No one is sure how the need for approval developed. Some social scientists believe that it evolved from a survival advantage that group acceptance provided. It was challenging to survive 10,000 years ago, and maybe impossible to survive alone. Those that crave acceptance had a better chance of remaining with the group and survival.
Those that didn’t care about upsetting others found themselves kicked to the prehistoric curb and an early demise.
In this day and age, though, approval-seeking behavior is self-sabotaging. Trying to impress others is exhausting and minimizes your own importance and individuality.
Free yourself from the need to receive approval from others:
1. Give your opinion freely. One symptom of approval-seeking tendencies is the hesitance to share your opinion. You might say something that the other person doesn’t approve of. And since it was your opinion, they might not approve of you either.
- Give your opinion, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Start with smaller things. Do you think it will rain? Do you prefer basketball or football? Which movie would you like to see?
2. Avoid judging others. If you’re overly critical of others, it’s only natural that you assume others are the same towards you. By avoiding this type of behavior in yourself, you’ll drop the assumption that everyone else is judging you. Allow others to be as they are. It makes life more interesting. Sit back and enjoy the differences.
- Notice your thoughts. Are you constantly judging others in a variety of situations? You’ll fear the judgements of others if you continue to be judgmental.
3. Realize that disapproval can be used as a weapon. Many people use disapproval as a means of getting what they want. They may disapprove of your opinion, clothing, hairstyle, or anything else to enjoy the fruits of your submission.
- Call people on their disapproval of you. Ask them to explain themselves. Remember that most negative people are looking for a victim, not a fight. When you stick up for yourself, many of the bullies disappear.
- Knowing this can free you from seeking the approval of others. In many cases, they’re just in the game for themselves.
4. Be aware of what happens when someone disapproves of you. Nothing happens. We seem to be born with an intense desire to fit in. But what actually happens when someone disapproves of you? The sky doesn’t fall on top of you. You might suffer from a little anxiety or embarrassment, but it passes.
“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.”
– Mary Dunbar
5. Do some things for yourself. If you’re constantly seeking approval, you’re not taking very good care of yourself. Show yourself that you’re important by focusing some of your time and energy on yourself. It might be a little bit uncomfortable at first. You might even feel selfish.
6. Fill your life with things that are important. If you had to run across the street naked to save your child’s life, you wouldn’t be worried about anyone’s opinion. That’s because your child’s life is more important than your ego. But you don’t need a disaster to experience this.
- Volunteer with an organization that’s doing important work. Write a book that you believe will change lives for the better. Find ways to spend your time on things you consider to be important.
- You’ll find that you enjoy more freedom in the other, less important, parts of your life.
Being overly concerned about the opinions of others is damaging to your self-esteem. Each time you seek approval, you’re diminishing your own importance. You’re causing yourself pain. Your opinion matters. Allow your individuality to be seen and experienced by others.
“Why should we worry about what others think of us, do we have more confidence in their opinions than we do our own?”
– Brigham Young
“To accept ourselves as we are means to value our imperfections as much as our perfections.”
– Sandra Bierig