Approval Seeking: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
It is possible that seeking approval is the single most common, and possibly the most painful addiction ever created by mankind. It can be more devastating than heroin, more addictive than cocaine, and more ubiquitous than food. If this sounds too dramatic, consider the following:
- Wanting to end the feeling of not being loved or accepted by others often is at the heart of addictions, depressions and desperate actions.
- Reflecting on your own life, notice when you have said “yes” when you meant “no,” in order to earn the approval of someone else.
There is no reason to feel bad about seeking approval. Everyone does it. However, the degree to which approval-seeking is harmful can be directly proportional to the extent to which we need someone else’s love or approval in order to feel okay. In my own case, the more I wanted to be loved and approved of, the more toxic the approval seeking was for me.
Children raised in healthy loving homes tend to have high self-esteem. In terms of seeking approval, this means that they are able to self-validate. However, this is not to say they do not need approval from others in order to feel good about themselves. They just need it to a lesser degree than children who have lower self-esteem.
Survivors of sexual abuse who have not gotten help to deal with the consequences tend to have very low self-esteem. I certainly did, which can create a powerful addiction to the approval of other people. Since I was incapable of loving myself, I needed other people to do it for me.
Because many abused children lose their sense of self, they tend to seek external validation, and may even become dependent on it as a surrogate sense of self. Seeking approval from others can be incredibly painful. By needing other people to approve of us, we are sending ourselves the message that our opinion is not good enough. Constant approval-seeking sends ourselves the message that other people’s opinions about us are more important than our own. It reinforces the horrible belief that we need to suppress our own desires, personality and needs in order to win approval from others.
Because I did not get any validation or approval of any kind from my mother and stepfather, I started seeking that validation and approval wherever I could find it and I found it with those that were drinking and drugging. Unfortunately, this is what led to the beginning of a 33-year run of alcohol and drug abuse, which in no way helped with my self-esteem
Because I so desperately needed the approval and validation of who I was as a person, for a time, I sacrificed all my morals and ethics. I knew that drinking and drugging was wrong. I just didn’t care anymore. For the next 31-years, I sacrificed my morals and ethics countless times to fit in with others. I would change who I was, and how I acted based on who I was with and what I was doing — I had become a chameleon.
After working on my self for the past ten years, I no longer need others approval to survive. I have learned how to love myself and do what makes me happy, even if others do not approve. Do I still want the approval of others? Absolutely. I believe it is an innate desire of human beings. However, I no longer need that approval in order to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Randy Boyd is a licensed California Alcohol and Drug Counselor, the founder of the Courageous Healers Foundation, and an associate of “It Happens to Boys.” He speaks at conferences, schools, and treatment facilities, about the effects of abuse on men, and how men can heal from those effects. Randy is the author of the new groundbreaking book addressing the sexual abuse of boys entitled “Healing the Man Within”, a book for male survivors written by a male survivor.
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