Your dreams and ambitions can be drowned out by the need for approval from significant others. Looking for validation is deep rooted in us as it makes us feel included, and it’s an integral part of childhood.
We learn to seek approval from our parents, teachers, and friends to find out more about our place in the world. What we often fail to see is that as adults we don’t need to seek approval from others. For many of us, seeking validation can be a deadly trap that can become addictive.
When growing up, the need for approval was perceived as a required asset, asking for permission from your elders is seen as polite.
In adult life, chronic approval seeking behavior can result in lack of achievement, low self-esteem, reduced performance and increased stress.
Why? Because approval seeking behavior puts your needs and wants aside and places another person’s views as more important than your own.
To get a better understanding of the process, it’s meaningful to examine what approval seeking is, the issues with it, how it is sabotaging your goals and 6-steps regarding how to let go of the need for approval.
What Does it Mean to Seek Approval?
Seeking approval from others is like a honey coated knife. Initially it looks and tastes sweet, but it will seriously hurt you if you continue with that behavior pattern. Looking for people to accept your decisions and give you permission is not required as an adult.
Sure, when we are working as part of a team it’s important to take the other members into account. However, making sure that you stay true to yourself is always the primary goal.
Seeking approval from others seems innocent enough, but don’t be deceived! Demanding approval from others before moving forward is a self-sabotaging behavior pattern.
Why is Seeking Approval Self-sabotaging?
The need to get approval from others will almost always lead to disappointment. Being in the state of “need” instantly puts you at a disadvantage.
By needing approval you are saying that you lack the basic necessities, require help, or you feel obliged to ask other people for their permission to live your life.
Putting your life choices in the hands of others is detrimental for your life goals and future happiness.
Winning the approval of those you love takes so much time and energy that you won’t have time to live your life and pursue your dreams.
Also, there are many reasons that people won’t see what you are doing as valuable, from their perspective. This can leave you feeling hurt and unwanted. In reality, love and approval are separate emotions, that we often get intertwined.
Interestingly, if you get clear on your own values and live from that space people will respect you more. People have their own beliefs, limitations and prejudices, and their opinion is completely out of your control. This lack of control can lead to stress and anxiety.
Realize that you’ll never get the approval of everyone in your life, so why not live life on your own terms? The ability to live life on your own terms will make you more attractive in the eyes of others.
Validation vs. Approval and How to Move On
Validation can be useful when looking for an expert opinion. Validation is often a confirmation that you are on the right path, however, when validation turns into the need for approval that puts the power in another person’s hands.
Requiring permission and acceptance before moving forward with major choices in your life can hold you back and prevent you from living fully. It’s imperative to learn how to move on.
Both validation and approval can have some life enhancing qualities, in a few situations. However, if the need for approval over-rides your own needs and desires then it becomes a problem. This move on quote from the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle sums up validation and approval seeking quite nicely:
“Stop looking outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfillment, for validation, security or love – you have a treasure within that is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
How to Let Go of the Past and Get on With It
It’s important to change past beliefs that have led to approval seeking behaviors. Respect your right to have an opinion. Backing down can often make peace in the short term.
However, backing down all the time will impact your confidence. Realizing that there is no need for everybody to agree is a great way to begin to change past behaviors and begin to live a more authentic life and get on with it.
Focusing on your values, goals and beliefs and living them out fully will create more enjoyment in your life. Past behavior patterns can be altered by re-programming, a change of environment, or repetition of positive actions.
By following the 6 steps to overcome approval seeking behavior below you’ll be on your way to creating a life that you love.
Overcoming Approval Seeking Behavior in 6 Steps
Fully understanding that seeking approval from others can leave us feeling unworthy, incomplete and depressed shines a light on how this behavior plays out in our lives.
The truth is, we don’t know what a person is thinking or what they want to see and hear from us. Plus, they have their own issues that could be clouding how they respond to a situation.
Trying to live life in this way is exhausting and is a continuous battle that we’ll be fighting our whole life if we don’t decide to live life on our terms.
Overcoming your need for approval begins by accepting that you have a strong need to be loved and accepted. Challenge this view.
The following 6-steps will help you begin to live an authentic life, free from the need for approval from others.
1. Challenge Your Views
Ask yourself: Is this what I really want to do? Or am I acting just to please others?
2. Commit Fully
Often we hold back and don’t want to take risks for fear of making mistakes and not being accepted by others. Don’t be afraid of criticism, learn from your mistakes and master how to move on.
3. Focus on Love
You are not in control of how much others love you – however you can focus on giving love rather than wining love.
4. Have Unconditional Self-acceptance
Recognize Your Intrinsic Value – your value or worth is not tied to what people think about you. Realize you are good enough and deserving just as you are. You deserve to enjoy your life.
5. Accept That It’s Okay to Disagree
Feeling worried, upset or hurt when someone disagrees with you is not pleasant. Instead be confident of what you think, and accept that others have a right to their own opinion. Looking for agreement all the time is simply another form of approval seeking.
6. Make Choices That Align With Your Identity or Purpose
You are a unique individual with a purpose and beliefs that will differ from others. Be authentic and true to your values. If you are doing something you don’t believe in, generally the reason for that is to gain the approval of others.
Learning to live an authentic life true to oneself is often necessary for overcoming the issues of being in a toxic relationship and maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships.