10 Signs You Might Be Addicted to Approval

by Amy on December 11, 2013

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10 Signs You Might Be Addicted to Approval | LiveBrazen.com

1. You think you can read minds.

I believe telepathy exists. One time my husband touched my back and the word “courage” popped into my head. I asked him what he was thinking at the time and he said, “be brave.” But that’s about it for me when it comes to psychic experience.

Yet back in the hey day of my approval addiction, everything I did – from what I chose to wear to the degree I got, boiled down to the unspoken premise that I knew what people would think about my choices.

Reality Check:

Most people cannot read other people’s thoughts. Try to keep this in mind the next time you think you know what “everyone” will think.

2. You think you have the power to control people’s thoughts.

I find the idea of thought control fascinating… I used to collect World War II Propaganda and read books like 1984 and You Are Being Lied To. Maybe all that paranoid focus on the dark side of persuasion helped me stay in the dark about the sheer amount of time and energy I put into manipulating the opinions of other people in my favor.

Reality Check:

You can do your best to “make a good impression” but in the end you have no control over what people think about you.

3. You think you’re the center of the universe yet mange to have very little confidence.

The second-guessing would usually start on the way home. I’d replay the scene of the party over and over again, thinking of ever more charming things I could have said and done. The truth is, no one at that party could’ve come close to the amount of time I spent thinking of me. And, anyway, the guy next to me who didn’t laugh at my joke was probably too busy worrying about the gal next to him who didn’t agree with his take on global warming.

Reality Check:

Most people are too busy worrying about themselves to think twice about what you said or did.

4. You believe your life depends on getting people to approve of you.

At one point my life did depend on getting approval – namely the approval of my mom who fed me. But, as an adult, I would often find myself overwhelmed with anxiety when I couldn’t garner favor from people I deemed influential – the popular kid at school, my professor, the superstar of my professional field, my hair stylist (one wrong word can make or break a good haircut afterall).

Reality Check:

There’s a primitive part of the brain that wants you to believe you have to live in a constant state of high alert in order to be safe. It’s an evolutionary thing that serves very little purpose in a world where saber toothed tigers no longer exist.

5. You believe that when someone disapproves of you, it means something’s wrong with you.

One day in high school, I caught a glimpse of two boys walking behind me through a reflection of glass. One pointed at me and pushed up his nose. I was devastated. In my mind it meant there was something wrong with me. From that day forward, I went out of my way to be extra nice to everyone, as not to be labeled a snob. Better to be exhausted than publicly ridiculed, I believed.

Reality Check:

I am a snob sometimes! I turn my nose up at beer in a can, I don’t like to camp, I love expensive handbags and I don’t like bathroom humor. It doesn’t mean anything’s wrong with me.

6. You make disapproval all about you (in other words, you still think you’re the center of the universe).

Okay maybe this is the same point as the last one…

Reality Check:

So what if that guy thought I was a snob? Here’s what I would say to my adolescent self: Calling you a snob says more about him than it does you. Maybe he just got dumped by a girl who looks like you, maybe she called him a snob, or maybe he had to scratch his nose. Get over it.

7. You’re nice but not kind.

I saw other people as a means to an end. I went out of my way to be nice so I could feel better about myself. This made it hard to connect with people from a genuine place of compassion. I believed they had power over me. And I always wanted something from them. The way I treated other people mirrored the way I treated myself. Self-compassion was never part of the picture. Self-care, as a result, was superficial – typically some kind of behavioral band aid that made me feel better in that moment.

Reality Check:

“Nice” and “kind” are not the same. Nice is about being agreeable, charming, pleasing…. Kind has to do with benevolence, compassion and love. When you see other people as threatening or when you want something from them, you can’t connect to them in a way that allows for much compassion or understanding.

8. You buy into the idea that some people are better than you and you secretly believe you’re a fraud.

I used to try to fool the “smart” people into thinking I was smart. I thought this would make me feel worthy. It just left me feeling like a fake. I unconsciously gave away my confidence to the “smart” people, as if their opinions about me were worth more than my own opinions about myself.

Reality Check:

You seek approval from others because you don’t give yourself enough approval. Probably because you think there’s something wrong with you (a big lie). You give your power away to other people who you think are better than you ( another big lie). So when you do get some approval, you feel like a fraud because you never believed in yourself to begin with. See the cycle?

9. You hold yourself up to ridiculously impossible standards.

One of my self-imposed ridiculously impossible standards used to be: “You must always be liked by everyone.”

Reality Check:

Notice the words “always” and “everyone” in the statement above?  They’re absolute terms that make it impossible to ever live up to whatever standard you impose upon yourself. And in the case of my old ridiculously impossible self-imposed standard I now say this: Some people will like me. Some people won’t. Some people will never give a shit.

10. You’re in complete and utter denial.

I didn’t know I was addicted to approval. It probably took over 100 self-help books to connect the dots. I hope I saved you some time.

Reality Check:

Nothing revolutionary, ground breaking, earth-shattering, or paradigm-shifting ever came out of wanting to fit in or be liked. Admit you have a problem. The world needs you.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

MaryJo @ reSPACEd: Budget Organizing October 7, 2011 at 9:33 pm

This is freakin’ brilliant. Not only is it valuable, insightful information, it’s also written very well. I think some of my organizing clients, who keep things that were given to them and feel guilty about discarding could benefit from these points.


Rebecca October 14, 2011 at 8:56 pm

I was at a Writer’s conference this past weekend and we were at a round table. Someone I knew commented on a class I taught. I needed to correct her, “Actually I taught the prisoners.”

Two days later I got this lengthy email in my box about how embarrassed she was that she hadn’t remembered correctly where I’d taught and she went on and on about how she felt so stupid. She thought she’d ruined it for me.

On the contrary! I was so grateful to have her mention me in the room! I didn’t care that she couldn’t remember the specifics. That she remembered me at all was such a compliment. And it gave me a platform to mention what I do without hogging the stage. She thought she was a goose, I thought she was my heroine!

Just goes to show: we REALLY can’t know what people are thinking about us. And it’s not worth beating ourselves up when something good might be waiting…

Thanks for the great piece.


Lindsay January 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Oh man, this describes me to the “T”. Dang it! I really want to move past the point of needing approval from others. It really does get exhausting. Thank you so very much for writing this. Sincerely! Until now, I too was in denial.


Katharine December 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm

This article really is brilliant — especially b/c you wrote it with great reality humor. Man, it nails me and probably most of us right on the head. I especially related to ‘second guessing’ and ‘being a fraud’. This thinking has plagued me all my life. I think it starts all the way back in grade school and high school–and I bet we all think we are the only one dealing with the issue of approval when it is truly universal. What is really cool though, is that you add mindset changes we can do about each. I am printing out this article and pasting it on my forehead!!!!!


Amy December 13, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Thank you Katharine! Yep we are social creatures so unless you are a robot or an alien in disguise you probably have issues with it. I’m just out to raise awareness of it and how it can stop us from connecting with our brilliance. The irony is when we can get over the need for approval to feel safe we finally begin to experience true belonging — what we wanted all along. Loved your comment xoxo


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