You don’t go to a toy store for a gala dress.

You don’t go to a bodega to get a root canal.

You don’t go to Copenhagen for a perfect croissant (apologies to any amazing Danish bakers out there, but you get what I’m saying!).

So why do you stay in a relationship with someone who’s afraid of commitment, when you’re looking for a life partner?

Why do you continue seeking validation from a boss who never approves of you?

Why do you try to get emotional support from a parent who has never once asked you how you were feeling?

Why are we so often committed to trying to get people to be something other than what they are, or give us something they don’t want to or aren’t capable of giving us?

This phenomenon has nothing to do with your partner, boss, or mother.

It is entirely connected to your thoughts about yourself.

Hunter-gatherers lived in tribes where their survival was dependent on other people. Because of this, our ancestors were predisposed to constantly seek approval and fear rejection, because acceptance by the tribe was their only lifeline.

Now, of course, your physical survival isn’t contingent on acceptance by your disinterested f*ck buddy.

But your primitive brain doesn’t know that.

Add to the mix social conditioning that teaches women that pleasing everyone is the most important thing in our lives, that our value is limited by what other people think of us, and we have the perfect toxic brain storm.

We are primed to fear rejection in our more primitive mind, and even our more evolved prefrontal cortex is socialized to scan for rejection EVERYWHERE and to take EVERYTHING personally.

What does that mean?

When we DO experience what we perceive as rejection, we make it personal.

We make it mean that we are unworthy, unlovable, bad at our jobs.

Then we get to work trying to “fix” ourselves and measuring our “success” by whether we get approval from the person we think is rejecting us. We go to Copenhagen for croissants.

In other words: we hustle for our boss’s approval, our partner’s commitment, our parent’s validation.

No matter how many times this fails, we keep doing it because our brains can’t imagine any other way to get relief from the thoughts and feelings it has about rejection.

Whether or not you’re conscious of it, this is what’s happening when you fixate on trying to get some kind of love or acceptance or validation from someone else.

The good news is that you can break this cycle.

You just need to understand WHY you are doing this in the first place, and what thoughts you need to change in order to stop.

The reason this happens is pretty simple, and ironically it stems from your brain trying to take care of you. Here’s a little window into your brain’s thought process:

  1. Oh shit! This person not calling me back / criticizing my brief / forgetting my birthday means something bad about ME

  2. I’d better try to figure out how to get this person to act differently so I can get their acceptance and feel better about myself and prove that there isn’t anything wrong with me.

Even though the basic thought pattern is the same, your specific motivations might vary from person to person.

You may be turning to a parent for evidence that you are successful, or to a friend for evidence that you are accepted, or to a boss for evidence that you are smart enough.

By exploring each relationship where this pattern exists, you can find out precisely what you’re trying to get from each person and why.

Ask yourself: 

  • What is my thought about their behavior?
  • What am I making it mean about me?
  • If they acted differently, what would I get to think and feel?

Because here’s the truth:

Whenever we fixate on changing how someone else feels about us, whenever we hustle for their approval or acceptance, we ignore our OWN ability to give ourselves exactly what we need.

Even if other people DO end up changing their behavior, all we’ll really feel is a temporary validation high before we start the cycle all over again. Because once you give someone the authority to decide if you’re good enough, you have to keep trying to get them to prove it over and over.

The only thing that ends this cycle is when you stop it in your own mind.

You stop going to Copenhagen for croissants.

So the next time you find yourself trying to get validation, or love, or something else from someone, just remind yourself that you’re going to Copenhagen for a croissant.

And then pull out your metaphorical cookbook and make your own damn croissants.

Give YOURSELF validation, love, and acceptance.

That is the only way you will ever feel free.