7 Ways Your Approval Addiction is Costing You Money

by Amy on September 11, 2012

Guest post by Mindy Crary

[Note: I just love this guest post by financial coach Mindy Crary, a self-described approval addict in recovery. There is so much wisdom about how our approval addiction shows up in our financial life. Good stuff!]

I am a recovering approval addict.  I used to believe that I was responsible for (and that I had control over) everything that happened in my life, so I spent countless dollars trying to make my life as “perfect” as possible.

In my first serious relationship, I used all of my money to help my boyfriend become an independent filmmaker. Even though we didn’t live together, I paid for all of our food, entertainment and vacations, as well as bought him equipment to help his career.

At the time, I just thought I was being generous.  It wasn’t until years later that I had the clarity to realize I was trying to control my boyfriend into having the “perfect” career that I could brag about.  That I thought maybe someday, he would make the same sacrifices for me and “prove” his love.

I wasted thousands of dollars because I was trying to get from someone else the things I could only give myself–love, support, time and security.

Are YOU damaging your financial life with your approval addiction?  Here are 7 questions to self assess.

Do you use money to…

1. Try to be perfect?  Perfection is costly to maintain: perfect home, furniture, décor, car, clothes . . . when you aren’t concerned with being perfect, your spending accurately reflects what you really value.  But when you succumb to approval addiction, you might even catch yourself trying to “perfect” a spouse or child, if you believe something about them reflects poorly on you.

2. Ignore your needs and try to please other people?  I remember once I drove 45 minutes both ways to network with someone—I never even considered the possibility of meeting in the middle!  Approval addicts waste a lot of time and money catering to what other people want, mostly because you haven’t stopped to think about what it is you actually want for yourself.

3. Give to others excessively? I used to be a lavish gift giver . . . I would plan holiday gifts MONTHS in advance, and give gifts to mere acquaintances.  In relationships, I always had the perfect gift for each occasion, often giving more than I got back.

4. Jump into other people’s problems?  Because I always gave SO much to everyone in my life, I felt I earned this “right” to provide advice and input.  I kept tabs on everyone and had an opinion on every action they took.  It never occurred to me NOT to drop everything and insert myself.  The need to help was compulsive

5. Pay for things because you don’t know how to establish boundaries?  How many times did I go to dinners, trips and events, just because I couldn’t say no?  It never occurred to me that “no” was an option.  I wasted countless dollars doing things I never even cared about.

6. Avoid thinking about yourself and instead focus on what your spouse and children want?  As a approval addict, I spent so much time focused on my loved ones, that I lost sight of what made me happy.  I never spent much money on myself because I honestly didn’t KNOW what I wanted.  But I sure knew what my loved ones wanted (or, I THOUGHT I knew), so I spent a lot of money on them!

7.  Try to make people care about you as much as you care about them?  As an approval addict, you might spend A LOT of time figuring out (or TRYING to figure out) what other people are thinking; how dare they not spend the same amount of time thinking about you!  So to try and get the attention you want from someone, you might spend lavishly.

Try This Analogy To Save You Money

The first step to recovery is realizing that as hard as you try, your path to “perfect” isn’t getting you what you ultimately want out of life—be that wealth, love or something else.  You have to realize that you’ll never reach your destination when you’re making “perfect” the priority.

I’ve found that I have to tell myself—even now, years later—that I’m ONLY responsible for my part of any relationship.  I find this analogy be especially useful:

I’m not alone in the boat, therefore, I’m not solely responsible for rowing . . . in fact, every now and then, I need to STOP rowing the boat to make sure that others in the boat are right there with me, rowing along and doing their share.  I don’t need to tell anyone how to row a boat or help them see that they’re not rowing (that’s their own business).  And, I don’t need to maintain relationships where other people in the boat aren’t rowing.

This analogy has saved me countless relationships and dollars.  Now, I know that my first step with any decision involving money and other people is to ask myself, am I using money to help row the boat, or is this MY part of an equitable relationship?  Once you’re clear about what you want, you’ll make better decisions not just around your money, but in all areas of your life.

So…. How is your Approval Addiction costing YOU money? Share your experience below in the comments section. Because Mindy and I LOVE that!

Mindy Crary (MBA, CFP® practitioner and financial coach at CreativeMoney) helps you become a lot more educated (never inundated) about not just your money — but the whackjob behind it.  Go to Creative Money to download the free ebook,Getting Started with Spending.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Adriane September 12, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Love it!


Carolina September 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Though I’ve read many of your posts, I admit that this one may have been the tipping point (if you will). I can absolutely relate and I find the analogy you used to be something I will reference in the future. Thank you!


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