At such a young age we begin to seek out approval from others. It begins as toddlers looking to our parents for approval, as adolescents it's our friends, and once we enter the working world it's all of the above in addition to our boss and colleagues. It seems we are constantly seeking out the approval of others.

In my yoga class a few weeks ago the instructor quoted a sociologist whose teachings he had studied. The quote by Cooley goes like this:

"I am not what you think I am.

I am not what I think I am.

I am what I think you think I am."

I was blown away by its simplicity. The more I thought about it the more I came to realize the meaning it held for me. My interpretation goes like this "It's not how you see yourself, it's not how others see you, it's how you think others see you that runs your life." It's the "runs your life" part I want to address here.

I don't know about you, but I have made many decisions (some of them real doosies) based on what I thought someone else thought I should do. Or how about this, have you ever chosen to wear a piece of clothing because you thought it would impress a particular person you would see while wearing it? Do you buy (or avoid) certain name brands because of how you think others will think of you for owning them? Do you make business decisions based on how you think others will judge you? How about parenting decisions based on what others are doing even if you don't fully agree? This is what I mean by "running your life."

For so long I was at the mercy of the people in my life. They, of course, had no idea. (Those from whom we seek approval rarely do.) As some of you know, before I became a coach I was a Nanny. I was so concerned about what others would think about that as a profession. I was in my mid 30's after all, college educated. I thought that they thought that there must be something wrong with me -- that I couldn't do anything "better" than take care of someone else's children. If I saw people I knew I would do whatever I could to avoid them so I wouldn't have to deal with the embarrassment. I was afraid of what they might think.

What I came to understand later was that these were all my own inadequacies that I was imposing on others. I felt ashamed and lost because at that time in my life my personal and professional lives were in shambles. I learned years later that these same people I was avoiding actually admired me for taking on one of the most difficult jobs there is. I didn't see it that way at the time so I imposed my feelings, my judgments on them. Very similar to a self-fulfilling prophecy, I'd say!

So, many of your decisions are based on your thoughts about what others will think, say or do in response to those decisions. What now? I've spent a lot of time on this myself. I've learned a lot about positive thinking and changing your thoughts to change your life, and all that good stuff.

Here are some practical steps that I have found useful to help me activate my inner guidance system in order to trust my SELF, and make informed decisions on which I can stand strong, and feel confident.

Since you are working on developing a new muscle, Let's call this your "trusting-my-decision-making" muscle. Take 30 - 60 minutes with a cup of tea in your favorite space and do this exercise on your own. Don't share it with anyone until you have completed it. Trust that you have all you need to succeed here.

Let's start with a simple example:

1. Identify your choices. Let's say you've been asked to stay late at work two nights this week. Your choices are to stay late or not to stay late.

2. Create a Yes/No chart.

Take a piece of paper and at the top write:

By Saying YES to ____________ (fill in the blank), I am saying NO to ______________(fill in the blank).

Do this until you run out of things to say Yes to.

Then write:

By saying NO to _________________ I am saying YES to __________________.

Do this until you run out of things to say NO to.

In our example it may look like this:

By saying YES to staying late, I say NO to my Yoga class. By saying YES to staying late I say NO to putting my kids to bed. By saying NO to staying late I honor my commitment to my family.

3. Make your informed decision.

4. Check your gut. Once you have completed #3 check in to your body. How does this decision FEEL? Is there resistance? Tension? Excitement? Relief? Joy? This is your chance to trust that Inner Wisdom. Go with what feels good, what feels right.

Your Personal Development Assignment

Start small. Use these steps to make the simple decisions you face every day. What's for dinner? Do I check email one more time before I leave work? Do I go to the gym or the grocery store? For the big decisions definitely take the time to sit down and write out the steps. For the smaller ones, you can do it in your head, if you work through the steps completely.

Then when a bigger decision comes your way you will have strengthened this muscle and you will be better equipped to use it and feel more confident about your decision. Once you feel confident in this process and you build your trust in your Inner Wisdom then you can check in with others if you still need to. Be sure to check back in with your SELF before you go and change your mind. If you always go within you will never do without!

Author's Bio: 

Aimee Yawnick has been mentoring women to make personal growth and development a priority for over 15 years. First, in the Health and Fitness Industry, now as a Personal Life Coach. With proven tools and systems Aimee helps her clients move swiftly and smoothly from a life of just going through the motions and merely existing to being an active participant and living life to the fullest!

If you are a highly motivated and results-oriented woman who understands the value of developing your SELF, and you are ready to accelerate your personal growth in order to play a BIGGER GAME in your personal and professional life, contact Aimee now.