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May 22, 2023

Addicted To Approval

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Something that has played a huge role in my life, and I know I’m not the only one, is a strong desire to get the approval of others. At times this can take a genuine form where you feel inspired to do right by those you care about and make them proud, but at other times it can take on a destructive form that steers you out of alignment in your life.

It’s perfectly fine to care what others think about you. In fact it’s hardwired into our evolutionary past to be altruistic and consider how we contribute within a larger tribe. This is what makes humans so powerful as a species. It generates a pull to seek the approval of others and in doing so, we become very extrinsically motivated. All this means is that we find reasons for doing things from sources that are outside of ourselves.

Extrinsic motivation itself isn’t a bad thing, but there are a few applications of it that lead to us getting our needs met in unhealthy ways. For example, someone who lacks a sense of self-love may seek the validation of other people to meet that needs, which may pull them to behave in ways that aren’t representative of who they are.

Or someone who lacks confidence might ask a friend or loved one for permission to make a certain decision, opening up the possibility that they’ll be steered away from doing what they really want to do.

Sometimes it’s easier to get your needs met in these superficial ways. The validation is more readily accessible. But over time, this may create a dependency on something outside of yourself to get your internal needs met.

This, in a sense, can be considered an addiction to approval, and the cost of it is significant. It can lead to you be less definitive about pursuing what you want in life. It may slow you down and keep you stuck in the same old things. And it may force you to be okay tolerating things in your life that aren’t the best fit for you.

It becomes a difficult balance to strike, so here are some of my recommendations:

Seek perspective over approval as it will help you make the right decisions for yourself.

Understand that most mistakes can be corrected, so as long as you stay open to feedback you’ll get there.

And when people try to impose their own expectations and preferences on you, remember that they have different goals, experiences, and worldviews than you and that’s a beautiful thing.

At the end of the day everyone want you to be the best you that you can be, and superficially seeking the approval of others in everything you do will hold you back from it.

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