It’s a very natural human need to feel loved, liked and appreciated. We all seek approval in some form or shape on an everyday basis. That little recognition even makes us feel happy because it shoots the feel good chemical called ‘dopamine’ in the brain. While there is no harm in being reassured that you are doing okay in life, the constant desire to seek approval can convert itself into an ugly dependent relationship. You may eventually chase approval to the extent that you find no value in your own beliefs and thoughts. This disconnection with your inner being can keep you away from manifesting happiness and success in your life. And that’s a dark place nobody wants to be in.
In this blog post below, we’ll discuss the many facets of approval and how to overcome approval addiction through practical tools and hacks so you can break through this ugly struggle.
What is Approval?
Approval; is the belief that someone/something is good.
When you walk into a meeting with your boss with the agenda of discussing your work, you are not intentionally seeking approval. But, you do want him/her to give you a positive set of feedback. When you go out on a date with your crush, you expect them to express their feelings of approval with a loving gesture. When you cook for your husband/wife, you do seek them to give you compliments and tell you how amazing of a cook you are. Approval is any situation where you are relying on someone else to give you that little nod to affirm you.
Since the very beginning, we were programmed to seek approval from our parents, relatives and friends. We jumped in happiness when our teachers gave us that pat on the back for scoring good marks. When our parents felt proud of us. It’s all deeply ingrained in our psyche that we fail to draw the line of how much approval is okay and when to stop seeking it.
Approval seeking behaviour is definitely healthy to a limit where you are the sole driver of your life. But, when you give the steering to someone else, when you let other people make decisions for you. When your entire sense of being is defined by someone you know, you really need to pause, reflect and take back the control.
Science Behind Approval Seeking Behaviour
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a psychological theory proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1943, esteem and love/ belongingness are essential components of human motivation. It means that seeking validation from our family and peers keep us motivated to be and do good in life. Therefore, we seek the need for approval to help boost our confidence levels and comfort us with a sense of security of being loved.
And in all honesty, there is nothing wrong in feeling validated and loved. As humans we have these social needs and if by pleasing others, we can fulfil them. Then that’s a total win-win. We make them happy and we create an empowering sense of being for ourselves as well.
But, the catch is that we forget there is a thin line which we must not cross.
Approval & Dopamine
Dopamine is the “Kim Kardiashan” of neurotransmitters. It is often known as the “pleasure chemical” that prompts you to feel good, excited, goal-oriented and seek for more. Dopamine is involved in many functions of the brain such as attention, sleep, mood, motivation, seeking and reward. Ramsay brown says, “Dopamine is our brain’s way of recording what’s worth doing again” and it’s in the heart of creating habits. Once you get a taste of dopamine, you crave it more.
Whenever you encounter approval, your body releases dopamine which tricks you to feel happy and seek it more and seek again, creating habits you cannot get rid of.
Have you ever wondered why you are addicted to social media? Why getting those likes, hearts and comments make you feel good about your life? It’s primarily because approval on social media spike your dopamine levels. The reward of instant gratification keeps you hooked for wanting more. That is the reason we are quick to check every new notification and we can never get off of our phones.
So, are you seeking approval?
Understanding the root cause of approval addiction takes effort and the first step is to ask yourself the right questions. Some questions you can start with are listed below:
- Do you consider yourself a people pleaser?
- Do you find it difficult to say “no” to others?
- Do you measure your success on what other people think about you?
- Do you feel guilty when you do something your friends don’t approve of?
- Are you constantly posting on social media to gather some likes and attention?
- Do you have more friends on instagram/facebook than you have in your life?
- Are you always saying yes to what your boss wants?
If any of the above scenario is true, then you might need to do some alterations in your approval seeking behaviour. You will have to draw a healthy boundary that keeps you emotionally stable.
How to overcome Approval Addiction?
The journey of overcoming approval addiction begins with the recognition of the problem. You have to accept that we all seek approval and you must understand what’s the healthy/natural behaviour and what’s the toxic state of mind. Next time, when you catch yourself seeking approval from someone else, reflect upon these questions:
- Could I let go of seeking approval from this person in this situation?
- Can I let go of seeking approval right now?
- Is it okay to validate me on my own?
- Do I really need their approval?
If you can talk yourself out of this pattern, then it’s great but if you find yourself completely confused then you have to work on building a stronger sense of self.
The only way OUT is IN
We seek approval from others because we have a distorted sense of our self-worth. We believe that someone else’s idea about us is better than our own. We chase validation because that’s our only source of love and happiness. But, you cannot sustain this temporary fulfillment for a long period of time. When you put someone else above you, you rob yourself of honoring your truth. You become their version of you but you lose connection with your own inner being. And how far can you go living like that? The emptiness which crops from seeking approval day in and day out will not let you be at ease.
If you really want to overcome approval addiction then you have to start trusting your own thoughts, beliefs and opinions. You will have to establish a boundary that protects your relationship with your inner sense of being. You should accept who you are, what you like, what you don’t like. What you want and what you don’t want with open arms. Nobody out there should matter when it comes to your inner desires and dreams.
Cultivating a sense of confidence and love for yourself is the only way you can train yourself to give yourself the approval you are seeking from outside. Here are some ways:
- Spend quality time with yourself without any distractions
- Embrace your strengths and weaknesses
- Believe in your capabilities
- Cultivate a habit of Journaling to attune your thoughts with your life
- Practice Forgiveness to let go of the toxic mental space
- Look back and write your achievements
- Count your blessings
- Set yourself up for success by learning new skills
- Ensure that you take feedback with a pinch of salt
- Don’t take things personally, redefine your relationship dynamics
- Create integrity and personal boundary by saying no with compassion
- Embrace the growth mindset to constantly evolve and become a better version of you
If you find yourself living a life to please others. If you are constantly seeking others to validate your existence, then it’s time to look within and master your source of joy and overcome approval addiction by clearly knowing who you are and what matters to you. As humans, we chase this validation to fit in and belong, or we have low self-esteem. It’s crucial that you introspect and find out the root cause of the addiction and weed it out before it disrupts your being.