I sit at the kitchen table with my sister who has just discovered her passion for painting. As she paints her latest masterpiece, a picture of Princess Tiana for her 3 year old daughter, I babble on about how my new business is not good enough. How crazy it is that I think I can sell a CD when I didn’t use a recording studio and I know nothing about sales and how clearly I am not good enough? She looks up from her painting and says to me, “why don’t you call Ishtobe (my wonderful friend who reminds me of my truth) because you sure are looking for a lot of approval in this moment.” I hear that and laugh because she is right and I am telling stories that only make me suffer. The spell of self deprecation is over for a moment and I can sit down and admire her artwork. As I do she turns to me and says, “What do you think? Is it good?” I laugh and say “Who’s looking for approval now?” She returns with a smile and says to me with a whining voice “no, this is different.” I coyly smile back and say “What do you think about it?” She huffs in frustration and we are both saved by the ringing of the telephone. As I speak to my friend, her cousin comes into the kitchen looks at her painting and says “Wow that is great, Vicky.” I smile and wave my hand in recognition of the compliment. She sighs and giggles. When I hang up I turn to her with a knowing glance and say, “So how did it feel?” She looks at me in confusion. “How did what feel?” “The compliment,” I remind her, “Josh said that he liked the painting. Isn’t that what you wanted?” She tries to explain, “well, yes, but your compliment means more. He doesn’t know about art.” So, I say to her “that’s cute. you thought that if you got approval, it would be great and then when you get it, you discredit it.” I start laughing because isn’t that how it always is? We constantly look for approval outside of ourselves and then when we get it we discount it. At least that’s what happens to me.
Ultimately when we are looking for approval from outside of ourselves, whatever we get will not be satisfying. If we live with the belief that we are not whole and complete; that we are not enough than no matter how much approval we receive we won’t be able to hear it. The irony is that when we do feel whole and complete we don’t need anyone’s approval.
Rabbi Esther Azar