I felt good about it. Then, I felt weird about it. What is this need I have for people to “like” my posts. Am I a people pleaser? Worse yet, has it morphed into something stronger and more limited like an approval addiction?
What is Approval Addiction?
“Approval addiction,” says Amy Pearson, a master certified Martha Beck life coach, “is the intense desire to obtain approval and avoid rejection.”
Psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber describes it this way: When how we feel about ourselves depends on how others react to us, we are dealing with an unhealthy need for approval.
That intense desire for outside approval then shows up through a variety of different behaviors patterns, Pearson says. One person may strive for perfection, driven to be the best at all things, while others might do anything to avoid rejection, or make others happy.
Bottom line though, is that none of these people feel safe being themselves, Pearson says.
Self-Worth by Doing, Not Being
“Approval addicts try to control how others see them by changing the way they appear to the outside world,” Pearson says.
Their self-worth is dependent on how much they help, or show up, or perform — not who they are.
Belonging is one of our basic needs and part of our evolutionary wiring. Those who cooperated with others in the ancient clans tended to survive longer in harsh conditions. And, wanting to help others and cooperate is a good thing – when we are clear and honest about our motivation.
“When we help as a way to get approval, we are doing it for US not THEM, Pearson says.
When we give as a way of gaining approval, or when we hide our real opinions, or abilities, talents or flaws out of fear of rejection or not fitting in we are not sharing our authentic nature. And, we are suppressing aspects of ourselves that could really help or connect with others, Pearson says.
Bust Out of the Approval Cycle
The way out of this cycle toward a more authentic and less stressful life is to become self-aware. Examine your feelings and behavior motivations. Are they coming from a place of integrity and desire? Or are they coming from a place of fear? Are you doing things to sincerely serve others or are you doing them as a way to feel better about yourself?
Once you identify how the approval cycle shows up for you, you can begin to change the pattern.
Go within and offer yourself self-compassion and support, Sumber says. Then get to the root of your feelings. If you are feeling insecure or less-than and you are seeking external validation to help you feel better, stop.
Take a breath. Get quiet and consider where the root of that rejection or insecurity started. Was it something your mom or a teacher said a long time ago? Is there a truth behind it or is it based on a faulty belief.
So often we judge ourselves based on false beliefs. As Byron Katie says in The Work ask yourself if your thoughts are true. Then pursue that inquiry with: “Can you absolutely know that it’s true?”
Probably not. And after recognizing that you can develop a new belief pattern, one that allows you to be whole and authentic and fulfilled because of who you are not because of what you do or accomplish.
In Wednesday’s post, we’ll go deeper into approval addiction and offer up some additional ways to cope with the pattern in a special Q&A from Amy Pearson.
Image by: Erin Cairney White
Erin Cairney White uses mixed media – acrylic paints, gelatos and a variety of papers, inks and stamps to create her work from her Snohomish, Washington studio. She is a wife and mother of four who also teaches art classes and works with educators in the Snohomish School District to support special needs students. Her original artwork is available through the little details company.