Journey of Life

the place formerly known as control your destiny

The Need For Approval

The biggest discovery I have made so far about who I am and what have controlled my life up until now has been the fact that for some reason I have had a desperate need for approval from others!

My parents, bosses, friends, strangers, clients, colleagues! No matter who, I would find a way of getting their approval even if it meant going against what I believed in!
Going hand in hand with that was my need to avoid conflict at all cost even if the cost of that would be sacrificing my own beliefs!
I would happily find a way to agree with anybody regardless of their argument just to keep the peace.

From a positive point of view, this behaviour did teach me to find the good points in any argument, but ultimately it lead to a lot of pain in terms of losing my own identity and my self esteem and as a result I completely lost touch with who I was, what I liked in life and saw myself as nothing more than just being on this earth to serve others no matter what!

I am not after sympathy here, but my guess is that I am not the first person who has felt like this and I am pretty confident I won’t be the last and if, when you read this, you can associate with that feeling then I am here to tell you that there is a way out of this way of feeling.
I am not completely there yet but I can see light at the end of the tunnel!

I would love to give you a step by step guide to how I came to this realization, however, it has taken me quite a long time to get to this point and has involved a huge amount of reading and learning and asking myself a lot of questions. I will try my very best to explain how it happened for me and I hope that in doing so you may get an idea or think of questions to ask yourself.

Now in order for me to do this I will have to explain a little about myself and my family.
I have a younger brother, who is the kind of guy who always happens to be in the right place at the right time, who, from an outside point of view, seems to have nothing but luck coming his way and, who, in addition to that have the good looks to go with it.
Now, I am not coming from a place of envy here (well not anymore!!!!) but I did start to question the fact that if we come from the same family and seemingly had the same loving upbringing then why did we turn out so different? Why did he seem to turn everything he touched to gold with hardly any effort and I had to work VERY hard for the same results or less?? I kept asking myself those questions and I also started to ask my parents about our upbringing and whether they had treated us differently in any way, which of course they denied, and only now do I realize that this may have been a fairly insensitive question to ask in the first place. I also tried to ask my brother similar questions because I wanted to find out how he managed to always get what he wanted and what went on in his head but of course he couldn’t give me a concrete answer.

All this is going on while I am learning about affirmations, the law of attraction, setting goals, visualising and the rest of it, a long time before “The Secret” surfaced.
As far as my brother is concerned I came to the conclusion that for him it happens subconsciously, which on one hand left me happy for him and on the other left me none the wiser as to why I didn’t have that automatic skill and how to develop it.

It came to a point where I hit rock bottom (Again – no sympathy please) and could not face the outside world let alone work and had to phone in sick, which in itself was extremely difficult because as soon as I had done so the guilt came flooding in.
For about 2 hours that morning I just sat still staring into thin air with thoughts flying around in my head not knowing what to do, not knowing how to get my life back together, already dreading the next day and this was at 8 in the morning.

I don’t mean to sound magical in any way but after those 2 hours of just staring into thin air something happened; I just grabbed a pen and an A4 notebook and started writing, and I wrote solidly for nearly 3 hours. (If you have read the Writing a Journal entry this is where my journal started.) It was like I was having a conversation with another part of myself and the answer I was looking for just came to me: I am 3 years older than my brother and for the first 3 years of my life I had the full attention of my parents; I was the most important person in their lives, I had 100% approval at all times no matter what I did.
Then My brother is born and all of a sudden I have to share all the attention and have to work for the approval, whereas he didn’t know any different.

I am aware that this sounds like text book psychology but this was the turning point in my life in the sense that for the first time I gained complete clarity on how I developed some of my behavioural patterns and it has helped me, not only become aware of them but more importantly find a way of changing them.

This happened 6 months ago and I still find myself slipping into the “trying to please” pattern now and again and my point is that a life long habit takes time to change but it WILL change as long as you are aware of when it occurs. Learn how to break it and most importantly persevere and never give up! The only approval you need is from YOU!

Once I have mastered that bit I will be back to let you know how.

Until then, feel free to email me with stories or questions or post a comment.

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17 responses to “The Need For Approval

  1. Jason November 10, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    I’m happy to have found your blog entry. I, too, have recently become conscious of my need for approval. It’s comforting to hear another describe the same experience I’m having. I agree that it’s a matter of being fully aware of your cognitive and behavioral patterns that reinforce the need so that you can catch yourself in the act and replace those tendencies with healthier habits. You sound like you’re well on your way. Best of luck to you, not that you’ll need it. 🙂

  2. J November 13, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    Jason, Thank you for your comment and I am really pleased you felt it was useful to read and even more pleased that you too have become conscious about this “strange” need. I am also sure that, like me, you have found that now that you are more aware of it, it is easier to control, although I have to sometimes still take a step back and ask myself whether I am doing something to get the approval or not. Just keep going and feel free to email me.

    Best wishes
    J

  3. Mike June 1, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    I always have relationship problems with others, from childhood to my adult years. No matter what i say, no matter what i do, it seems like it is never good enough. In terms of character, i’m better than most people, yet most people just do not like me, and they always have something to say about me, u should do this or that, change this or that. I thought i really have a character problem yet I don’t see jerks having any relationship problems. 😦

    Also, the feelings are very painful when criticisms are made, very often it is not justified. After years of book and internet searching, i finally know the answer, it is the inner child issue. The child within me is hurt. I have traced the source, my mum was very harsh with her criticisms on me no matter what i do, because of that i also have tremendous fear in relationships and intimacy issues.

