The best way to get approval is to not need it. Don’t strive to please or impress others but to live up to your own standards of what’s right and admirable.

“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane,” Marcus Aurelius once said.

And insanity abounds among us moderns, where people . . .

  • Watch an average of 38 hours of video content per week
  • Spend an average of 1.5 hours on social media per day
  • Play an average of 6.4 hours of video games per week
  • Spend on average over 90% of their income
  • Are abandoning marriage and religion
  • Collectively watch billions of hours of porn per year
  • Collectively eat over 84 million fast food meals per day
  • Collectively spend over $230 billion on alcoholic beverages per year
  • Collectively spend over $10 billion on marijuana per year
  • Collectively smoke over $250 billion cigarettes per year

. . . while also spending just 17 minutes reading per day (and mostly fiction and novels), just under 2.5 hours productively working per day, and less than 30 minutes exercising per day.

So don’t be afraid to hold yourself to benchmarks that others consider excessive or unreasonable. Don’t insult yourself with shriveled expectations for their sake. Keep your own scorecard for measuring success—one that reflects who you are, not who others want you to be. 

Take in more than merely “winning,” too. Even despicable people can get lucky and win. Can they be the best version of themselves, though? Can they continue to develop and embody more of their potential? Can they be kind, generous, and humble?

Don’t be afraid to speak out against offenses, either. If something’s ugly, say so. If it’s trashy, unacceptable, excessive, unreasonable, degenerate, destructive, or demeaning, don’t let it pass. Shield the naked bosoms of beauty and virtue from the slings and arrows of the deranged and depraved. No defense is too small to make a difference. Remember—sometimes, the finger in the dyke can stop the flood.

Ultimately, the goal is to live with intention and authenticity, loyalty and understanding, love and sacrifice, and dignity and meaning; and then to not need anyone’s applause but our own.