Facing Down The Need For Approval

I’m a bit wilted these days — feeling bent over and dried out. The drive to perform is eating at me; the dancing bear circus act drains.  Doing things with excellence is a good thing.  When pursuit of excellence becomes the crux of my identity, that’s problematic for me. The performance drive inhibits my capacity for joy and rest; it also amplifies my anxious voices.  I’ve been feeling incapable of real and deep rest.  Brief escapism, yes.  Rest, not so much.

At Holy Yoga two weekends ago, my instructor Todd was reading from Jesus’ baptism and temptation story in Matthew 3 and 4.  He started talking about the search for approval as one of the temptations, and that totally zinged me.

As I wind down with seminary coursework and pending evaluations on my performance, I find myself increasingly operating out of a drive for approval.  Please like me. Please think I’m awesome. There’s no space for rest in this mindset because everything is an opportunity to think I’ve let someone down, to think someone is judging me for a perceived mistake.

In simpler terms, it makes me wicked anxious.  And highly neurotic.  And also prone to call J with silly things to have him talk me down from my crazy.  Thank God for that man, and that he is amused by and patient with my drama!  I usually know I’m being ridiculous, but it’s easier to recognize when I say it out loud instead of leaving it in my thought loop.

And then, I found myself struck by these words from Dorothee Soelle, “I do not need to cling to these things because I myself am held fast.  I do not need to carry a burden because I myself am carried (Death by Bread Alone, 82).”

I sat there stunned.  Wrote the words down in my journal.  Soaked them in into my soul. This is the way I wish I was. Not wandering around with a death grip on things I feel like I need to control or not desperately performing to make a grade.  And I have a long way to go to get there.

Lord Jesus Christ — have mercy on me.

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