The need for approval…

Excessive Need for Approval
Excerpt from The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, by Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D. 

All human beings need approval.  Yet for many people struggling with anxiety and phobias, the need for approval can be excessive.  Being overly concerned with approval often arises from an inner sense of being flawed or unworthy.  This leads to the mistaken belief that you are unacceptable just the way you are (“If people really saw who I am, they wouldn’t accept me”).  Individuals with an excessive need for approval are always looking for validation from other people.  In trying to be generally pleasing, they may conform so well to others’ expectations that they often ignore their own needs and feelings.  Frequently they have a difficult time setting boundaries or saying no.

The long-term consequence of always accommodating and pleasing others at the expense of yourself is that you end up with a lot of withheld frustration and resentment over not having taken care of your own basic needs.  Withheld frustration and resentment form the unconscious foundation for a lot of chronic anxiety and tension.

There are many ways to get over being excessively needy for approval.  The following guidelines can help you start:

Develop a Realistic view of Other People’s Approval
When people don’t express approval toward you – or even act rude or critical – how do you receive it?  Do you tend to take it personally, to see it as further evidence of your own ineptness or lack of worth?  Below are some common attitudes characteristic of people who place excessive emphasis on always being liked.  These might be called “people-pleasing” attitudes.  Following each is an alternative view which represents, in most cases, a more realistic outlook.

Common Attitude:  “If someone isn’t friendly to me, it’s because I did something wrong.”
Alternative View:  “People may be unable to express warmth or acceptance toward me for reasons having nothing to do with me.  For example, their own problems, frustrations, or fatigue may get in the way of their being friendly and accepting.”

Common Attitude:  “Others’ criticism only serves to underscore the fact that I really am unworthy.”
Alternative View:  “People who find fault with me may be projecting their own faults, which they can’t admit to having, onto me.  It’s a human tendency to project unconscious flaws onto others.”

Common Attitude:  “I think I’m a nice person.  Shouldn’t everyone like me?”
Alternative View:  “There will always be some people who just won’t like me – no matter what I do.  The process by which people are attracted to or repelled by others is often irrational.”

Common Attitude:  “Others’ approval and acceptance of me is very important.”
Alternative View:  “It’s not necessary to receive the approval of everyone I meet in order to live a happy and meaningful life – especially if I believe in and respect myself.”

The next time you feel put off or rejected, take a moment to calm down and think about whether the person acting negatively is reacting to something you did, or might simply be upset about something that has little or nothing to do with you.  Ask yourself whether you might be taking the other person’s inconsiderate remarks or behavior too personally.
Buy: The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook

Read Blog: “Repeating My Mother’s Words”

Fear of Disapproval: Byron Katie

A Quick Way to Build Your Self-Esteem – Stop Needing Approval
By Catherine Pratt,

This is Part 1 in a 3 part series:

The unspoken belief is that unless people approve of you, you’re worthless
– Byron Katie

One of the biggest obstacles to people improving their self esteem is their constant need for approval by othersThey feel that unless someone tells them what a great job they did or how wonderful they are then they’re just not good enough.  They don’t believe in themselves so they need to find someone else who will.

The problem with this is that until you believe in yourself, it will never matter what someone else says because the most important person doesn’t believe it, You.

You’ll constantly look for more and more people to tell you that you’re valuable.  The search will continue until you find that one person who agrees with what you truly believe about yourself; that you’re really a fraud or a failure.  Then, it wouldn’t matter if a million people said wonderful things about you, you would only remember the person that had spoken negative comments.

It’s In You
The approval you really need to find is from yourself and this can only begin once you stop searching for approval in others and take the time to heal yourself.

Often even just the awareness of your actions will provide you with a great deal of healing.  Be sure to take the time to explore your feelings and learn why and where it’s coming from.  Once you do that then you’ll most likely find that you no longer need approval from others for that particular feeling.

The moment when you suddenly realize that you don’t need anyone else’s approval is incredible.  There is a sudden peace inside of you which will make you absolutely giddy with joy.  It’s like you’ve suddenly woken up from a nightmare and you’re now free to just be you.  Your whole life will be completely different.  You may find that for the first time in your life, you understand what it means to feel “content” and “happy.”
But, how do you get to the point where you can let go of needing approval from others?  If it’s something you’ve been doing your whole life, you may not even be aware that you’re doing it.

How Do You Seek Approval From Others?
It starts with being aware of how you might be seeking approval from others.  For example

  • Are you hesitant to give your opinion on something until you know how others feel about it?
  • When you make excuses do you do it to make yourself look better?
  • Do you ask everyone else for their opinion before you’ll make a decision?
  • Do you worry excessively about what to wear?
  • Do you tune out what others are saying because you’re trying to think of what you’re going to say so that you appear knowledgeable or funny or clever?
  • Do you find that you’re self conscious a lot and worry about what to say?
  • Are you afraid to say “No” because of what people might think of you?
  • Are you constantly trying to please people?
  • Do you buy things so that people will think more highly of you?
  • Do you do activities just to impress others?

These are just some of the more common ways you may be searching for approval from others.

An Important Clue
One important clue that you’re desperate for approval is the next time that you feel pain, distressed or anxious when dealing with someone else.  Your stomach suddenly feels like it’s tied in knots or you feel guilty or you’re feeling confused and don’t know what to do.  Ask yourself if this feeling is because you really want this other person’s approval.  It doesn’t even have to be someone you know.  It could be a complete stranger that you feel the sudden need to explain to why you just did what you did.

As Byron Katie says, “when you say or do anything to please, get, keep, influence, or control anyone or anything, fear is the cause and pain is the result.”  So, if you’re feeling pain, it could be a sign that you’ve hurt yourself by needing that approval that you can’t find within yourself.

Once you realize what you’ve been doing to try and influence other people’s opinion of you, you’ll very quickly start to understand what part of you needs to be healed.  You’ll also start to notice how many other people around you are also trapped in a cycle of constantly needing approval from others.  You may be surprised by who you see needing approval. You’re definitely not the only one.

So, now let’s take a closer look at “How to Stop Needing Approval” and then illustrate some behaviors you may be using to gain approval and then how to break approval seeking habits.
Read Part II – How to Stop Needing Approval