Journey of Life

the place formerly known as control your destiny

Need for Approval

Do I need approval? Nope, but I could do with some nuts!!

The Need for Approval was one of my first posts on this blog and has remained the most popular ever since. I initially wrote it for another blog about 3 years ago which I have since deleted. What I haven’t done until now is to revisit it really to see where I am but also to, at least, offer some insight into what I believe helped me move forward.

When I first wrote it, it was a way for me to understand why I would do certain things and behave in a certain way. I was under the impression that I was the only one having this issue to deal with.

Have I moved forward since I wrote the initial post? Absolutely! but there’s still work to do. I have come to a place where I accept myself and respect myself for who I am, most of the time. I have learned to to stop myself when I do something purely to get approval.

Whenever I get the urge to tell someone about some kind of achievement, I stop myself and ask why I want to tell that person! Am I telling them just to hear them say “well done” or is there a real purpose in me telling them? I still give in to the urge now and again but the point is that at least now I manage to stop myself and question whether I am doing it for a valid reason or simply to gain approval.

I wanted to stop feeding the need for approval from others and this was difficult, especially in the beginning, but after a while I kind of started giving myself approval instead. I began to realise that when I gave myself approval the need to get it from external sources gradually lost it’s power.

There are times when, even after I question the motive, I still allow myself to act just for the sake of approval and that’s ok. Change does not happen instantly, it happens gradually.

I would be lying if I told you that it has completely disappeared, but compared to 18 months ago I am much more in control.

I really do not have a specific method of getting rid of this need. I have tried various approaches, some of which worked well, but my real failure here was not keeping a record of exactly what I did, which means I am having to rely purely on memory.

Reading “You Can Heal YourLife” was a major part in helping me to get to where I am now. It helped me understand that the reason I felt the need for approval from external sources was because I didn’t get it from myself. It helped me understand that the reason I didn’t get approval from myself was because I constantly felt I wasn’t good enough! Good enough for what??? I am not sure!

I followed the instructions in that book for the first time in my life and I in all honesty it was strange to begin with. Some of them made me feel silly and I felt so much resistance in the shape of the voice in my mind (my ego) telling me that this was a waste of time. One of the instruction is to affirm to yourself over and over again “I love and approve of myself” and while this seems easy enough, this was the part I felt the most resistance towards. Not because I refused to actually love and approve of myself but because I found the idea so silly that I had a hard time doing it. Luckily I perservered and I still say that phrase to myself, mostly without even thinking about it. Sometimes I create little songs in my head and sing away “I love and approve of myself”. I obviously do not sing it out loud in fear of being sectioned under the mental health act!

But maybe the fact that I kept doing it for so long meant that I eventually ended up actually believing it.

In addition to the affirmation I began telling myself that no matter what, I am always doing the best that I can in that particular moment. This may not be good enough by someone else’s standards but I kept telling myself that I did the best that I could.

No matter where you are in life, no matter what you are trying to achieve, there will always be someone ahead of you. Someone who may have a lot more experience, more training, more help. For me, the important part was to stop comparing myself to other people’s achievements and focus on my own journey. This reduced the impatience and urgency to get to the end result and helped me focus on the journey itself. I am not suggesting that one should stop learning from the successes of others. I still get inspired and learn from people who are more successful than me in whatever area you want to succeed at, but I now learn without feeling like a failure because they are better than me. I no longer compare myself with others.

I do not believe any person is better or any worse than anyone else. It’s down to experience, circumstances and other factors. I may be perceived at being better at doing my job than a colleague (or worse) but I really do not believe that I am. I may have more experience, better circumstances, better tools etc.

When I don’t compare myself to others, I feel more at peace with myself and I seem to function better. I still have work to do but I also see and feel the improvement.


25 responses to “Need for Approval

  1. poeticmocha June 4, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    I came across your post and I find it to be quite interesting. I think that many people experience the same thing that you went through-the need to be accepted by others. It is very important to continue to remember who you are. If one does not keep in mind that they have to remain true to themselves-who will? What other people may think about you does not matter because at the end of each day-it is you who has to be feel happy about the person that you are. In life, there is always going to be someone who is better or worse than you are. However, an individual has to concentrate on themselves and recognize that they are their own person. Each person is different and has unique qualities. No two people are the same and everyone has different experiences. Therefore, there is no need to compare yourself to other people. Concentrate on yourself and be happy with the person you are because nobody can make you happy other than yourself. One of the keys to happiness is knowing that you are trying your 100% best in anything that you do as dedication, effort, hard work and a strong will are not easy to exemplify and when they are evident-rest assured that you are doing all you can and smile.
    -Good luck.

