We all feel great when we are praised and petted. There’s nothing wrong with it. Approval in itself is not unhealthy. The requirement for acceptance becomes toxic when desire becomes the need – it’s just neurotic behaviour.
In a fantastic book by Wayne Dyer ‘Your erroneous zones’ he writes about self-destructive forces involved in the process of seeking approval. As when we are mentally overpowered when we do not receive approval or when we expect it always and from everyone.
Such an attitude risks losing oneself completely – often, people who are dependent on the acceptance of others cannot live in their way. Because to please everyone, you have to bend your arguments and beliefs. That is why people who want to flatter everyone are perceived as devoid of character and clear views. And the truth is simple – you can’t please everyone. Deal with it.
You cannot allow the opinions of others about you to take precedence over your view of yourself.
If your value depends on the opinions of others, you have a serious problem. If you want to free yourself from it, it will be helpful to figure out why you are seeking approval. To do this, you have to go back to childhood, because that’s where programming begins. *
Our relations with parents and teachers often rely on the need to be appreciated. If we are perfect pupils and behave as expected, the prize we get is acceptance, appreciation and even love. Our culture support this mechanism; this is why we pay too much attention to what others think.
By focusing on pleasing others, you lose touch with yourself. You lose self-respect because you treat yourself as the least important person. You put on masks to please others and therefore you don’t know what you really are. You do everything to make others fun and pleasant with you – that’s why you often suppress your emotions. This leads to a depressed mood and a lack of self-confidence. It also extinguishes your life energy and makes you even more dependent on the opinions of others about yourself.
Fortunately, we can work on changing our habit of seeking approval.
Start with the thought that you can’t make everyone happy and prepare yourself for any disapproval that can touch you. Be aware of it when it comes – name it and name emotions which will then appear. Realize that someone’s disapproval of you is someone else’s problem – not yours. It sounds simple but takes practise to make it a habit.
Analyze all situations in which you put someone else’s opinion above yours. Do you succumb to your partner regarding the appearance or design of the apartment? Do you still obey your parents’ instructions so as not to offend them? Do you hold back on opinion on a topic just so that someone who thinks differently doesn’t stop liking you? Do you often think about how others see you? What is your reaction to rejection?
You can learn to react in a completely different way to disapproval. Begin by addressing to someone who is holding that approval and say (even if only in your head): your lack of acceptance does not change what I think and feel – even if you don’t something in me I’m still ok.
You can also keep a diary and record all situations related to this problem. Practice ignoring disapproval. This will help you ensure that even a lack of recognition will not upset you.
And always remember: what others think has no bearing on your worth.
*W.Dyer, ‘Your erroneous zones’ (1976)