Your intent determines your behavior and your feelings. Let’s take an example. Jessica is married with two children. Jessica grew up in a family where she was trained to define her self- worth through other’s approval – that is, Jessica believes that if others value what she does, she is okay, but if they don’t, then she is unworthy and unlovable. Therefore, Jessica’s almost constant intent is to get love and approval. She does this by trying to do everything perfectly – the house has to be perfect, the food has to be perfect, she has to get everyone the perfect gifts. She believes that if everything is perfect, she can have control over how others feel about her and she will get the approval she believes she needs to feel worthy.
The problem is that trying to do everything perfectly creates a lot of stress. Whatever means we use – whether it be perfection, compliance, anger or blame - we will always be stressed when the intent is to have control over getting love and approval. Because Jessica does not know how to define her own worth, she feels empty inside until she gets approval. Once she gets the approval, she feels a moment of fullness, which rapidly disappears and then needs to be filled again with more approval. Others around her feel her pull for approval, and may also feel stressed in the face of it. They may like what she does for them, but they may not feel loved by her giving to them to get their approval.
Stephanie is also married with children. Stephanie also grew up to believe that her worth was based on other’s approval. However, Stephanie has done enough inner emotional and spiritual work to learn to define her own worth. Because she is no longer dependent upon others’ approval to define her worth, she is free to express herself in ways that are loving to herself and others.