Now more than ever, we as a society are addicted to our phones — and to getting “likes” on our social media posts. And it can work like an actual addiction in our brain chemistry, activating the ventral striatum part of the brain, which is the same area that lights up when we gamble, enjoy a slice of cake, or have sex. But as so many of us know, getting love and approval from outside ourselves is fleeting, and soon we are picking up our phones again, searching for more approval. Author, life coach, and startup adviser Susie Moore is asking us to break free of the outside approval trap in favor of nourishing and loving ourselves. Stop Checking Your Likes: Shake Off the Need for Approval and Live an Incredible Life is not a self-help book but a “sanity book,” showing a way out of the maze of approval seeking and back to ourselves.
We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book.
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Missing. It’s a good word. Too often, our brains skip over the idea that something is missing and just recognize something as being plain wrong instead. This keeps us stuck — and often in despair. As a result, “What’s missing?” is one of my favorite coaching questions to ask almost anyone.
Once I was coaching a lawyer named Elle who made great money and who seemed to have a nice family and a great life overall. She told me she was on antidepressants and couldn’t figure out why she felt so dissatisfied. Everything was “good enough,” so she felt guilty about her lack of joy. I asked, as most therapists and coaches would, “Well, what feels wrong? Or off ? When did this all begin?”
When a doctor can’t identify an illness, they often will classify it as stress or depression. And then we leave the doctor’s office with prescriptions for drugs we don’t necessarily want or that aren’t genuinely a good fit for us. When I hear about this, it often reminds me of the words of the late dancer and musician Gabrielle Roth: “In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions:
- When did you stop dancing?
- When did you stop singing?
- When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
- When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?”
For my client Elle, friends were missing. As part of the sandwich generation — taking care of her aging parents and her kids plus holding down a demanding job — she rarely saw her friends. Seeing friends regularly is a proven way to boost our spirits, lower cortisol, and even ease hypertension.
Just making the effort to reconnect with her girlfriends over sushi (or even a forty-five-minute glass of wine after work when that’s all she could squeeze into the calendar) lifted her up so much that her husband now encourages her to do it regularly. He sees a marked difference in her when she spends time with the women she loves. “They bring her back to herself,” he says.
That Missing Piece
On the path to satisfying your deep, personal desires — when things go wrong or feel off (and they will) — you can always ask, not what’s wrong, but what’s missing. I read this statement a long time ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since because it applies to nearly every problem.
When we think about what’s wrong, we panic. When we think about what’s missing, however, we become creative! It opens us up. We don’t have a stress response but a loving, open, innovative, even inventive response.
It’s a question that addresses the same issues — but with way more success. Do you see the giant distinction here? When my mom was fifty-five, she went to college to earn her diploma in childhood education. She had been a math teacher in Poland before she moved to England, and she missed working with children. But with English as her second language, and a strong Polish accent, she wasn’t confident enough to be a teacher in a new country. The woman earned a master’s degree from the University of Warsaw, which was almost impossible, especially for a woman, during the Communist regime after Hitler’s war.
After the years passed and her five daughters grew up, she went back to school. In an earlier chapter, I mentioned that these days, in her late seventies, she still works as a volunteer three days a week at a local school, where they call her Granny. But I didn’t mention that to get there, she had to get a whole new diploma in England in order to start working again and do what she loves. She encouraged the younger teachers, and as a woman living on her own, she cherished the connection to the community her job gave her, as well as the great contentment.
I respect this woman so much for knowing what was missing and having the courage — at age fifty-five — to join a classroom full of women less than half her age so she could pursue what she really wanted. She addressed what was missing. And it’s been paying off ever since.
When I felt down for a period in my adult life, I forgot to ask myself this question. I kept thinking instead, What’s wrong with me? I’d sit in my office during conference calls, gazing out the window at the New York City skyscrapers, and I’d constantly think, Is this all there is? The big buildings all around me felt like they were making it all worse — a ruthless reminder of other people’s manifestation of their big dreams, while I was listening to cheesy jazz on-hold music waiting for someone who was late (again).
One morning when I was at my corporate job in one of my on-rotation pencil skirts, I was sitting in my freezing office. Doused in artificial light as usual, I numbed my boredom by scouring Pinterest. I saw a pin that struck me, a quote from Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
“Not this!” my soul screamed.
It was time to fill the hole left by what was missing. Deep down, I knew. I loved to write, and I loved to help other people work out their personal problems. These two skills came naturally to me, but these parts of myself were not active in my job at all. And so it began: my side hustle as a life coach and writer. It marked the true start of the rest of my life. There was a gaping hole in making what’s become my life’s work a reality, and I had to fill it. Overnight, after I signed up for life coaching classes at New York University, I felt different. Let’s not overthink this. What’s missing can be found. It’s willing and waiting and wanting to be found. And fast. But no one else can help you harness your inner desires, because no one can feel them but you.
Remembering that you don’t need anyone else’s approval (and that no one else knows what they’re doing either!), answer this one question: What’s missing, my friend?
- So you don’t love your career — what’s missing?
- So your relationship’s in a rut — what’s missing?
- So you want to be closer with your distant sibling — what’s missing?
- So you don’t feel energized most days — what’s missing?
- So you feel life is passing you by versus really being lived by you — what’s missing?
I want to stress that this doesn’t have to be super serious or significant. You don’t have to start a side hustle or a charity, or save the world. As with Elle, the solution can be as simple as one night out a week with a pal.
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Susie Moore is the author of Stop Checking Your Likes and What If It Does Work Out? which was named by Entrepreneur as one of the “8 Business Books Entrepreneurs Must Read to Dominate Their Industry.” A former Silicon Valley sales director turned life coach, she has been featured on the Today show, as well as in O magazine, Business Insider, Forbes, Time, and Marie Claire. She lives in Miami with her husband, Heath, and their Yorkshire terrier, Coconut. Find out more about her work at www.Susie-Moore.com.
Excerpted from the book Stop Checking Your Likes. Copyright © 2020 by Susie Moore.