Personal Development

How To Release Your Addiction To Approval From Others

Seek support, not approval.

“A truly strong person does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep.”

Vernon Howard

Whether you wish for thousands of reads on your Medium article, hundreds of likes on the photo you just shared on Instagram, obtaining approval from your audience or members of the community for an instant shot of confidence is a habit that resides in all of us. I mean, all of us want to live with the mindset that we are intelligent, cool-looking and have our lives sorted.

Now, it is entirely harmless to seek approval from others once in a while. However, when the tendency is left unchecked, it can be self-destructive. Hence, when you notice that your appetite for other’s approval is getting toxic, it is vital to pause, retreat and recognise that your life (and your confidence) does not function by absorbing validation from others.

Fundamentally, confidence and validation are not two independent aspects of life. It goes without saying that a shortage of confidence is the result of a lack of self-trust. When you do not have complete faith in yourself, you will look for others’ faith in you. You believe everything they say about you more than everything you tell yourself. Hence, you view their thoughts as holding more substance in terms of validation because, again, you do not see yourself and your viewpoints as worthy.

As bleak as it sounds, that does not mean you are finished. You can still amend this and learn how to trust yourself and develop self-confidence. Below are several tips that I have used to keep myself off the hooks of others and to feel great about myself. I hope that they will serve you well too.

1. Silence Your Cruel Inner Voice

Your worst enemy is not your colleague at work, your friend whom you know since high school or your loved one. You are your own worst enemy. If you are talking yourself critically all the time, you can say goodbye to your confidence.

Instead of bullying yourself all the time, take that time to capture all the thoughts that flow through your head and be aware of the emotions that follow behind each of them. Usually, how I would do it is by writing them down in my journal or meditating.

Once you have those thoughts captured, listen to them closely and while you are doing so, remind yourself that you are enough and worthy, especially when you listen to thoughts that are meant to break you.

Strive to replace judgemental thoughts with encouraging ones that will make you feel proud of yourself instead.

2. Surround Yourself With Good, Positive People

The desire for others’ approval can sneak in when you have no one but people who are unsupportive of you. I am talking about people who like to judge books by their covers and answer your question on WhatsApp Messenger by leaving a read receipt instead of actually answering the question.

These individuals will fuel your insecurity and entice you to go for a desperate hunt for validation. For this reason, it is imperative to have someone in your social network who watches out for you and help you to develop your confidence. That someone can literally be anyone, as long as the individual can inspire you to become so much more than what you are now.

Sometimes, you must listen to the voices of others to remind yourself of your essential role in this world. You may not be able to see, but others can, and if they genuinely care for you, they will convince you with all their hearts that your contributions to this world have been of great value.

3. Assess Your Beliefs’ Accuracy

It is worth noting that it is not wrong to work with other beings. Teamwork makes the dream work. However, at the same time, the last thing you want to deal with is to be swayed because you are still trying to make peace with your inner voice.

By checking the accuracy of your views periodically, you will soon observe that your story is not as foolproof as you initially thought, and so, that opens up the possibility of allowing other perspectives to come through, such as: “I see myself as enough” or “I recognise that the only way to restore my confidence is by making sure I have a stable relationship with myself.”

4. Understand Why You Are Looking For Others’ Approval

Understanding why you are continuously working hard to obtain others’ approval can make the mission to delete this habit less daunting. Of course, it is tempting to turn to others and gain their approval, but before you do that, pause and ask yourself, “What do I think about this, and why is it that I place more trust in someone else’s opinion than my own?”

By asking yourself such questions, you will discover that you are doing so because you are conquered by uncertainty in your head. Alternatively, you may learn that even you are sure about yourself and your views, you are still seeking validation from others because you want to comfort yourself by knowing that someone else approves of your outlook towards everything in life.

Comprehending the motive behind your appetite for approval from others marks a step closer to eradicating it from your life.

5. Take A Social Media Detox

At times, you must disconnect yourself from being overwhelmed by everything you see on social media platforms. Attempt to put your attention elsewhere (like gardening or give your dog a relaxing bath) to soothe your mind.

Social media platforms have allowed us to connect with others over long distances, businesses to thrive internationally, and politicians worldwide to win the hearts of their people. However, that same power also paved the way for individuals to create perfect images of themselves. Ultimately, people find themselves engaged in mental comparisons with others around them during the course of daily life.

Simply put, when you see someone else’s photo has garnered 300 likes on Instagram, your immediate reaction will be to do everything you can to make sure 300 people like your photo because you see that figure as the benchmark to beat in order to be validated by society.

The pitfall to that? Your second-guessing tendencies will rise to the surface if you fail to meet that benchmark. Trust me, this is not how you want to drain your mental resources.

6. Learn To Accept Yourself For Who You Are

Life is too short to dwell on the negative. Life is too short to worry about what others say or think about you. Life is too short to be little. Life is too short to dwell on the past. You get the idea here, right?

Stop worrying about what other people think of you. Set your eyes on and pay attention to what puts a smile on your face. It can be difficult to embrace every aspect of ourselves, from our strengths to our shortcomings. However, once you come to terms with everything that makes you who you are right now, your confidence will shine.

As soon as you accept the person you are now, you will realise that you do not need to ask for validation from others anymore because you know yourself better than anyone else. In fact, that should be the way; no one else knows better about you than yourself.


Final 2¢: Progress Over Results

If you tend to seek approval from others, place greater emphasis on making progress more than producing the desired results. When your eyes are dead set on materialising a pre-determined outcome, such as getting a pay raise, you no longer measure your self-worth based on internal benchmarks which you have complete control of. Instead, you are letting your self-worth be evaluated according to external benchmarks that are beyond your control and external benchmarks can be cruel sometimes.

For instance, although you are recognised as a stellar employee and fulfilling all the key performance indicators, your firm might not perform as well and opt not to raise your salary indefinitely. While there is nothing you can do to turn the situation around, if you have been eyeing that salary boost, you are sure to be frustrated. Having expectations sucks, always.

But, if you focus on the progress that is within your control, the power of other’s approval is negligible. For instance, perhaps you want to become a more organised person, so you are viewed by your colleagues and your managers as more proficient and, therefore, more qualified for a pay raise.   

When you have come to the end of the road, the only person you need to answer to is yourself. Obtaining approval for yourself over others is a vital component of your integrity and will safeguard your long-term happiness. By working on releasing yourself from the shackles of approval-seeking behaviours, you are respecting yourself and earning yourself a life worth living.

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