    • J June 5, 2009 at 7:42 pm

      “If one does not keep in mind that they have to remain true to themselves-who will?” You are absolutely right.
      I am thrilled to have you here and hope to see you back soon. If you have a blog please let me know. Until then I will try my best to rest assured that I am doing all I can and I am smiling as I write this.

      Thank you again for taking the time to visit and thank you for your insight.

      Best wishes

  2. Molly June 5, 2009 at 2:19 am

    Great post, J. Love it. Really good thing to look at, why we need to tell others of our achievements. I am going to do a little awareness test to see how much I do this in my life. Great insight!

    • J June 5, 2009 at 7:52 pm

      Thank you Molly,

      I continue to do the “awareness test” whenever I feel the urge to tell rather than show and it is hard sometimes to stop myself from doing it.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with telling others about things we are proud of having achieved as long as we have given ourselves credit for it first, which unfortunately I never did.

      I hope your own little “awareness test” went the way you wanted it to.


  3. retiredeagle June 5, 2009 at 2:59 am

    The need for approval is basic for all of us even if we never admit to it. We work hard for validation of who we are from family, from community, from the workplace. Yet rarely do we do the work to appreciate ourselves. It is only when we meet with our own approval that we give that beast a rest. I enjoy reading your work here.

    • J June 5, 2009 at 8:05 pm

      When I wrote the first “approval” post 18 months ago I thought I was alone in feeling this need and it was just me being either abnormal of dramatic, but now I do think it is basic for all of us as you say.
      I continue to practice to appreciate myself and give myself approval and I am getting better at it. Hopefully with enough practice I will put the “beast” to sleep for good.
      I am very grateful for your comment.


  4. viv66 June 5, 2009 at 6:40 am

    I went to bed and have been mulling this over all night. As well as the human need for approval, I think I am more driven by a need to avoid disapproval. I blame myself for everything, even things that are well beyond my control or influence. At work, it doenst bother me if I get no accolades and praise so long as I don’t get blamed and reviled…

    • shiona June 5, 2009 at 11:53 am

      Oh, this is exactly the way I feel too, viv. Disapproval can give me such an unpleasant feeling about myself that it can last for weeks on end. It was only recently that I’ve started to take it in that I could not be liked by everyone and that there are certain people whose opinion really means nothing to me at all. And I don’t know why it is so difficult for me to stop feeling guilty….

    • J June 5, 2009 at 8:31 pm


      I hope you did manage to get some sleep and wasn’t “mulling” this over all night! If you were, you have my apologies.
      The need for approval or the need to avoid disapproval was always the same for me. I have always been shy of conflicts and have always feared disapproval as much as I craved approval. I became the master at telling people what they wanted to hear, either to get approval or to avoid the disapproval, which resulted in me being very confused with no sense of self esteem.
      I agree that praise is less of an incentive than the fear of disapproval. The more approval I get from myself the less frightened I am of disapproval and I am feeling braver when the risk of disapproval presents itself.

      Whenever you go down the path of blaming yourself just tell yourself that you are doing the best that you can with the tools and mindset at that moment because you are always doing your best!

      My life has been enriched by your presence and I am forever grateful for that.

      Love & hugs


  5. shiona June 5, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    It was through “The Need for Approval” that I came across your blog. I may have said this before, but I’ll repeat myself, anyway. I typed the expression in Google and there it popped up. Until then, I also thought I was probably the only one having such a problem.
    I’ll always be grateful for that! I’ve had a big progress since then. 🙂

    • J June 5, 2009 at 8:49 pm

      I will always be grateful that you came across my blog and I have read that comment countless times. I had no idea that the expression “The Need for Approval” was such a popular search phrase in google back then but it seems to be a very frequent search term.
      For me, realising that I wasn’t the only one with this problem was so reassuring and still is. While I am less worried about fitting into certain categories of normality these days I still have spells of wanting some kind of reassurance from external sources.

      To learn that you have had big progress since then fills me with joy.
      As far as gratitude is concerned I can’t begin to express my gratitude to you for leaving a comment at a time when I was ready to give up on blogging.

      With love.

  6. viv66 June 5, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Shiona, I’m very interested in you finding this blog by typing an exact phrase into google and finding it. One of my novels has people doing just that; I did wonder if people actually did it(i do myself) and it’s really nice to have confirmation of it. It’s also amusing that when i read my stats page, the google or other searches that come up and bring people to my blog are on such extraordinary topics.
    I’ve no idea why I feel guilty all the time either; its a true bummer. I don’t mind so much when i can make the connection and disconnect it; it’s just this vague existential guilt that pervades everything. Sometimes I feel I am personally and uniquely responsible for climate change and a lot of other things for which my share of blame can only be miniscule.
    For me, the fact that my current boss loathes me and everything I do has repercussions I try not to imagine. Otherwise it might not matter so much.
    I have a necklace on today, a pewter charm of a goddess type stylised figure and on the reverse are the words, “Power is the ability not to have to please” . I picked it at random at new year, without knowing it has words on it; but serendipity or some such thing took a hand, I think…

    • shiona June 5, 2009 at 5:27 pm

      I do type phrases into google very often. Mostly for linguistic purposes. As a non-native speaker of English, I always have doubts about this and that and finding a phrase on the net is an easy way to see it used in context. It helps a lot.

