Approval is like a killer drug. It becomes addictive and you quickly develop a need for more. When you have a need for approval you value the beliefs, opinions and needs of others above your own. Their opinion of your is far more important to you than your own view of yourself. Receiving disapproval becomes a painful experience. Your entire decision making processes are eventually taken over by your need for the approval of others. You cannot take any decisive action without their approval. You sacrifice your own dreams and ambitions in order to have their approval.  Amongst the negative consequences of approval seeking behavior are:

  • Lack of achievement
  • Lack of personal fulfillment
  • Low self-esteem and confidence levels
  • Reduced performance
  • Increased stress

You may argue that you do not engage in approval seeking behavior. However, there are common behaviors which you may fail to recognize as approval seeking. Sometimes these behaviors are used as a tactical compromise, to keep the peace, or because the situation is not really that important to you. In some instances, as long as they are not too frequent, it may be useful to allow others to have their way. However, when these behaviors occur too frequently, or are motivated solely by a need for approval, you are adopting an unhealthy behavior which can lead to severe problems.

Approval seeking behaviors

The following are some of the most common approval seeking behaviors. This is not an exhaustive list.

  1. Changing or softening your position because someone appears to disapprove
  2. Paying insincere compliments to gain approval
  3. Feeling upset, worried, or insulted when someone disagrees with you
  4. Expressing agreement (verbally or non-verbally) when you do not agree
  5. Doing something which you do not want to do because you are afraid to say ‘No’
  6. Failing to complain when you have received poor service or a product not fit for purpose
  7. Spreading bad news and gossip to gain attention
  8. Asking permission when it is not required
  9. Consistently apologizing for your words and deeds whether others have expressed disapproval or not e.g. ‘I’m sorry but..’
  10. Pretending to be knowledgeable or an authority on a subject because you are afraid to admit that there is something you do not know.
  11. Attempting to coax people into paying you compliments and/or getting upset when they fail to do so.
  12. Behaving in a non-conforming manner in order to draw attention to yourself.
  13. Any behavior which is contrary to your identity and purpose, or conflicts with your core beliefs, is generally done to gain the approval of someone else.

The world is not black and white. You are entitled to your own thoughts, beliefs and opinions. Just because you think differently to someone else does not mean that one of you is right and one of you is wrong. It is important to be able to respect the right of others to have their own opinion but to do so; you must first be able to respect your right to have your own opinion. If someone makes a convincing argument, it is perfectly acceptable to change your opinion; however, if they fail to make a convincing argument, you are just as entitled to stick to your own opinion and agree to disagree. Respecting your own views requires you to avoid approval seeking behaviors. Failing to tackle approval seeking behavior can lead to passive aggressive behavior.

The biggest irony with approval-seeking behavior is that it usually produces the opposite results to those which are intended. If you take a moment to consider those people whom you respect most, you will find that one of their strongest traits is their ability to be true to who they are.  They stand up for what they believe in and live by their own values. Approval seeking behavior is intended to get more approval and respect from others, yet what people generally respect is the very opposite i.e. people who are true to themselves. It is nice to have the approval of others but the way to get it is to have self-approval and self-respect. While modern life conditions people to seek approval; familiarizing yourself with the approval seeking behaviors, listed above, will help you to identify when you are seeking approval, allowing you to take corrective action.

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