    Sorry for the long post.

  4. shiona July 29, 2008 at 5:42 am

    It was this post that helped me discover your blog. I felt so overwhelmed by my need for approval that I decided to read something on this issue on the Internet and I came across your post. No need to say, your words express exactly the way I feel. Since then I’ve been reading your posts regularly and I find everything your write down here extremely helpful.

  5. Patrick November 3, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Hi, came across your blog and site searching for “answers” i suppose. Reading your comments has helped me to come to the realisation that I too, have a “need for approval”, but am having difficulty tracing it back for the origin as I came from a loving family was the last child of three and as such spoilt rotten to the probable detriment of my elder siblings… But everything I do I do for others! I subvert my own feeling and opinions just so that I feel wanted/approved of… typing this out I am feeling I am talking no sense at all… again not believing in myself because I can’t be right cos I never am as others always are…

  6. B November 5, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Hello – i was curious why I’m nice to so many while thinking in my head just to do the right thing, be courteous, and keep the peace as to keep a harmonious day. It all works until I realize that I’d feel worse being dishonest with or cheating myself rather than with being honest with others. Most importantly so long as the honesty is attached to the problem/different perspective, not the other person, and with as little/no emotion (objective). Things happen but unless I know I’ve been as fair as possible to myself and others then it’s all for not. Don’t know if I’ve reached some new level of cognitive dissonance or what, but I’m feeling pretty sure I’m on the right track. No assumption that I’m right but at least engaging healthy discussion. Thanks very much for your blog. 🙂

  7. Gaute May 20, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    thanks for this blog, it was really helpful. glad to see there are others like me, and that there’s a way out.

  8. J May 20, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Hi Gaute,

    I am happy you found it helpful and I am grateful you took time to comment. You will never be alone regardless of what the problem may be and there’s always a way out.
    I sincerely hope you find your way out.

    Best wishes

    J

  9. Pingback: Need for Approval « Control Your Destiny

  10. turbawark January 2, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Stunning affair, I didn’t thought reading it was going to be so interesting when I looked at your title!

  11. J January 2, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Thank you for your visit, it is a pleasure to welcome you here and I appreciate your kind comment.

  12. Evelyn March 8, 2010 at 8:43 am

    J,
    For many years I suffered from low self-esteem. At the height of it (when I developed clinical depression) I discovered it was the addiction to approval from others that was the main cause of my problem. My whole identity was based on how people see me. This realization embarked me on a journey of self exploration and healing. I began to question and discard alot of assumptions that ‘guided’ my life.

    I’m glad to say that I have overcome this addiction and am enjoying a level of emotional freedom that was unbelievable years ago.

    It’s been a few years since you posted this blog entry. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I hope you have made much progress in this aspect. If you are still trying, let me assure you that you will surely make it.

    Only when we accept ourselves for who we are can we fully access and make use of our inner talents and abilities.

    All the best!
    Evelyn

  13. R. Oswald April 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    J-

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    At 50 years old, I’m just now becoming aware of how deep my need for approval is/has been. The fact that I’m now fully conscious of it is, I think, already half the battle. Now I’m keeping an awareness of the little things-reflexes-thoughts on a daily basis. It’s exciting because it reminds of the exhilarating feeling of childbirth (not my own, but of my three children). Pain and joy together. I owe it to myself to celebrate my own existence. After so many years of riding an emotional roller-coaster, feeling shitty about myself… incompetent, worthless, I’m getting comfortable with the idea that it feels great to be alive!

    Here’s a book I recently found:
    A Guide To Rational Living, Albert Ellis & Robert Harper

    Take care.
    -R

    • J April 29, 2010 at 6:17 pm

      Hi R,

      Thank you for your visit and for the taking the time to comment.
      Being fully aware or conscious of this need is indeed half the battle. When I first wrote about it is when I started to become fully aware of it. Since then, the need has lost most of its power, mostly by not allowing myself to do something purely for the sake of getting approval.

      I firmly agree that you owe it to yourself (we all do) to celebrate your own existence, you are unique with qualities only you have, but I also fully understand how this is easier said than done.

      I sincerely hope that the emotional roller-coaster you have been riding is slowing down and that you will continue to feel comfortable with the fact that you have a place in this in this world..

      I will look into the book.. Have you read it yet??

      Best wishes

      J

  14. Molly February 13, 2011 at 12:48 am

    Wow. I’m had a terrible two weeks, fighting within myself, trying to understand my 46 years of existence. “Approval from others” kept coming to my mind, as I searched the internet, this blog came up. THANK YOU for putting into writing (which can be quite formidable when one READS vs HEARS something) what I was feeling. It has been an especially painful two weeks, and if I think hard, I see where I demonstrated all of my life a need for others to approve of me. I’m successful in work, in relationships, friendships, etc. However, I can be easily derailed when it comes to someone just not liking me. Rather than worrying if I like that person back, I’ll actually spend my most valuable resource, my mental energy, trying to figure out what to do to “fix” the perceived issue, just so I don’t go around with knowing I have a lingering “issue” with someone. My compulsion for harmony in relationships is starting to overwhelm me. Please keep writing….

  15. rycka February 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    The law of attraction is bullshit.

  16. schoolofeverything.com April 19, 2013 at 4:59 am

    Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content.

    Please let me know. Thanks

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