Letting Go of Our Need for Approval Can Remove a Stress Burden from Our Lives

Man and woman sits at a desk with hands clasped. marital problems, conflicts and stubborn concept

Contributor: Rachael Mattice is the Content Manager for Sovereign Health Group, an addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment provider. Rachael received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Purdue University.

Starting at a very young age, we are taught to seek approval from authority figures, such as parents or teachers. Good behavior gets ice cream; well-done tests get gold stars. When children do cartwheels, they make sure that their parents are watching and ready to compliment their talents.

It’s no wonder, then, that as we age, that desire for approval extends to our friends, our colleagues and even complete strangers. Unless someone tells us we’re doing a good job, it’s hard to feel like we’re actually good enough.

The Double Edge of Approval

Although the need for approval can serve as a motivating factor – it can make a person work harder, better or with more determination – it frequently creates negative effects as well. Constantly worrying about the opinion of others can result in a substantial emotional burden.

Work presentations might leave a person ridden with anxiety – “What if they hate my ideas?” – and being afraid to say no for fear of disappointing a friend might result in hours of unfulfilling favors and chores. People who care too much about the opinions of others often find themselves living their lives for other people – not themselves.

Do You Care Too Much About Approval?

Using laptopHere are some signs that you care too much about approval:

  • Declining new, potentially rewarding opportunities because you are afraid to fail
  • Being unable to say no to extra tasks or favors, even when you’re busy or overwhelmed
  • Constant rumination about what others might think of you
  • Agonizing over every detail in your work, clothing or homework
  • Avoiding problems or procrastinating because you feel inadequate or like you must be “perfect”

The overwhelming anxiety and stress associated with this need for approval can cause or exacerbate mental conditions such as depression or generalized anxiety disorder. It can also result in heavy drinking or drugging to escape stressful feelings or situations.

How Do You Stop Needing Approval?

People typically seek approval from others because they have trouble receiving that same approval from themselves. For instance, they could want their boss to compliment their hard work because they’re afraid they might be a bad employee.

The only way for them to stop needing approval is to learn to value themselves, flaws and all. The goal is not selfishness or complacency, but rather acceptance and self-compassion. Those who no longer struggle for approval should treat themselves as they would treat a dear friend.

Once individuals let go of their desire for approval, they can spend less time worrying and more time becoming the person they want to be.

Here are some ways to conquer the need for approval:

Notice When You Crave Approval

Before you can shed your need of approval, you must first recognize when you are looking for it. When performing a task, ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Am I doing it for myself? Or am I doing it because I don’t want to disappoint someone else? Identifying which actions are dictated by a desire for approval and which are motivated by self-growth is an essential step toward learning how to live without needing validation.

Notice When You’re Trying to Escape

Teenage girl with her DadSometimes, gaining someone else’s approval can seem impossible – when this happens, stress and anxiety reach their peak. It can be tempting to mentally (or physically) run away. For example, when students are worried that they will perform poorly on an exam and disappoint their parents, they might put off studying until it’s too late.

When recovering addicts believe that a family member does not care about their recovery, they might relapse. It is important to recognize stressful situations that might trigger harmful or dangerous habits. These habits are the result of craving – and not receiving – approval.

Reward Yourself When You Do a Good Job

People do not need to turn to others for compliments – they can compliment themselves. Keep a self-appreciation journal and mark down your daily accomplishments. After a job well done, pat yourself on the back, maybe even literally, or reward yourself by doing something you love to do. Rather than looking toward others for validation, take steps to validate yourself.

Shedding the need for approval is easier said than done – there’s a reason why most people care about the opinions of others despite all of the negatives. Recognizing approval-seeking thought patterns, identifying triggering situations and learning to value yourself with compliments are all good starts.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Recognizing compliments and learning to see the value in yourself is important, have you tried keeping a self-appreciation journal to overcome the need for approval from others? What advice do you have for others that are approval seekers?

About the Author:

Rachael Mattice is the Content Manager for Sovereign Health Group, an addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment provider. Rachael is a creative and versatile journalist and digital marketing specialist with an extensive writing and editing background.

Her portfolio includes numerous quality articles on various topics published in print and digital formats at award-winning publications and websites. To learn more about Sovereign Health Group’s mental health treatment programs and read patient reviews, visit http://www.sovhealth.com/. Follow Sovereign Health Group on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 1st, 2015
Published on AddictionHope.com