So, you want to stop seeking approval from other people and become a well-rounded individual who has his/her own worth?
If your answer is yes then most probably you already know that seeking approval and validation from other people, and depending on that approval to measure how worthy you are, is a seriously bad thing.
Not only it’ll cost you your self-confidence, but also you’ll end up alone and get your hopes up as you’ll never be able to please everybody. (Read: How to be confident: 25 Professional Tips That Really Work)
As humans, we hate rejection, and we’ll do our best to avoid it.
The reason we hate rejection is that it makes us feel unloved and unwanted. Nobody wants to feel unloved and unwanted. Nobody!
That’s why we want to get approved by those around us. To some extent, it’s OK. But when it exceeds a certain threshold, it’s a problem.
It’s OK to make those who you care about happy and it’s totally OK to care bout what they think about you. We’re social creatures and we need intimacy.
But when you start to feel worthless when those around you don’t like you, when you sacrifice your everything to “sound cool”, and when you try to get everyone that you meet to like, then it’s a problem. You should not depend on such external things to control your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself.
Trying to make your friend happy by being supportive is good (and knowing that if you couldn’t make him happy, you’re not bad as a person).
Trying to make your friend happy by investing all your time and energy in solving his/her problems is bad and very needy.
So, where do approval seeking behaviors come from in the first place? Why would someone does his/her best to make sure everybody likes him/her?
And most importantly: how can you break free from such behaviors? How can you stop pleasing people and start pleasing your own self?
Through this article we’re going to answer these questions.
I’m going to give you 3 simple and easy tips that will help you stop seeking approval from other people around you. They’ll teach you to get that validation from within you. And they’re very brief and practical.
Before we get into these tips, I want to outline the three types of approval seeking behaviors. Being aware of these three types is very important as we’re going to see.
Types of approval seeking:
Seeking approval from others comes in different forms:
- Seeking approval from totally strangers.
- Seeking the approval from those you don’t know very well.
- Seeking approval from those who are close to you.
The First Type is very straightforward. Those are totally strangers. You’ve never met them before and chances are you’re never going to meet them again.
It might sound crazy to try to get the approval from this group of people, but it’s more common than you think. And actually this is the largest group of people you’re going to try to impress or get validation from.
After all, no matter how social you are, you’ll never have people who you know more than those you don’t know, especially when you go to new places.
Seeking approval from strangers can be as simple as adjusting the way you behave in front of these strangers so that they think you’re “cool” and god enough.
Or holding the door for someone, not because you’re polite but because, deep inside, you just want this person to think you’re good.
Sometimes even being nice and kind of “social” person can be an attempt to get those people to validate you and think you’re worthy.
Any behavior that you do in order to impress strangers or to get validation from them is considered an approval seeking behavior. And double-check your intentions, sometimes the smallest actions are driven by hidden motivators.
The Second Type: Here you try to please people who you know but not that well. Those could be people who you say “hi” to when you meet them, but usually nothing more than that a “hi” and few small talks.
You know them, but not very well. You just regularly meet, you might even know each other’s names, but you’re not really “friends” yet.
They could be colleagues, co-workers, classmates or even people who live near you.
Seeking approval and validation from these people can be as simple as adjusting the way you talk around them so that they think you’re “cool”.
Or by pretending to be something that you’re not since they don’t really know you that much
Or even by saying “hi”. You say “hi” to them not because you want to, but because you want them to notice you and you want them to approve of you. Again, double-check the intentions.
The third type is a little bit different. Those are your friends. And yes, you sometimes seek approval from your friends.
Here, it’s not always that bad to try to please your friends. After all, you do care about them.
However, there’s a difference between pleasing them and getting validation from them. Getting validation from them is: having them to tell you that you’re worthy.
Yes, they’re your friends and you care about their opinion, but the feeling that you’re worthy must come from within you.
I’ve noticed that with really close friends, we don’t really strive for approval that much. With people who really know us, we don’t mask up our behaviors. We act naturally and freely.
This leads us to conclude that we want to get the approval of others because we’re afraid of exposing who we really are. We’re afraid of exposing who we really are because we think that people won’t really like that and will reject us. People won’t like us for who we really are. (Read: Why you are who you are today (psychological explanation) )
We believe that who we really are is flawed and unworthy of love. And we believe that if people were to see that, they would run away from us and reject us.
