Whether you’re trying to get thousands of likes on Instagram or hoping to connect with someone on Tinder, sometimes it can seem like our happiness depends on other people. From the time we are children, we are constantly seeking approval and hoping to be accepted and in alignment with others and the world around us.
“This stems from our very human need to know and feel that we’re doing a good job in life,” says author Hale Dwoskin in an article on Huffington Post. “It also stems from the fact that, as mammals, we have the need to bond with our parents, family and clan. Plus, a little recognition also promts our brains to release the feel-good chemical dopamine,” Dwoskin adds.
However, constantly seeking approval from those around us can be very exhausting and some of us even put our own needs and wants on the back burner for the sake of being approved. So rather than seeking approval from external influences, we need to try to find true happiness by developing a more stable relationship with ourselves.
It’s not wrong to want people’s approval. But if we make their approval our main focus, it will become destructive. We hide parts of who we really are, lie about our beliefs, and change our actions so we can fit in. Even when we finally get approval, there’s still something missing. Seeking is the movement away from the awareness that your life is already complete, just as it is.
Try to understand why you’re seeking approval.
Understanding why we are constantly seeking approval from others can make it easier to eliminate the behavior altogether. In many cases, a tendency to seek approval stems from something in our past. For example, did you struggle to make friends in school and develop a fear of being rejected? This may be what’s driving you now to do whatever it takes to feel included and liked by your peers. Perhaps you’ll find that you are seeking approval because you’re uncertain. Or maybe you feel certain, but you’re seeking approval because you want someone else to like or accept you. Whatever the case may be, grasping the motive behind your need for approval is an important step in overcoming it.
Become aware of your actions.
“The first step to stop seeking approval from others is to become aware [that] we are stuck on doubt, insecurity, or uncertainty,” says occupational therapist and well-being coach Shira Gura. “We must recognize that our actions (of seeking approval) comes from the emotions and beliefs that arise within us.” Gently notice how you are around others, and what you say and do to disconnect from your authentic self. Once you become aware of how often you’re seeking approval from others, you can begin to work on yourself from within.
Develop a greater sense of self-worth.
“We tend to seek approval from others when our sense of self-worth is low, when we believe we have to ‘perform’ to be worthy of attention and love,” says clinical psychologist, speaker, and founder of the AZ Postpartum Wellness Coalition Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D. in an interview with Bustle. Ultimately, your opinion of yourself is the only thing that should matter to you. How you see yourself will determine your limit and how much you get out of life. Of course, sometimes we can be our own worst enemy by having constant negative thoughts. But squashing these is the key to recognizing your own worth. Start looking at areas where you can regain your authentic power. Whether that’s in a job or a relationship. Start assessing yourself and asking for your needs to be met. It’s never too late to approve of yourself and live a life that you feel proud of.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
Just because we’re not going down the same path as our peers doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path. “Realize you are a unique being with a unique purpose and path in this world, any comparison or need for another’s approval is apples to oranges,” says holistic wellness coach Pax Tandon in an interview with Bustle. “And, if you are tempted to compare to motivate you to being a better self, just remember to take those comparisons with a grain of salt; you might be comparing your real body to a photo-shopped one, [or] your organic life to a fabricated Instagram depiction,” she adds.
Align yourself with your core values.
When we constantly seek approval from others, we become inauthentic and cease to behave in ways that are consistent with who we truly are in order to avoid rejection or criticism. “Dive into your being by embarking on a quest to know who you are by establishing your core values, getting clear on your basic needs and wants in life,” says Vanessa Petronelli, writer for Collective Evolution. Knowing your own core values and learning to trust your guy can be one of the best things you can do for yourself. You’ll start to trust the path that you’re on and feel more confident in the direction you’re going. And if you practice aligning yourself with your values and beliefs daily, you can become attuned to your inner voice, “have less fear from separating from the pack and following your bliss,” Petronelli adds.
A conflict between needing approval and needing to be authentic makes effective decision making feel impossible. It undermines our confidence and our potential. Get in the habit of tuning in regularly to your inner thoughts and feelings. Are you living a life you want or one that has been created for you by the needs of others?
Self-love is about believing you are beautiful, no matter how you look. And believing in your capabilities during triumphs and defeats. It’s about feeling good about who you are, regardless of what others might think. Being happy without needing external validation. Loving yourself through life’s highs and lows. So don’t coneal or fake who you really are. Let the world see the real you, because you are so worthy.