Approval Seeking Behavior Is Holding You Back? Do This Instead
We all need approval to one extent or another, but there’s a huge difference between choosing tactical compromises for the sake of keeping the peace, and a toxic addiction to be liked by others. It’s called an approval seeking behavior.
You don’t have to seek far to notice this behavior in yourself and others, just a simple mindful observation to daily life situations can tell you a lot about your approval seeking tendencies.
For example, many times, when I’m in line at coffee shops, I hear people ask the barista:
- “Can I get a medium latte”?
- “Can I get a bagel with cream cheese”?
- “Can I get a peanut butter-chocolate milkshake”?
These two words they use “CAN I”, is nothing but permission seeking behavior.
They’re not doing it on purpose or something, it’s just the way they’re programmed.
Because they are conditioned to seek approval, they can’t just say confidently and shamelessly –
“I WOULD LIKE a medium latte please.”
“I WANT a bagel with cream cheese please.”
While it’s not a terrible thing to ask the person who provides service for what you need, but sometimes these tiny approval seeking demeanors can indicate a deeper pattern going on underneath the surface.
They’re subconsciously afraid that if they assert themselves without asking for permission or sounding a bit apologetic, they’ll make the barista feel uncomfortable.
But what they don’t know is that they have a right to do it. And that doesn’t make them rude or insensitive.
And besides – simple things like that shouldn’t make people feel uneasy.
And if they do – then it’s their responsibility to check in with themselves why they get hurt by non-rude directness.
This is just one seeking approval example. This common behavior takes over almost every part of our lives.
Why You Cling To People’s Approvals – The Root Cause
Usually, when we act from a state of fear, then this behavior is wrong for us, because it’s failing to promote our growth.
If you’re trying to get the approval to sustain your ego, then you might be familiar with these situations. You:
- Tell people what they want to hear
- Finding creative ways to impress others
- Worrying constantly about what others think of you
- Fret criticism – you break down easily from something someone says
- Holding yourself back from expressing your authentic self
- Heck, you sometimes don’t even know what is your authentic and who you are.
It’s not your fault, really. We grew up to be permission seeking culture in order to avoid making others feel uncomfortable.
Letting go of this unhealthy behavior of approval seeking feels like an impossible task. From the day you were born, you learned the wrong message: that your worth is dependent on others.
For instance, we needed to receive praise from our parents, “I’m proud of you for your grades.” We wanted so badly to be validated by our caretakers that we tried to present behaviors that would please them.
Usually, you received their approval when you achieved things, rather than because you existed.
In other cases, we’re so afraid that others might get angry with us because we grew up in an unhealthy environment where our needs went unmet and we got yelled at pretty often.
If you want to help yourself get out of the seeking validation loop, and start being bold, daring, and real with others (without being a jerk obviously), then check out the subliminal formula I created.
This behavioral programming was downloaded into our system without us knowing it. Consequently, we ended up embracing false thoughts such as –
“I need others to approve me so that I can feel good about myself.”
“I need to have successes in life to be approved.”
“If others like me, then I am worth something.”
But these paradigms are wrong at their core. You ARE good enough just by being you, without forcing a behavior that doesn’t belong to you.
You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone or seek others’ permission to feel like you’re somebody. You don’t need others’ approval to feel good about yourself; you can become the sole authority for approving yourself.
The Reasons You Should Not Ask For Approval From Outside of Yourself
If you continue chasing behavior after these instant gratifications that are nothing but short term ego boost, you’d be a very unhappy person.
Why? Because just like any addiction, you always need more of it and you can’t live without it.
The goal is that you reach such a strong internal state, that you become so rooted in your values that nothing or no one can shake you.
As you become that strong, empowered, self-assured person you’ve always wanted to be, you’d go after your desires with much more ease, step out of your comfort zone and allow yourself to grab opportunities as they come.
But as an approval junkie, you don’t get to do all that.
By giving your power away to others, you avoid taking chances out of worrying others will judge you, laugh at you, or dislike you.
You remain stuck in your comfort zone, not moving an inch, not putting yourself out there to explore new growth opportunities, just to not irritate anyone. You don’t dare to take risks that may bring a disapproving state or rank low on the social status meter.
It may cause you to fear failing so much that you give up before you start.
But worse of all – you miss your chance to learn to approve of yourself.
You’re not effective as you can be and you avoid doing things that are important to you, just so you can “win” some points among your peers.
And the funny thing is – you get less respect when you walk down that path. You lose the respect you crave from yourself and others, which is a paradox because that was the initial reason you started this tactic in the first place.
I’m not here to put you down in any way. I used to be a people pleaser myself until I became so drained by my own approval seeking behavior.
It’s not easy to change such a deeply seated defense mechanism like that. That’s what approval seeking is, eventually – a defense mechanism.
It’s an unconscious tactic you chose back then to protect yourself.
Protect yourself from what?
Mainly from rejection and abandonment.
In the end, we all want to belong and be an integral part of the tribe. No one wants to be outcast or left behind.
But at the same time, we can’t just give up on ourselves and betray who we are, what we stand for, and our authenticity.
The answer is to find the balance between our need to belong to our need for self-expression.
So how to stop the automated approval seeking tendency? Here are a few tips that I personally find very helpful.
Stop Looking For External Validation To Fill The Void
Want to feel happier? Fulfilled? Empowered?
Then learn how to approve of yourself, even when others don’t provide you that.
Start paying attention to the small habits of yours
“Can I try these on?” (Asking the worker at your favorite store to try on some clothes)
“Is it OK if I ask you where you got this from”? (Just ask it if YOU feel comfortable
with your question)
“Would it be OK with you if I ___ (fill in the blank)
Pay attention to these little, very easy to miss habitual behaviors. And then, correct yourself. Allow yourself to be powerful.
Yes, you’ll feel the anxiety raises as you start behaving in a way that contradicts your approval strategy default. Let the fear be present and do it anyway.
Do it more and more, and you’ll physically rewire your neural connections through new experiences. In the end, you’ll see that it wasn’t so bad.
Remind Yourself of This Truth: You Have a Right to Take Up Space
When you were a child, you may have got the messages that you were too much – too loud, too joyful, too energetic, too straightforward.
So your protective side of the brain, the limbic system, took all these statements and tried to find a “fight, flight or freeze” solution to protect yourself from harm and avoid these commandments.
So what did you do, unconsciously? You made yourself appear small.
You shrank down parts of yourself and tried to fit the image of what others said you should be.
But see, making yourself smaller never worked. Our authentic selves force their way to the surface no matter how much we repress them.
That’s probably why you’re reading this post because you are not interested that the approval seeking behavior will continue to be a part of your identity.
So whenever you feel that you need to hide parts of yourself to not appear threatening to others, just remind yourself:
“I have the right to take up space. God created me to thrive and shine, and I wasn’t born into this world to be afraid of people. I was put in this world to share my gifts. Therefore, it’s my natural right to express who I am”.
Shift Your Approval Seeking Paradigms
Yes, you will experience difficulties along the way because there’s enormous resistance to this subject.
You might feel anxious being yourself, but you will have to teach yourself to tolerate this fear over people’s disapproval of you and become comfortable with it.
If you want to speed up your growth process, then I’ve recorded a unique meditation that is designed for this purpose – to help you put behind approval seeking behavior.
Check it out here and start making decisions based on what’s right for you, instead of what is right for others. Put yourself first, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Don’t restrict your gifts. Don’t repress your spirit. You have the right to show the world who you are.