Approval Needed

In the UK we have these DIY checkouts in the supermarket. You may have them too. They are fully functional checkouts were you can scan your own items (beep!!) and beat the queues. I love the beep.

image of woman saying "I am an acquired taste. Don't like me? Acquire some taste."But the whole process makes me feel bad for two reasons:

Reason 1

I am depriving a fellow human being of paid employment so that I can get out of the joint two minutes earlier. I should be OK with this because I am pro progress and it does no one any good for us to suppress technology. Maybe I feel bad because the survivors of this technological innovation, those yet to lose their jobs, are within eye shot…and the whole thing seems…unseemly.

How did I get to be this soft?

Reason 2

I feel as if I am being taken for a ride by the supermarket. They screw down their costs and make me do work they used to pay someone to do for me and my reward is a few extra minutes, the feeling of being in control (yes!) and of course, the dopamine hit of the “beep”.

I feel like a rat in a maze. Knowing someone is pressing my psychological buttons yet unable to do anything about it.

So I use these machines. And sometimes they talk to me.

When I scan a bottle of addictive alcoholic grape juice drink the machine says…

“Approval needed.”

I need the supermarket’s approval to buy this thing. I need to be over 18. I need approval.

Despite hearing this regularly for years it was only last week that I heard it differently. The machine was no longer telling me I needed approval. The machine was seeking my approval…to exist. I laughed out loud. In my peripheral vision I can see fellow shoppers looking at me.

Approval needed.

The low-self-esteem machine is seeking my approval. Not exactly Hal.

A lot of us do need approval.

From bosses; colleagues; friends; dead people.

I don’t mean the formal kind, as in when you cannot fly first class to Whereeveryoulike, California for a strategic lunch with your eh, PA, without the boss’ signature.

I mean the self-imposed limits to our behaviour that we force ourselves to operate inside in order to gain or maintain the approval of others…this is (just about) OK if the others are pushing hard for us to excel (even then it’s a bit parent/child with us in the child role) but they usually aren’t. They just want you to fit in with their worldview. Their approval is based on arbitrary considerations.

And the crazy part is maybe they don’t even want the role of your approver. They don’t think like that. The whole bloody thing…self-limiting behaviour, seeking approval…is in our head. What a waste of time. And potential.

Best to not seek anyone’s approval. Who are they anyway? How can you ever be your best when you stifle and inhibit yourself?

Don’t try to be great by being approved of. Be great and then people will approve of you.

Greatness is always approved of. It becomes part of the establishment. I remember listening to Public Enemy in the beginning. They were definitely on the outside of the inside. Many years later, they provide the London 2012 Paralympics theme tune.  

The examples of those who chose greatness and as such were approved of are legion.

Now I am searching for an example of someone who chose approval and through it found greatness…I’m sure I’ll think of one…any moment now…

4 Responses to Approval Needed

  1. Robert Sloss June 24, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    In amswer to your question how about Comedians and Actors.

    • Mark Nugent June 24, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

      I’m not sure what you’re getting at Robert.

  2. Neil June 26, 2014 at 7:12 am #

    Dear Mark,

    Thank you for your Blog, it is insightful to me. I’m a reformed engineer now Engineering Manager. People and steel are two different problems, who would have thought…

    This post a helped me better understand a lot of the Design Team’s behaviour. They are always coming to me wanting to do “engineering type work” rather than “just being a designer”. My answer to them every time is why aren’t you? Followed by if you want to be something or someone you are not then it is up to you to make that change. What they are really seeking is approval/permission.


    • Mark Nugent June 26, 2014 at 9:10 am #

      Thanks Neil. It’s weird how people seldom think about their own thinking. We tend to think about things or people or ideas, but never ask ourselves what led up to us going to the boss and asking permission.

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