Mark these words. This piece of information is very important. This is what we’re going to use to break free from seeking validation from others.
This is how to stop seeking approval and reclaim your own self-worth (Because YOU’RE worth something)
In the book No More Mr. Nice Guy! Dr. Clover talks about how the guys that he calls nice guys seek approval. Their sense of worth only comes when they get validated by others.
He talks about how those guys, when they were young, believed that there’s something wrong with them. They believed that they’re bad.
And to hide this “badness” from people, they use many different strategies; one of them is seeking approval. Those strategies, together, form the nice guys’ personality.
However, I’ve noticed that when it comes to approval seeking, the formula is the same with everybody (nice guys aren’t aliens): you believe that you’re not worthy because you have “perceived badness” and you compensate for that by seeking external approval and validation.
Dr. Clover suggests few solutions for this approval seeking thing. Honestly, his chapter about seeking approval is what made me write this article.
For the rest of the article we’re going to discuss some of these solutions, maybe change them a little bit so they fit everyone and not only nice guys, to help you turn things around.
Here you go, the three steps to overcome pleasing people:
1.Awareness and challenging:
What I mean by awareness is catching yourself red-handed.
It’s like when a stranger sits next to you in a public place, and you try to adjust your behavior to sound “cool” in front of this stranger. Basically to get his/her approval.
Or when you say “hi” to someone just to get him/her to notice you. You believe that this person is cool and worthy, and you also believe that you’re going to be cool and worthy if they noticed and approved of you.
Sometimes it’s when you be nice and try to be social, not because you want to, but because you don’t want people to think that you’re alone.
Heck, one time I caught myself trying to gain approval by surrounding myself with people and “sounding” like I have many friends.
One day I was forced to stay alone and it wasn’t pleasant because I believed that people are thinking that I’m a loner and weird.
Be aware of your behavior and the intentions behind it. If you’re reading this, then most probably you have many behaviors like these and you need to be aware of them.
That’s the first step.
The second step, after you become aware of your behaviors, is to simply challenge those approval seeking behaviors.
For instance, as soon as you catch yourself trying to say “hi” to someone just so that this person thinks you’re cool, stop right there and don’t do it.
As soon as you want to say “yes” to a request that you don’t really want to do but want to do it just not to upset someone, stop right there and force yourself to say “no”.
It’s like intentionally losing the approval that you’re trying to gain.
This can be a bit painful. But it’s very rewarding and it’s going to help a lot.
Catching myself trying to do something to gain an approval and stopping doing it on purpose (and noticing that I really didn’t lose anything, I’m still confident, lovable and worthy without that damn approval) is one of the best things I’ve done to boost my self-confidence.
2.Do good things for yourself:
Trying to gain approval from other people often means sacrificing your own needs and disapproving yourself.
We need to break that.
I want you to start treating yourself with more respect. I want you to start getting that approval from within.
Surprisingly, the way you treat yourself reflects, to a great extent, the way you see yourself.
One of the best ways to break these approval seeking behaviors is to start doing good things for yourself, simply because you deserve that.
When you start treating yourself in a good way, eventually the way you see yourself will change to the better.
And also you’ll learn to get validation from within as these things you do to yourself will make you happier and more satisfied.
Last but not least, you’ll start doing things not for the sake of impressing others, but just because you think you deserve that (and yes you do). That will teach you to get the approval and validation from within.
This tip is plain and straight forward. You go out there and treat yourself in a good way, period. However, it might not feel right or good at the beginning, especially if you don’t usually treat yourself nicely.
Dr. Glover points out, in his book, a very important point, and that is: it’s not going to feel good at first if you have, unconsciously, the belief that you’re not worth it.
That’s why he advises to do it regardless of how it feels like at the beginning. Even if you felt uncomfortable doing good things to yourself, keep on doing that, it’s going to pay off eventually.
Here are few things that you can do to treat yourself nicely:
- Work out. Not to impress anyone, but for your own health.
- Eat healthy food.
- Buy yourself a new shirt.
- Get a good book and read it.
- Take a day off and stay at home to relax and recharge.
- Take a shower everyday.
- Groom yourself.
- Stop hanging out with people who make you feel sick and full of negativity.
- Start reading and educating yourself.
One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the intentions behind these behaviors are the most important factor.
You’re not doing these things to impress anyone, you’re doing these things for your own good.
