Do You Like Me?

When we look for approval, it’s like a drug. We think we need it, it becomes addictive and we lose a part of ourselves as we search for
it everywhere. And then, when we get it, we don’t really trust it. It’s a never ending cycle. I remember a time when someone else’s opinion of me felt more important than my opinion about myself. I’d just started dating someone when a friend asked me, “Why do you like him?”

“I like how much he likes me.”

“But do you like him?” she asked.

I had to stop and think about that. I was attracted to himbut did I really like him? I didn’t know because I hadn’t considered it. At the
time, it was enough to simply be liked and desired. But what if my admirer left the picture and I no longer had a mirror to show me a positive reflection? What if the mirror collapsed? Was I okay with that? Or would I have to immediately go on the search for a new mirror?  

I knew a famous monologist, the late Spalding Gray, who wrote
a novel called, “Monster in a Box.” When he was promoting the book, a photographer wanted him to stand up on a tall box for the cover photo. “The surface was really wide,” he said, “but when I climbed  up and stood on it, I couldn’t keep my balance until they placed a large mirror in front of me. As long as I could see myself reflected, I could keep my balance. I had to know I was being seen from the outside.”

Looking for praise and approval on the outside is a dicey
undertaking. It’s a sign that we don’t really like ourselves so we hope someone else will. But it doesn’t work that way. A friend of mine was in a relationship with a lovely woman. He enjoyed being with her and making love with her, he always let her know that – until one day, she got up out of bed, looked into a full length mirror and said, “I hate my body.” From then on, so did he.

Beauty may be in the eyes of the beholder but it starts in our own hearts. When we approve of who we are, “warts and all,” as the cliché goes, other people follow our lead. They are drawn to our openness, our kindness, the warmth in our eyes, our acceptance of ourselves and of them, and the ease they feel when they’re with us.

I was writing a memoir for a news anchor and we were in her town car one morning on the way to the studio. She suddenly looked up from something she was reading and said, “Approval is an inside job.” I hate to admit that I thought, “Duh! Are you just realizing that?” I’m glad I didn’t say it out loud because this many years later, I see that I didn’t give her enough credit. Self-approval doesn’t happen once and that’s it. It has to be renewed on a daily basis. We have to keep reminding ourselves that no matter how many people like us, however we enhance our faces or change the shape of our bodies,
just like my client said, “Self-approval is an inside job.” When the applause stops, when the show is over, when you take off your makeup, turn off your phone and stop looking on Instagram to see how many people are following you and how many “likes” you have on Facebook, you are left with the only opinion that matters. Your own. The next time you hear yourself wondering, “Does he or she like me?” turn it around and say, “Do I like him and do I like myself?”

I remember seeing an old friend after forty years who said, “You used to be so beautiful.” It stung. It made me wish I were younger but I can only be the age that I am and appreciate how I look and feel today. Making peace with who we are and how we look is something we have to work on all the time but it’s worth it. Just think: If you hate your legs because they aren’t shapely like Heidi Klum’s, I know a woman in a wheelchair. If you think your breasts are too small or saggy, I know a woman with cancer who had hers removed. If you think you need to lose ten pounds, I know a woman who died from anorexia. It’s all relative and comparisons never end well. We have the body we were born with and it’s our job to love it, appreciate it and take care of it. Not to hate it and try to change it.

When we approve of ourselves, the whole kit and caboodle, no matter what happens to us or how old we are, we’re giving
ourselves a chance to have a good life and to feel loved and loveable. What could be more important?