9. Even in our "older" years we still seek approval. The most important thing, though, is what the Lord is teaching you and that is knowing HE accepts you and loves you where you are. He takes you and molds you into His image. That is what living is all about. I enjoy reading what the Lord is teaching you!

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  10. This touched me and spoke to me. How right you are. I too am way to concerned with approval- when really I just need to seeking God's approval! I went to high school with you, and the laughs we did share together, I still remember :) Reading some of your blogs, I am surprised you were so insecure! I remember you always being the prettiest, most fun, and best dressed, as well as always being kind to everyone. I think you have learned so much over the years and grown into such a godly young woman. I am happy that you grow in Him daily and are not afraid to share your struggles with others. Praying for you and your new marriage, Ashley! <3

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  11. I just read this again because of how strongly it spoke to me. Man! Couldn't have been better said. The comment above was from me as well, haha.

    A.M. Anonymous

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