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Seeking approval is a natural human tendency. To avoid rejection from others, we often tell little white lies. We may agree with others despite having different opinions, constantly apologize for our actions, dole out insincere compliments, or commit to obligations that we have no interest in fulfilling.
These types of behaviors can limit us in life. Instead of following our hearts and pursuing our passions, we may end up doing things purely to appease our family members or win the approval of society at large.
Are you addicted to approval? The following tips may help you mitigate your dependency on external feedback.
Reflect on the ways in which your past may be affecting your present.
Our desire for others’ approval may, at times, feel illogical. Why can’t you refuse a coworker’s request to buy something for her daughter’s fundraiser, even though you have no need for another tin of popcorn? Your inability to say no is likely a result of your upbringing. Perhaps your father’s strict or overbearing nature made it impossible to refuse his requests. Maybe bullying and rejection in school turned you into a conformist people-pleaser.
Though we can’t change the past, understanding where these feelings come from may make it easier for us to overcome our present approval-seeking behaviors. You’re no longer a child who has to conform in order to survive. Disagreement, refusal, and rejection, though uncomfortable, are healthy parts of adult life.
Expose yourself to rejection.
Rejection is almost always uncomfortable. It doesn’t, however, need to be a source of pain or shame in your life. In order to grow, you’ll need to take risks. Taking risks may lead to rejection or disapproval. Oftentimes what we perceive as rejection is actually just feedback. Perhaps we need to approach a situation from a different angle. Maybe we need to take an even bigger risk and see where it leads.
Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the “Humans of New York” project, admits that the hardest part of his job has been facing rejection from the strangers he approaches on the streets. Though many rejected him, he continued on with his project. Today, he has accepted this challenge as a part of his job. As a result of his persistence he now has three published books, social media success, and millions of dollars raised for charity. Stanton’s story proves that taking the “road less traveled” and overcoming rejection can lead to amazing success.
View yourself through a lense of growth and change.
When our self-worth is caught up in the approval of others, it can be easy to view negative feedback as a criticism of who we are. Instead of beating yourself up over someone’s disapproval, focus on the fact that you can always grow and change. When you acknowledge the fact that your skills, talents, and knowledge can be improved over time, you’ll become less dependent on the external feedback provided by others. Accepting yourself as a person who is always growing, changing, and improving will help you realize that feedback and rejection are simply stepping stones along the path to self-fulfillment.
Disentangle yourself self-worth from outcome-oriented goals.
Setting goals is important in life. Unfortunately, focusing solely on outcomes can easily lead to feelings of failure and rejection. No matter how hard you may work, your boss might still choose someone else for a promotion. If you view your accomplishments solely through the lens of this promotion, you’ll likely feel like a failure.
Instead, acknowledge the successes you’ve had along the way. Remind yourself that an improved process is valuable, too. Focus on the fact that you’ve improved your coding abilities and your efficiency in the workplace. There may have been many qualified candidates for the position; a selection of someone else was not necessarily a rejection of your work. By focusing on the process, you’ll be able to see that the great work you did along the way is just as valuable as having a tangibly successful outcome.
Start doing things for you alone.
Focusing on your own sense of self is the best way to combat approval-seeking behaviors. Consider starting a gratitude journal that focuses on the things you appreciate about yourself. Acknowledge the good things you’ve accomplished and remind yourself of the times you’ve stayed true to your actual desires. Feel free to get creative. This journal is just for you!
Finally, start pursuing your dreams. Do the things you’ve always wanted to do, regardless of what your mother might have thought of them. Act on your desires and don’t apologize for them! By doing so, you’re guaranteed to feel greater contentment.
Though craving others’ approval is an innate human desire, it is not a necessity. Work on fostering your own sense of self-worth instead! By turning inwards and striving to please yourself first, you can experience a happier and more fulfilling life.
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