© Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

Approval of others

14 November 1956

Mother, how can one conquer the desire to appear good in the eyes of others?

Oh, Lord!... To appear good in others' eyes, to have public approval? Is that it?

First, the best way is to ask oneself why one values others' approval. For what particular reason, because there are many reasons.... If you have a career and your career depends on the good opinion others have of you, then that's a utilitarian reason. If you have a little, or much, vanity and like compliments, that's another reason. If you attach great value to others' opinion of you because you feel they are wiser or more enlightened or have more knowledge, that's yet another reason. There are many others still, but these are the three chief reasons: utility, vanity--usually this is the strongest--and progress.

Naturally, when it is a reason of progress, the attitude is not quite the same, for instead of trying to make a good impression, one must first endeavour to know the impression one is actually making, in all humility, in order to profit by the lesson this gives. That is quite rare, and in fact, if one isn't too naive, one [new p. 349]usually attaches importance only to the opinion of those who have more [old p. 349]experience, more knowledge and more wisdom than oneself. And so that leads us straight to one of the best methods of cure. It is precisely to come to understand that the opinion of those who are as ignorant and blind as ourselves cannot have a very great value for us from the point of view of the deeper reality and the will to progress, and so one stops attaching much importance to that.

Finally, if one is sincere one desires no other approval except that of one's teacher or one's guru or of the Divine Himself. And that's the first step towards a total cure of this little weakness of wishing to make a good impression on people. Now, if the movement comes from a motive of utility, the one I spoke of first, the question does not arise here, for here we do not depend upon the opinion others have of us, either for living or for our development. So there remains the most frequent instance, the one most difficult to cure: that kind of small, very foolish vanity which makes you like to be complimented and dislike being criticised. So the best way is to look at yourself, to see how very ridiculous you are, how petty, paltry, stupid and all that, to laugh a little at yourself and resolve to do without the compliments of others.

That is all I have to offer.

It is obvious that if it is a matter of yoga, of yogic discipline, an indispensable preliminary condition is to free oneself from this little stupidity of wanting to be appreciated by others. That is not the first step on the path, it is one of the first steps in the preparation for being able to enter on the path. For so long as one needs to be appreciated and complimented, one is a slavish being and a deplorable weakling.

Indeed, it is better not to care at all about what others think of you, whether it is good or bad. But in any case, before reaching this stage, it would be less ridiculous to try to find out the impression you make on others simply by taking them as a mirror in which you see your reflection more exactly than in [new p. 350]your own consciousness which is always over-indulgent to all your [old p. 350]weakness, blindness, passions, ignorance. There is always quite a charming and pleasant mental explanation to give you a good impression of yourself. But to conclude, when you have the chance of getting information that's a little more trustworthy and reliable about the condition you are in, it is better not to ask the opinion of others, but only to refer all to the vision of the guru. If you really want to progress, this is the surest path.

Collected Works of The Mother, First Edition, Volume 08, pp. 348-50