Approval seeking behaviour sees you put your own dreams and ambitions to one side. You are no longer motivated by your own vision for life. Instead, your motivation comes from your need to win the approval of others. Their opinion of you, and of life, becomes more important than your own views. There are times in life where you it is necessary to put your own needs aside, temporarily, so that you can help others. When this becomes the norm, it tends to be motivated more by a need for approval than a desire to help. It may seem illogical that you would value your need for approval above your goals and dreams but there are benefits of approval seeking behaviour which might motivate you to do so. The benefits of approval seeking behaviour are subtle, psychological pay-offs. They are rewards which you receive in return for sacrificing your dreams. They are benefits which are not directly observable but if you look closely at your life, you may see a trend. Although subtle, the benefits of approval seeking behaviour are powerful motivators which help to keep you addicted to approval.
Benefits of approval seeking behaviour
The benefits of approval seeking behaviour can be narrowed down to 5 key areas:
1. Abdicating responsibility
When you prioritise your need for the approval of others above your own dreams, you make these people responsible for your lives. This enables you to blame them when something goes wrong or when you feel bad. You can claim that you had no choice or didn’t make a decision. A typical example is people who consistently work overtime. They are within their rights to say no but they claim that they have to do it.
2. Avoiding change
You have made others responsible for your life. If you are unhappy, you claim that there is nothing you can do to change it. For example, you may prefer not to do the overtime but you claim that your boss would not accept you saying ‘No’. Of course, you do not know how your boss will react because you refuse to have the conversation. This allows you to avoid the uncertainty of change.
3. Avoiding risk
When you have abdicated responsibility, and avoided change you eliminate risk from your life. Because you need your boss’ approval, you will not risk disappointing him by declining his request to work overtime.
4. An increased feeling of importance
You have made these people more important than you. You take comfort from the fact that you are in agreement with these important people. If you agree with them, you must be on the right track and you become important by association. You may consistently work overtime because you see more senior and experienced staff doing it. Rather than voice your disagreement by refusing to work overtime, you see it as the way to get ahead and become more important in the company.
5. Avoiding rejection
By following the example of others and seeking their approval, you make yourself fit into the crowd. If you are doing what they do, then they cannot reject you for that. You might like to say ‘No’ to the overtime but if you were to do so you would be doing something different and people might reject you for that.
To avoid approval seeking you need to discover your purpose and live your values.
The benefits of approval seeking behaviour help to shelter you from the painful experiences which life can bring. By choosing to be guided by your need for approval, you hope to prevent others and the outside world from hurting you. The sad irony is that by trying so hard to prevent others from hurting you, you inflict the greatest pain of all upon yourself – self rejection. By making others more important than yourself, you consign yourself to a hollow, unfulfilled life.