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Addiction to Approval and Acceptance

Do I find myself saying “yes” because I need approval or acceptance? Can I say “no”? There are many people today that have an addiction to approval and acceptance. They literally cannot say “no” to anything, or at least without a great deal of struggle. They avoid confrontation, shy away from uncomfortable engagements and pretty much become submissive or at least sheepishly hesitant in the face of most disagreements or conflicts. The thought of a face to face disagreement is very uncomfortable for them, especially if it feels hostile on any level. They many times delay returning telephone calls; they cringe at need to honk the horn, anything that might expose them to challenging other people. Yet the frustration that builds as a result of that causes them to lash out in rage when they are alone. Even if they are angry they cannot give themselves licenses to display that in front of anyone outside their immediate family. They put on a happy face but inwardly they are frustrated. This is a terrible conflict. They have difficulty making a decision or at least voicing that decision for fear of it being examined or rejected. They tend to defer to someone else about where they go, what they eat and what they do. Hesitance from anyone is taken personal and every nuance from their body language is over reacted to. They over-compensate by being over-friendly, over-aware of their actions and the people around them. They cannot be themselves. They are lost. They weren’t born that way. Something has caused this. Somewhere a root of rejection has found its place in their subconscious. They build their agenda, conversation and actions around the acceptance of others. They shy away from situations that might make them unacceptable or put them in a bad light. The problem is that we live in a world that is filled with people who demand that we please them. In exchange we get their approval and acceptance. As a result I must be approved by certain others to feel good about myself. We are ensnared by this lie in many subtle ways. When we believe this, it causes us to bow to peer pressure and in an effort to gain approval, we become approval addicts. It works like this. Thirsty people need water, hungry people seek food, cold people seek warmth, and rejected people seek approval and acceptance. A number of things could have caused this. Most likely, as a child there was a shock or rebuke that intimidated them to the point that they retreated into a defensive role where their boat is never rocked. They tend from time to time to show fits of anger but it is because of the pinned up frustration over their inability to face their fear. My goal today is for you to understand that if you struggle with this addiction, that you most likely are chasing an unmet need to be liked or heard and to prove that you’re a good, worthy and deserving person. Is this person you? Ask yourself the following questions:

Is it hard for you to express your feelings when they are different from someone you are with at the time? When you are with a group of people and it is time to go someplace, do you have

difficulty deciding or voicing where? Are you usually concerned what other people think about you? Are you afraid to rock the boat? When you are talking to people, do you tend to lose your way in the conversation and

feel inadequate? Is it difficult to stand face to face with people and look them in the eye when you are

speaking to them? Is it difficult for you to know what you want? Do you find yourself saying yes when you desperately want to say ‘no’? Do you feel guilt or anxiety when someone does not approve of something you are

doing? Does your happiness depend on the approval of others? Do you have fits of frustration or anger when you are alone because you feel you should

have said something or spoke up earlier?

This suggests that you cannot function to your potential because you need the acceptance and approval of those around you. It is time to kick the approval addiction. There are a few things that I call the ‘first steps:

  • Practice saying ‘no’. It is difficult at first because so much of yourself gets lost in what you think others want you to be, but it becomes easier. Don’t be defensive and don’t try to please another person’s every whim. Just speak up. Kindly tell people what you think.

  • I think the next thing is to discover your own core values and change your negative habits of addiction into positive nurturing habits. Find out what you really want and value in life? You have to take the time to discover what brings you pleasure. Allow yourself to have an opinion that matters. Find an accountability partner and ask for help. This is the path you must take to bring a solution this problem. Otherwise we never deal with the root of our problem which is fear.

  • A symptom of our fear of rejection can be our inability to give and receive love. We find it difficult to open up and reveal our inner thoughts and motives because we believe that others will reject us if they know what we are really like. Therefore, our fear of rejection leads us superficial relationships or isolation. The more we experience isolation, the more we need acceptance.

Personal Identity

All issues in our life stem from identification. Your identity cannot be in what others might think about you. Your identity must be rooted in the understanding of who you are by birth or delegation. Other people’s acceptance of you must not be the source of your confidence or identity. The well of who we are must be deeper than the acceptance of others. Your identity must be a deep enough to go against the system. When self worth is only found in others acceptance, then our life becomes an acceptance-based performance. The erosion of our potential is there.

If your value is only determined by the applause of another, then all of your happiness will be in another’s keeping. The key is to understand who you are, and what others think won’t matter that much. Do not judge your self-worth on the basis of possessions. To have or not to have does not determine your value. Greatness is in the heart of man and not in the position or possession that he holds. Self image is a description of our self, while self esteem is an evaluation of our self. It is important to know the difference. You have value. Our fear of rejection will control us to the degree by which we base our self-worth on the opinions of others rather than on our relationship with God. Indecision I feel like I need to address indecision in this segment because it is the result of the need for approval. I find indecision to be one of the most frustrating things that I can experience. If you are not careful, you will just pick and choose because of the pressure of the moment. Most of the time, indecision comes because you have not thought a situation through. The greatest cure for indecision is getting alone in a quiet place and listening to your heart. And next to that would be to seek the counsel from someone you trust. Practice making decisions by asking yourself questions:

What happens if I don’t do this? Which situation will have the greatest impact? What do I like the most? What would my mentor do?

One final thought. When it comes to the welfare of the people around you, take time to work through your decisions. Don’t let pressure force you into being impetuous. It is better to suffer the consequences for a short time of a late decision than dealing with the regret of a hasty, wrong decision. Once you have made your decision, be firm with it. Your opinion has as much value as anyone else’s.

Dr. Jerry Edmon

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