Approval seeking is a pointless pursuit where you give up your right to your own identity, opinions and beliefs in order to be liked and respected by others. Needing the approval of one person is bad but when you need to be approved of by everyone, it’s disastrous. You live in a constant state of worry, anxiety and indecisiveness. You fear that others will disapprove of any action which you might take. Before long, your stress levels rise, your health begins to deteriorate and your performance suffers.

The irony of approval seeking

Not only is approval seeking bad, it is one of the most pointless endeavours which you can partake in.  To illustrate the supreme irony of approval seeking, I would like you to perform the following short exercise:

  1. Identify 3 people whom you admire and respect.
  2. List all of their traits and qualities which you respect.
  3. Highlight the common qualities which all 3 possess.

When I conduct this exercise with my clients, we find that one of the common qualities, which all 3 possess, is authenticity. Authenticity means that these people are true to themselves. They are confident in who they are and what they do. They follow their own path in life and call things as they see them. Although they do not seek the approval of others, people who are authentic are generally popular and well respected.

That is the supreme irony of approval seeking. You live in a society which conditions you to seek the approval of others, yet those who receive the most respect and approval never make any attempt to seek approval. They know that approval seeking is a pointless labour. Authentic people realise that happiness is not something which needs to be chased or reeled in; it is something which needs to be let out. Happiness already exists within you. You just need to experience it and let it guide you. No matter what you do in life, there will always be some people who disapprove. So what? You just need to understand that your happiness comes from fulfilling your dreams and aspirations and not from sacrificing them to help others achieve theirs.

It feels great when others approve of you. There is nothing wrong with wanting or liking approval, it is a healthy behaviour which can motivate you to perform to your optimum. It is only when it develops into a need for approval that it becomes a problem. You start to modify your behaviour to gain approval. You now know the ultimate irony of approval seeking i.e. that those who gain the most approval are those who never seek it. Next time you find yourself approval seeking, think about those whom you most respect and follow their example – be yourself. Remind yourself of the person you wish to be and the life you wish to lead and let that be your guide.

One of the greatest ways to avoid approval seeking  is to live true to your values. Check out Values Based Living for more information.


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