I have had a life long love of “gold stars.” The gold star was the most sought after in elementary school.  I wanted to win every spelling bee and ace every times table. My love for gold stars morphed into a passion for any kind of recognition. I chased after the elusive presidential fitness award, secretly longed to be named girl of the month, held the hope of one day becoming homecoming queen, studied diligently for a chance to be Magma Cum Laud, and honed my presentation skills in order to win a presidential management scholarship….

Gold stars, in my opinion, are best if offered in writing or on a plaque but compliments do nicely. On the job, I wasn’t interested in my paycheck, I was much more motivated by recognition or compliments.

Becoming a mom was a turning point for me. No matter how hard I worked at it, there were always differing opinions on how to do it right. My babies didn’t compliment me after a flawless diaper change. I had a book case full of parenting books that all seemed to give different, often contradictory advice. As a person highly skilled at getting the gold star, the early days of being a mom were rough. There were no good grades, no recognition for top achievement, not even the possibility of an honorary mention.

But motherhood made me realize that all my life I had been busy chasing gold stars but it never got me any closer to happiness. Every time I was recognized for something, it felt good at first, but inevitably left me feeling empty and unsatisfied.

Is this you?

In my work with approval addicts, I’ve come across various approval seeking personalities. I’ve categorized seven so far. I’ll be taking a closer look at each one over the next several weeks of blog posts.

Performers are the gold star chasers.

They are often really good at getting approval. So good, in fact, they tend to think (not always) they have a lot of confidence. The problem? Their confidence always hinges on getting gold stars. They get so wrapped up in chasing gold stars they completely lose themselves in the process. Take away the gold stars and you take away their confidence. This is what happened to me after becoming a mom.  Without gold stars to chase, I had to find myself. In the end it was an absolute gift.

If any of this resonates, here are 5 signs you might be addicted to approval:

  1. You confuse getting gold stars with being happy. Chances are you are so good at getting gold stars that you don’t even realize this. But ask yourself, how does it feel after receiving praise, an award, or recognition? If it feels short lived and unsatisfying, you might be outsourcing your confidence.
  2. You spend a lot of time chasing gold stars. I know, this seems obvious but you may not even be conscious of just how much time you spend doing it. Ask yourself this, what would your life be like if you didn’t care about outside recognition? If you find yourself facing a gigantic void that was once filled with gold star chasing, you know you have a problem.
  3. You devote a lot of  energy focusing on “the next fix.” Okay so you probably don’t do this consciously but if you are a performer you probably have several gold stars on your to do list. Maybe you hope your boss will mention your stellar filing skills at the next staff meeting, or perhaps you hope to triple the sales quota at your company this month or, a bit more sinister, you secretly plan to drop two dresses sizes before the next mommy and me get together. If you are doing any of this for public recognition you are probably a performer.
  4. The more people the better. There are some who would rather have their teeth pulled than to be singled out even when it is to be recognized for a job well done. Not performers. The more people there are to witness your achievement, the better. I used to love watching awards ceremonies like The Academy Awards because I secretly fantasized about receiving that level of recognition for something.
  5. More, more, more! Performers don’t stop at one gold star. If you are a performer, chances are you are constantly looking for more recognition. Oh and the more prestigious the gold star, the better. A performer likes a pat on the back, don’t get me wrong, but it had better be by The President of the United States.

The bottom line? Being good at getting gold stars is not a bad thing. It doesn’t make you vain, or self centered or inferior. Ironically you may think you have a lot of confidence but what you must realize, as a performer, is that you have very little trust in yourself.

The key is faith. Faith that who you really are is enough.

The key is to channel all that time and energy chasing gold stars into yourself. Figure out your passion and put your incredible talent to work for you. Trust me, there will be many gold stars in your future. The difference? You won’t be chasing gold stars. They will come and you won’t expect it. And when you receive recognition, it will just be icing on the cake.

If you liked this article, please join me for my upcoming free class!




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2 Responses

  1. Maureen says:

    Dear Amy,
    I just found your site and love it. Every post resonates with me! In this post, it could have been me you described: bookshelves filled with every parenting book I could find on Amazon, parenting magazines strewn around the house, striving to be the perfect mom but always feeling I fell short.

    I have a question for you about the 7 categories of approval-seeking personalities you mentioned. Is there by chance a type of approval addict who actually does the opposite of what they know would win approval? e.g., I want to write thank-you notes, but I don’t. I want to send a birthday card to so-and-so, and even though I know their bday is approaching, I don’t send the card. I want to do thoughtful things for my in-laws, but I don’t. I want to return that phone call, but … you get the idea. In the past I really had to push myself to do these things. But now I seem to “actively resist” doing them.

    Maybe I’m your 8th category? :-)

    Thanks Amy … Maureen.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Maureen!
      Not sure how I mist your comment before. I can totally relate… I’m the same way. I’m not sure about that. I guess it depends on your why… Why don’t you do those things? I don’t because, even though I know it is the right way to get approval, my true self really hates writing thank you cards most of the time. Maybe you are resisting because your essential self is trying to tell you something…

Leave a Reply to Maureen