      When I found J’s blog, it was because I wanted to actually read about the need for approval. I was desperate because I had already realized much of my undesired behaviour was instigated by my reluctance to disappoint others and my desire/necessity to please. By the way, these are clever words on your necklace. I believe it’s serendipity for me to read them thanks to you now. I’ll write them down in my little notebook I always carry around with me.

      I’d be very interested in your novels. I suppose I can read more about what you write in your blog and I intend to do that. 🙂

  7. tobeme June 5, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Sounds like you have come a long way in your journey and that you continue to evolve and grow. You have learned a great lesson in that we should not compete or compare ourselves with others, that the true measure is to compare ourselves from yesterday to today.

    • J June 5, 2009 at 8:56 pm

      Thank you Mark,

      I do think I have come a long way but more importantly I think I have finally realised what joy the journey has to offer which has helped me stop focusing on the end result. I have learned so much from reading your words and for that I am eternally grateful.

      Bless you


  8. viv66 June 5, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    Bless you, Shiona.
    I’ve set up a second blog which J had very kindly linked here but as yet, there’s not a lot on it.
    I wouldn’t have guessed English was not your first language; I teach English as a foreign language and I’m quite attuned to the nuances of non-native speakers. Though to be honest, I get kids of maybe 14-18 and whose level is intermediate.
    I’ve tried to find your blog but it hasn’t come up when i clicked on your avatar.

    • shiona June 5, 2009 at 9:20 pm

      😀 I used to teach English as a foreign language in my own country for more than ten years. And I used to work with 14-18 year old kids too. Everybody keeps telling me I was a good teacher. To be honest, I never felt at home in that job. I have no doubts you are an excellent teacher and I truly hope you like it.

      As for my blog, J has linked it here too. It’s called “Shiona’s Innermost World” (a bit funny, I guess, but I’m rather introverted and initially it wasn’t intended for anyone else to read).

  9. J June 5, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Shiona & Viv,

    Check your email!!

  10. viv66 June 6, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Have done J.
    Now on my favourites and will be on my blogroll when I’m up and compos mentis again this day!

  11. Linda Pendleton June 7, 2009 at 5:29 am

    Excellent post. It is difficult to let go of needing the approval of others. But when we can do so, it is invigorating and freeing.

    • J June 9, 2009 at 9:40 pm

      Thank you Linda and welcome.

      It is difficult to let go of the need (at least for me) but at least I am getting better at it and the times where I have managed to let go have been truly freeing.

      Thank you for visiting and hope to see you again soon

      Best wishes

  12. enreal June 9, 2009 at 6:30 am

    The first step is recognition and acceptance. The next is realizing that the journey and lessons are never finished…

    We all need approval, your realization is your path to freedom. This was a great essay, full of honesty and wisdom. Thank You J

    • J June 9, 2009 at 9:44 pm

      Thank you so much enreal.

      I intend to follow that path to freedom but accept that sometimes I may get lost temporarily!

      I always feel blessed reading your comments

      Bless you

  13. Niki14 September 28, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    I just wanted to sincerely thank you for the blog posts on the need for approval. I have been struggling to understand my problems with relationships for a while and have finally been able to attribute it to this constant need for reassurance and approval. It is really great to hear that other people understand many of the things I go through. I am the type of person others think has it all put together, but this is something I have always secretly struggled with. Since I was young I always felt that I had no true identity or genuine sense of self, and although it is frustrating to feel this way, it is an incredible relief to feel that there is a way to change and to be able to relate with someone who has been able to do so. Thank you for having the bravery to post something so personal like this online, it has been a great help.

  14. J September 28, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    Hi Niki,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment and you are always welcome here. You are not alone in how you feel and I fully understand the struggle, which mostly happens secretly. I also think that is why most people perceive you as “having it all put together” because you keep this to yourself. Only very few people in my physical world knows about this place, which is why I feel comfortable posting what I would normally keep to myself. The act of writing this has probably been the biggest help as well as the comments I have received, which either makes me feel less alone with challenges like these or has given me a different perspective to ponder further.

    I am so pleased to learn that you found some relief in reading this and I sincerely hope your journey will get you closer to a sense of true identity and self.

    Best wishes


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