• Hazel Mai

Quit the job of having someone's approval

Selfies with a little Sudanese baby girl

I wrote this note in September 2019 when I was in Africa. Now when I re-read it, I'm amazed by how powerful this is and by how I beautifully talked to myself when in doubt. These journaling hours are the times that have helped me grow.

I wrote about how my need for approval from others had taken roots from my childhood and how it'd never served me for my own good. I also included the affirmations I used to deepen my belief in being worthy and being loved.

I hope it will be helpful to those who resonate.


I'd never been the favorite in Vietnam, throughout my childhood, school years and university life. I always yearned for love. I always yearned to be accepted and not be left out. I always yearned for the approval: that I was enough and I was loved.

I needed the affirmation that I was loved.

I remember when I was a child, I always needed to look for my dad's approval. He has been the scariest person in the whole family and the whole world to me - and I think - also to my brother and sister.

If he frowned, there was something wrong with us.

If he frowned, an arrow from his eyes stabbed right to my heart. I got scared. And I tried to escape.

And I was blinded by fear, like a sheep blindly followed any direction that the others told her to follow when the hunter was near.

The fear told me to do what he wanted, to follow his orders, to stay silent so that he wouldn’t get mad.

I did all the things I was told. So that the fears would come to an end. I did all the things I was told, so that the fears wouldn't come back too often.

I was bullied like that throughout my childhood.

Now I still remember those moments when I kept looking at my dad's face in secret to see his expressions.

I did so as to guess how his mood was at the moment.

So that I could know how to continue my conversation.

So that I could know if I should be funny or quiet.

So that I could cheer him up if he looked upset - then he would love me again.

I was afraid of not being loved.

I was always afraid that his anger was because of me. Because I did something wrong. Because I was not good enough. And that if he was not happy, I should make him relieved and smile again.

Strange. I think. I've never had the same issue when it comes to my mother. For me, mom loves all of us. Mom loves us with her whole heart and with everything she ever has. Her love is unconditional and never runs out.

If I did anything wrong, she would get angry. And, unlike my reactions towards my dad, I got angry back at her, a lot of times.

I was never afraid that she would not love me anymore. I was never afraid of her the way I was of my dad. I never had the thought that I had to please her to get her attention.

Her love was never questionable.

Interesting to realize this, I think.

I wonder if it was because I was rejected to be loved by dad so many times that caused me that trauma. Or it was the prizes he promised to give me if I behaved. I don't know. I can't trace back clearly.

I think these pains and scars have been with me from childhood to now - early adulthood.

Every time I found out that somebody didn't approve of something I did, I automatically got panic. Even though they were strangers to me, their approval mattered.

When I was in a social club in university, I got so overwhelmed and depressed every time I thought I didn't do a good job. I stood crying watching someone else being cheered up by other fellows. I was not the one.

I got tired. I wept. I was exhausted. I isolated myself from the world. I thought I didn't deserve "the people".

I stopped and wept. That was the only thing I was capable of.

No one showed up to cheer me up. It was my tiny faith in being worthy that helped me stand up and walk away from the dark place.

I flew away.

I got through so much. Ups and downs. Pains and love. I got panic several times more.

But I've also started to be healed.

The world seems to open wide brightly for me somewhere far away from my home.

Somewhere I can lean in

Somewhere people see me as who I am

Somewhere I can smile and laugh happily even if I know the smiles send wrinkles to my lips corners and around my eyes

Somewhere I scream in pure joy

Somewhere I can act like a tomboy or being manly or get angry whenever I want

Somewhere I am alive.

Now, after experiencing love for the first time, after experiencing having somebody love me unconditionally, I know that I am capable of love. And that I deserve love.

The doubt slowly shrinks, replaced by the abundant love that the world and the universe give to me, every single day, every single second, or every time I pass a male human.

"You are beautiful" – they told me.

The words send tears to my eyes right now when I'm writing them down.

"You are so beautiful, baby".

Right now, as I’m writing this, immense gratitude fills up my heart making me just want to take a moment to acknowledge the love that’s surrounding my world.

I deserve love.

I am enough.

You are enough, Mai. You. Are. Enough.

You are enough even when you screwed up.

You are enough even when the world is telling you that you are wrong.

Even when papa tells you you are wrong, you are ugly, you are not his daughter.

His love is always there.

He loves you.

He loves you.

Your highest soul knows that's true.

Quit the job of having his approval all the time. It is not your responsibility.

He always loves you no matter what.

You don't need everyone's approval. Be yourself. Light up. You are the sunshine. Let the world see you and love you.

You are loved.

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