You’ll Never Get The Approval You Think You Need

To Achieve Your Goals, You’ll Need a Certain Kind of Selfishness

When the answer to all your problems stares you in the face, no matter how hard you close your eyelids, you’ll still feel the bright red bulb of truth from the other side.

My motivation always runs out: I’ll get a 30-day streak of conscious creation, even meet my mentor face to face, write about the lessons I’ve learned about how to create no matter what. Then, something would happen — anything — just for me to retreat to my previous shell.

“I need a better computer to edit the kind of videos that I want. I need a better schedule. The dog takes all of my time. My parents didn’t want me to get a job while in college so I never learned how to be responsible. My accent makes it harder for me to adapt to America. I am an introvert, I need to schedule my time to recharge. I am scared of getting into an accident, that’s where my fear of driving comes from. My wife currently handles all our bills, I don’t need to think about money so hard”.

Alas, as I write this list and read them myself, I can feel the knot in my stomach. The twisted sphere of untruth writhing in laughter at my self-serving ignorance. Plus, this list is a short one.

“Give me a good reason, and I’ll find an excuse” — me

On the one hand, I know what I need to do. There’s no shortage of the advice in books, Youtube, Instagram — we’re flooded with the wisdom needed to start, sustain and thrive at whatever we choose to do with this life. I’ve made my own videos. I am all too aware of how precious life is.

Or am I?

Do we really know how short life is? Why do we need so many reminders? Why do we all know it is, but never seem to act like it?

Or…is it just me?

For all the times I have been able to rise above my excuses, there’s one thing that keeps repeating: a certain kind of selfishness.

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Photo by jurien huggins on Unsplash

In 2012, when I decided to drop out of Medical Laboratory Science to study Journalism and Mass Communication, I told my parents. Never asked for their approval or advice. It’s one of those miracles of life where the thought came to me and I followed through. They feared I wouldn’t get admission — until I did — and that lack of external faith never bothered me.

As I completed in 2015, right when I had the arrogance to think I had figured life out, I went back to my pattern of seeking parental approval and searched for a job as instructed.

It was a great experience and I learned a lot. But, if I could go back, I wouldn’t choose that route. I’d rather be homeless, sleep on whatever was available and pursue my dream to blog for a living. It was Cameroon, I would have survived. I had friends I could count on, and I was smarter than I wanted to admit. No time machine to fix that.

Oops.

Which is why in 2016, I was selfish again. I attribute this move to The Unmistakable Creative Podcast( through an amazing turn of events, I met the host this year). I quit the internship, moved back to Buea, homeless and without a plan. I just knew I had to go.

I lived with my girlfriend at the time ( and ran out of her home), I moved in with my brother ( and found a way for him to kick me out). My mother pulled through in a way that only African mothers could and got me money to find a house. Through another series of selfish acts, I returned to study for my Masters and found a job at IYA Buea where I grew so much as a writer, poet, event host, and human.

In 2018, I got engaged and decided to move to the US before even telling my parents.

Do you notice a pattern here?

As I reflected on my life recently to see where I had gone wrong in the past 2 years, I realize that I have simply fallen back to my old approval-seeking patterns. It starts with me getting an idea, running it by someone I trust. If they approve, I’m ecstatic. If they don’t, I give up.

I give up even before trying the idea.

That. Is. Not. Healthy.

I know this. You know this. But even scarier, is how much I have proof of the returns of selfishness and still fear I would be judged by the people I love if I did what I wanted with or without their approval. Especially because we’re *not* talking about illegal goals or immoral ideas.

We’re talking about work, purpose and life dreams; those scary things that make our hearts beat faster; the things we love to do and have a knack for. The things that take work, long hours, lots of learning and failure.

Those things that make us, us.

Why can’t I see past this need for approval?

I’ll have to deal with that with my therapist. Then, realize there’s a difference between waiting for people to see the vision we have in our minds and showing them.

We need a certain kind of selfishness to become successful. We need to define that success for ourselves, what it will take to happen, and then go after it.

The people we love will be against us. They’ll do their best to keep us safe, show us the path that worked so we don’t have to struggle. Parents, friends, spouses — all the people who want us to be safe — find it hard to let us dive into the unknown.

I know this because I do the same with my siblings. Especially my brother: I try hard to come back full circle to remind him that it’s his life and in the end, he’ll be the one to pay the price of his decisions.

It’s true that our loved ones are affected by our decisions, but…what if…you succeed?

What if that business thrives and you can now tell your spouse to do whatever s/he wants because you can now hold the fort after years of working hard?

What if you didn’t see your son walk but now you can pay for his college without him starting with debt if it’s something he wants?

What if you can go for that dream vacation without having to sacrifice the necessary car or home update?

What if this is what you were meant to do with your life and as you lay in your last day, you look forward to death because you did everything you had to do?

What if?

No one can see the images we have in our minds of the lives we want. We can paint it, write it on Medium, make videos, but the only way to prove someone wrong (or right) is to show them. No one will make the sacrifices necessary for our dreams but for us, and only you know if the price is worth paying.

Trying to convince the people around you to believe in a dream you have is not fair.

It’s scary to take loans. How do you justify being absent for most of your child’s life and want your wife/husband to be excited about it? Why should your parents be glad that you’re dropping out to follow a path they’ve only watched others fail at?

It’s not fair. They’re doing their best too and you have to make it easier, not harder, for them. You have to do what it takes while realizing that their approval may or may not come depending on how much you can back your words with acts and results.

It might mean going against the grain, shutting-off some friends, staying home instead of hanging out, being the odd one.

You’ll have to accept that red fear burning through your eyelids. No looking away this time.

If you ever feel the fear of being selfish because the person in front of you can’t understand what you’re working toward here’s my short life tutorial.

1. Hanlon’s Razor:

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Stupidity can be replaced by fear, ignorance, worry, doubt, love, etc. Those who won’t agree with your idea don’t usually do it with evil intent.

2. Choose to be Selfish:

It’s a conscious decision for people who care. It’s realizing that what you were sent to do on earth, no one but you can do it. You have to do what you have to do. You have to pay the price.

3. No matter what happens, do you best:

Keep costs low, work hard, learn, gain skills, partner with others, be responsible, take measured risks ( you know the drill :) )

You don’t deserve any of it anyway. That is true selfishness. When you know that all you get comes from a source that gives freely and all you can do is follow your heart and do the work.

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do”

— Henry Ford

Written by

Cameroonian writer and video creator. Featured in LEVEL and P.S. I Love You. I write about building relationships and personal transformation.

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