Double check your intentions. You must be doing these things because you want to do good things to yourself, not because you want to impress anyone.
And remember, if you can’t make yourself happy, you won’t be able to make those you care about happy. If you don’t love yourself you won’t be able to give love. So, it makes sense to work on yourself first and foremost.
3.Learn to expose yourself and show the real you:
Vulnerability is power.
Paradoxically, the ability to show weakness, in and of itself, is strength.
People who try to gain approval usually wear masks that they think other people want to see.
The first step we discussed was the ability to realize that you’re trying to wear a mask to impress someone. Now, we want to talk about what to do after taking off this mask and showing your real face.
Often, people who try to gain approval think that there’s something wrong with who they really are and that people won’t love them when they see their real faces.
Sure that’s a dysfunctional belief, but it works very well in making people wear these masks and try to hide the vulnerable human inside of them that other humans really want to see.
Show your fears and insecurities, show desire, risk failure, and accept that you’re not perfect.
Whether you know it or not, people can see through these masks.
Don’t expect to fool people. They know, or they will eventually know, that you’re wearing a fake mask.
People connect through sharing themselves. Sharing yourself includes showing who you really are and not being ashamed of it. Being able to show your true desires, motivators, fears, insecurities and needs. That’s risky, but it’s very rewarding.
Of course you don’t just open up 100% with everyone that you meet, remember the three categories we talked about above? Let’s see how this can be applied to them:
With strangers: of course you won’t go to a stranger and open up to him and her. Yes be open to people, but don’t just share and share (over-share) with all people even strangers. You’ll sound stupid and needy.
With people you don’t know well: here you need to be somewhere in the middle. You don’t want to be unavailable and you don’t want to be over available.
Those are people who have the potential to be your friends, treat them based on that, who knows? They might turn into your best friends someday.
That means not hiding behind a mask that you think they’ll like, but showing up with your real face. They’ll either like it or hate it. If they like it, then good. If not, just move on, you’re not kneeling for approval any more.
With people you know: this is where I encourage you to apply this tip the most. With your already existing friends.
Don’t be afraid to let them see who you really are. Your fears, insecurities, aspirations, dreams, and whatever.
Don’t wear a mask. Intimacy comes from sharing yourself and letting other people see the real you, who can let you do that other than good friends?
In brief, don’t pretend to be something that you’re not. Don’t try to wear a mask to impress those around you, you’ll just feel lonely and you’ll impress no one.
On the other hand, being able to open up to people will help you not only stop seeking approval, but also stop feeling lonely and like no one really knows you or likes you.
This will tell the world that you’re not afraid of what it thinks of you. You’re willing to show the vulnerable person inside of you. You’re willing to put yourself on the line and reveal your true needs and motivators to yourself and to the people around you.
Interestingly, trying to impress people and gain their approval by trying to be somebody else never works. People are drawn to those who are in peace with who they are.
Putting all this together
You have 3 types of people who you try to gain their approval and impress. And also you have 3 tips that will help you stop doing that.
It’s a formula: firstly, you catch yourself doing something to gain approval. This requires a certain amount of honesty with yourself.
You consciously stop yourself from doing that thing, no matter how painful it is.
Along with this awareness, you start doing good things for yourself to change the way you look at your own self. It works like charm. The way you treat yourself is a reflection of what you think of yourself (to a great extend, exclude some of the narcissists).
Finally, you start to open up and let people see the real you. People want to connect with a human, not a person who wears masks to let them think he’s cool.
By being straightforward about your desires and needs, by being honest about who you are as a person, what you like and what you don’t like, and sharing that with people who are close (or will get closer) to you, you’re so damn strong and don’t need and freaking approval from no one.
Now, bonus tip: people who are confident don’t really seek approval. I mean people who are sure of who they are don’t go around begging for approval.
The more confident you feel, the less approval you’ll try to get.
So, work on your self-confidence along with these 3 tips and you’re going to see lots of improvements.
Here’s a very useful guide that will help you a lot, it’s a 25 in-depth tips to be confident.
Really, I believe that this is the most helpful guide you’ll ever read on self-confidence, not because I’m smart but because it covers lots of various areas and it can be applied almost to any situation.
OK, maybe I’m just arrogant and biased, see and decide for yourself.
The article is very long, and to help you get the most out of it I created a slide presentation with the top 10 tips, you can browse it right here and right now:
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