Avoiding Approval Addiction

Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale helps us create the balance between pleasing others and valuing ourselves.

There is another element of this and that is when we’re so invested in others liking us we can easily turn ourselves inside out and become people pleasers to the extend that we even risk the unfortunate fate of becoming a doormat. And that is not just a risk – it will be the result of people pleasing. The fact is that while everyone uses a doormat no one acknowledges or appreciates them. They are beneath notice. No wonder we end up feeling bitter and worthless when we go to desperate lengths for others to like us. Approval seeking is very self-involving. I love the popular line, “So, enough about me; what about you? …….What do you think of me?” And it is a bottomless, comfortless pit! It is healthy, also, to separate my worth from my performance, or hair, or make-up, or clothing. Another’s feedback about those things are my “exteriors;” they do not speak to my value or my “interior.”

When we are approval addicts, we react to our disagreements with others by NOT reacting. We smile, nod, comply, and go right along with their views and decisions at hand because we are dependent on our “approval supplier.” They are the drug dealer and we are the addict. We give them their way in exchange for a hit of intoxicating praise. The “suppliers” in our life are likely to reinforce our habit because we live to please them…..and how addicting is that for the other person, as well? However, it is not healthy and before too long both individuals in the deal become highly unsatisfied because the relationship is not real – it is altered by the exchange of a drug.

So what should we do next time someone voices an opinion that contradicts our views on the subject?

Be Known

Take a deep breath, speak up, and don’t play dumb! What’s the worst thing that can happen when you voice your thoughts? Perhaps you will see that relationship for what it is. Maybe it will be the end of a relationship that was inauthentic. Or, if this is a close friend or family member who has a hard time with your opinion, simply say, “It’s hard for you to entertain this idea or thought, isn’t it?” Don’t change your stance or values, just speak the obvious. Being known is frightening…but it’s the only way to have true-blue relationships that are real and, ultimately, the most satisfying.

Drop the Wings

We need to try to avoid the “saintly” attempt to be all things to all people. I had a client who was one of the people pleasing types and did all things for all people. She went to her doctor and the doctor said, “People-pleasing-Paula, when did you start thinking so little of other people?” She was shocked! “What so you mean? I think allot of others that’s why I run myself ragged; for the good of the whole universe?” Her doctor disagreed and said, “No you don’t, Paula. If you really respected the people in your life you would trust them that they had all the tools, values, and abilities to manage their own life….and you would stop trying to do it for them!”

Apologize to those whom you have offended in this way. Give them back their life and pick up your own, once, again. The next time you start thinking, “he should listen to me,” tell yourself to mind your own business and then ask yourself, “what should I be doing?” Likely the answer is something like, “I should be listening to me!” And give up carrying around those huge, heavy angel wings.

O.K., so let’s say someone really doesn’t approve of us. Ouch! Of course it can be painful – it is much more comfortable for others to like us. BUT, will I stop breathing and die if I don’t get their approval? When I want to please, keep, acquire, influence or control anyone or anything, fear is the cause and pain is the result.

Invite Inoculation

Many people fear spiders. I love that a friend reminded me of this recently: human immunity against snake venoms is one of the oldest forms of vaccinology to date. Immunity against snake bites has been achieved by immunizing with the snake venom itself. So bring it on! Welcome opinions and differences in viewpoints. Get prepared for the next disagreement or family upset or viewer disproval or client disproval because it will happen. When a client is mad at me…at this happens fairly frequently in therapeutic work…I still get those heart palpitations but I honestly have learned to welcome it more and more because the end result is greater understanding, healing, and emotional intimacy in the therapeutic bond. And so it is with other relationships! But even with strangers that we may never see again, allow your experience with them to increase your inoculation factor. Embrace it!

Make peace with the fact that you will not be everyone’s favorite and live your life authentically. Let’s stop being surprised, offended and hurt when another shows their disproval. Expect it to a certain extent and all it to increase your inoculation.

One of the biggest obstacles we face in our lives is the constant need for approval.

Determine Self-Worth Source

Sadly, unless someone tells us what a great job we did or how wonderful we are, then we believe we’re just not good enough. Until you find your inner approval source, it will never matter what someone says because the most important person doesn’t believe it: YOU! So, what do we do? We keep looking for more and more people to tell us that we’re valuable. The search continues until finally we find someone who agrees with us: that, yes, we really are a fraud or a failure. Then, it wouldn’t matter if one million people said wonderful things about us; we would only remember the one!

Find the true approval source that will never let you down. For Christians, this may be their Maker. They have a strong belief that without God, they are nothing. Every breath, talent, gift is from Him and not their own doing. Giving him credit instead of taking credit is a huge relief.

Note those true-blue people in your life with whom you are valued. There is a big difference between a badge that says, “I am special” (talk about undue pressure to always be special to the world) and one that says “I am special to _______.” (fill in the blank: my father, my spouse, my best friend, my sister, etc.)

There is no “I” in peace. Find your foundation for approval that resonates within you. Peace is found in our humility, not in our self-love or self-loathing. Those are one in the same: complete self-absorption. (And I am never more miserable than when I’m all wrapped up in the small bundle of me.)

Book References:

“Confronting the Myth of Self-Esteem,”by Ester Rasband.

“Who Would You Be Without Your Story,” by Byron Katie.

Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.

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