Last night I received an invitation from a friend to join the Facebook group, “Homosexuals should be able to give blood like everyone else.”

What?! I thought, “Gay men can’t give blood?,” I had no idea. Outraged, my response was to join this group immediately! But then my approval seeking addiction started to kick into gear. What if I offend a Facebook friend? Someone might not agree

That’s when I caught myself. Who cares?! I believe gay men should be able to give blood, so what does it matter what anyone else thinks?

Approval seeking. We all do it. Some more than others (ahem… Hello. My name is Amy and I am an approval addict).

But why?

I love Brooke Castillo’s take on approval seeking in “If I’m  So Smart, Why Can’t I Lose Weight?,” which by the way, is a great read even if you have no weight issue. She says, “I used to spend a lot of time trying to get people to like me. In fact, the less they liked me, the more I tried to get them to like me.”

She goes on to explain that, “what happens is when we aren’t giving ourselves enough love and approval, we are looking outside of ourselves to get it. When someone actually gives us some approval, we do whatever we can to keep getting it. We start doing the approval-earning dance based on what we think they like.”

I used to do this dance all the time. I would try to get approval when I went nuts cleaning the house before a visit, when I obsessed about what outfit to wear before going out with friends, when I yearned to lose five more pounds, when I drank at parties so I could be more “fun.” Hell my whole master’s degree was one big approval seeking jig.

There you have it. A good part of my life was one big scramble (a Quickstep perhaps?) for approval. THAT was exhausting… and expensive. The thing is, as I mentioned in a previous post, we can never really now what other people think. Even more important for the sake of this post – unless you are a Jedi Warrior or you work in advertising, it is impossible to ever be able control the thoughts and impressions of other people.

All of that scrambling left me totally lost. I was so worried about getting approval that I forgot what I liked. I forgot how to be myself.

Approval addicts come in many flavors. Some try to get approval by saying clever things at parties. Some just keep quiet as not to say anything that might warrant disapproval (or they skip the party all together). Some try to look good all the time through endless dieting, teeth whitening and nipple piercing. Others get degrees. Others try to please specific people and Do. Whatever. It. Takes. Or whatever they think it takes.

Here are my five steps to a life free from addiction:

Step 1) Mindfulness. Find out what flavor you are. Be what I like to call a “scientist of your life” and identify the when, where, why, how and who of your own approval seeking behavior.

Step 2) This is a biggie. Compassion. When I caught on to the enormity and extent of my approval seeking addiction, my first instinct was to beat the crap out of myself. Please don’t do that. The point is to offer yourself approval, so beating the crap out of yourself kind of defeats the purpose.

Step 3) Courage. In my opinion, once you catch on to this behavior, it takes a lot of guts to “just be yourself.” On paper it sounds simple; but in my case, I was so used to first seeking approval that doing anything without getting approval felt really scary.

Step 4) Vigilance. Remember once an addict, always an addict. There will be times when the urge comes back. Just remember the first three steps and you’re on your way again.

Step 5) Enjoy. Take it from me, there is a crazy wonderful freedom that comes from being the real you. It’s fun. I leave you with this quote which comes from an entry for a Dove Soap commercial:

“Luxury is being able to be the real you 100% of the time.”


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8 Responses

  1. Jamie says:

    What a great post! I’m a multi-flavored approval addict in recovery and I appreciate your take on the topic. I found you via Susan Hyatt (she used to coach me). I’ll be subscribing to your blog…now!

  2. Jen Trulson says:

    Excellent post! I shared it on my Biz Page on FB. fab-U-lous!! Love the way you write Amy, great info and words to live by.

  3. What a great post. I think this “addiction” is pervasive, and just about all of us have been prey to it at some time. I found the 5 steps at the end very helpful, particularly the reminder to ENJOY the freedom of no longer feeling that you are responsible for others’ happiness. Great insights and writing — thank you!

  4. Nona says:

    I’ve never thought of approval seeking as addictive behavior, but it sure is!! I love the humor you bring to this and sharing your own experience. You are awesome, Amy!

  5. [...] are lots of things that can get us going in the opposite direction of our North Star. Approval addiction. Fear of failure. Too much reality TV. These are the obvious ones. But sometimes we get off track [...]

  6. [...] few weeks.  Being on the receiving end of this not-so-positive feedback sent me right down the approval addiction death [...]

  7. Amy Boyden says:

    “Offer yourself approval” love this!! One of those so simple concepts that just clicks and says “this is the key” In this money tight time, I have spent so much time feelining guilty for not bring in any money as a stay at home mom, and feeling like I should be doing more that I haven’t given myself credit for the things I have accomplished and things that I do every day for my family. Self approval is surely also connected to self fulfillment and generally taking good care of oneelf, because if you know enough to give yourself “me” time, I would guess that shows self approval-that you know you deserve it!

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