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Your Healing Journey Step 3: Understanding What’s Holding You Back

April 11, 2024

Repeat after me: I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself.

When you are stuck in a cycle of trauma, drama, and defeat, this can seem like an impossible statement to believe. But it truly gave me pause to stop and think – do I actually need the external validation I seek? 

The answer was “No!” It’s just like Confucius said, “What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.” In my time as an executive coach and author, I’ve found it to be true time and time again. 

In this blog, I will show you that you have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself, and we will take steps to understand what is holding you back. Before you launch into this article, I want to ask you an important question – did you answer the questions in the last blog and learn to acknowledge and honour your struggle? If not, go back and do that. If so, then let’s learn about what is keeping you latched onto your trauma and unable to move on. 

As always, let’s say out loud, “I’m the master of my destiny, not a victim of my history. I have courage, humility and discipline.” I know its repetitive, but I want you to hear it, and I want you to hear strength growing in your voice as you do. Ready? Let’s move on to the next step and understand what is holding you back. 

What did you feel you should have been acknowledged for but weren’t? 

This is the first big question of this blog. Like it or not, there are times in all our lives when we feel we should have been acknowledged or recognised for something we have done or achieved. If unchecked, it can negatively impact our self-esteem and even build a sense of invisibility (not the magical kind) or resentment. It could be any number of things, but here are some examples. 

  • Maybe you should have been acknowledged for the things you did as a son, daughter, sibling, etc, but weren’t. 
  • Maybe you should have been acknowledged for your sacrifices as a friend, partner, supporter, or lover? 
  • Maybe you were overlooked at work, and someone else took the credit for your ideas or efforts. 

What was it for you? Let’s do an exercise. What did you feel you should have been acknowledged for but weren’t? Write down the scenarios in the left-hand column and the reasons in the right. Trust me: You aren’t being petty. You are giving yourself space to acknowledge YOU.

The battle for approval

From childhood, our innate desire for approval shapes our behavior, initially seeking it from parents to navigate the world. As we mature, this reliance on external validation extends to family, friends, and society, creating an unconscious prison hindering fulfilment. Seeking approval isn't inherently wrong; it is often driven by admiration for positive role models. However, its impact becomes problematic when it dominates our lives, leading to a constant need for validation rather than an ability to find it within.

  • “Hey Mum! Look at me! I can ride my bike” becomes 
  • “Hey Dad! Look at my transcripts. Are my grades good enough?” becomes 
  • “Hey world. Am I good enough?” 

In the beginning, its normal and healthy. But it can grow into codependence or low self-esteem

To understand this pattern, let’s do an exercise. Identify whose approval you unconsciously seek—parents, siblings, friends, or role models. Examine what you aim to prove through their validation: being a good son, a cool friend, or something else. The need for approval is ultimately tied to seeking validation.

Reflecting on how approval-seeking manifests in your life is crucial. For instance, if seeking approval from an education-valuing parent, you might manifest it by associating only with intellectual friends, choosing accredited universities, and collaborating with highly educated individuals. The exercise encourages introspection to uncover these patterns and their impact on your life. Have a go! Fill out the following sheet to help understand whose approval or appreciation you are really seeking. Some of it may be conscious. Some may be unconscious.

I need you to know something now: you don’t need to prove yourself to any of these people. You don’t have to prove anything to anybody in this world but you. Your life and your journey are between you and yourself, so stop trying to prove yourself to others; stop looking for approval from someone else. Instead, seek approval from yourself.

Before we move further, I want you to say: "I love and approve of myself." Please say it loudly. It might be difficult to say it out loud for the first time. But don't worry. Say it to yourself quietly. That's okay too. As you progress you should be able to look yourself in the mir­ror and say it loudly, and lovingly.

You will be shocked by how people find it difficult to look themselves lovingly in the mirror for a few seconds, let alone say something like "I love you." I promise it will be worthwhile if you give it a go.

Give it a try. Practice as many times as it takes to be able to do it.

Frustration = expectations – reality 

I know a lot of people started this healing journey because of frustration. Let me tell you something -- The reason you are frustrated in life is simply that frustration equals expectation minus reality. It's as simple as that. You expect one thing, but something else happens in reality, resulting in frustration.

It happens to all of us. But what you do you about it? We will cover that in the next blog – releasing your negative emotional baggage 

With you for the journey!

Moustafa Hawmi 

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Moustafa Hamwi - Keynote Speaker, Coach, Author