My mother deserted me when I was 6 and I didn’t know my dad (I still don’t know who my dad is and am not looking). Between the age of 6 and 21, I saw my Mum thrice- twice in good health and once on her death bed. Needless to say from an early age I felt I was more of a bother than a child. I felt I was not wanted and people took care of me out of obligation and not love.
From early on in life, I made a decision that I was going to prove everyone wrong. This was a great decision except that it was for the wrong reasons. My reasons for wanting to succeed was so that I would be what my mama was not. She was a disgrace to her family and a sore thumb in the community. I wanted to be a decent, honest and likable woman. Not for me but for others. I was willing to bend backward to be loved and appreciated. I was determined to escape the blow that life had dealt me at whatever cost.
Unfortunately for me, the cost was too high. I gave up my control, power, and soul. I needed people’s love, acceptance, and approval no matter how much it cost. I became an addict. Not for crack cocaine or alcohol but approval. It has taken me more than 10 years and a lot of prayer and therapy to recover. Am not there yet but am making progress.
What’s approval addiction?
Approval addiction is a coping mechanism for our feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and inability to measure up to standards. It’s a feeling that compels us to seek reassurance, affirmation, and comfort from others when feeling insecure. It’s a dependency on others to validate our self-worth.
You may not have had a tough childhood like me. Your parents may have been loving but overbearing and somewhat smothering. They may have been overachievers who left you feeling that you could never measure up to their expectations.
Are you an approval addict?
To know whether you are looking for love, acceptance, and validation from the wrong places, you need to watch out for the following tell-tale signs:
- The tendency to neglect yourself as you help others pursue their dreams and meet their needs.
- The desire to please people at all cost irrespective of whether they are violating your rights and values or not.
- Inability to say ‘no’ even when the demands being made are unreasonable and beyond your abilities.
- The tendency to be guilt ridden after saying ‘no’ to other people’s demands.
- A tendency to define your success and progress according to other people’s standards.
- The propensity to give up your dreams just because of people’s opinions and feelings.
- Tendency to help people and then resent them due to the sacrifices you made to accord them that help
How approval addiction is sucking the life out of you.
- It’s draining- Living your life according to other people’s standards and wishes drains the joy of living. It forces you to give up your power and control. By nature human beings are selfish and trying to do their bidding will suck the last ounce of strength from you.
- It’s debasing- Pursuit of approval and acceptance by others can be demeaning. It forces you to take a lot of crap from people who will not shy away from manipulating and taking advantage of your vulnerability.
- It’s disappointing- you can never be good enough for everyone. No matter how much you try to please people, you will always fall short of their expectation.
How to stop seeking approval and start living
- Give without expecting anything in return- when you extend a helping hand, do it expecting nothing in return. Help because you want to help and not because you expect a show of gratitude or affirmation.
- Own your life- your life is yours and yours alone. It a direct gift from God to you with no middleman in between. Only you can write your story. Don’t allow people to edit your story. Your life is entirely your business- your life, choices, mistakes, lessons, and triumphs are your own business. Mind your business and make no apologies about it.
- People are not trophies to be won- quit trying to win people over. Not everyone is meant to be on your side. If they can’t see your point of view or don’t share your values maybe they are not meant to be with you. Just take your marbles and go play elsewhere.
- Teach people how to treat you- if you treat yourself well, people will take the cue. How you treat yourself sets up the standard for how others treat you. Why would people treat you well if all you do is bash yourself day-in-day-out?
- Get over it, it’s just an opinion- opinions aren’t facts, they are just people’s point of view. When you know who you are and what you stand for, you will understand that people have a right to their opinion and you have a right to ignore it. What you think about yourself is your business. What others think about you is their business, mind yours.
- Be kind to your self- “Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe. No less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” Can you really argue with that? After all, the first rule of kindness is to be kind to yourself.
- Say ‘no’ more often- the world is a tough place for people without a spine. The universe is full of slave drivers and master manipulators prowling for slaves and subjects, and approval addicts make the best slaves. You have the right to say ‘No’ to unreasonable requests and demands without feeling guilty. And as Paulo Coelho says,”when you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself”.
- Order your private world- in the pessimistic world we live in, we must prioritize our need to take care of the inner person. Above everything else, you must guard your heart for everything you do flows from it. Protect your emotional well-being by learning to, “soundproof the heart against the intruding noises of the public world in order to hear what God has to say about you”– Gordon MacDonald.
It’s your life. Yours to own and create. You have only one life to live. Live your life the best way you know how and be unapologetic about it. You owe no one an explanation other than your Maker. As long as you are at peace with yourself and with God, you are good to go.