Are You Addicted to Approval? post image

Are You Addicted to Approval?


There is an epidemic that is reaching an all-time high. It’s called AA (Approval Addiction), and luckily, you can overcome in it less than 12 steps.

In this day and age, if you cook a nice dinner you take a pic and post in on Instagram; if you have a cool sense of style, you start a personal style blog; if you do a good deed, you post about it on Facebook. There is very little that’s kept private and personal and as a result, the vast majority of us have become addicted to approval.

I’m not saying I’m immune. I will admit that if I write what I consider to be a great article and it gets a lackluster response (or worse, no response at all!), I feel a little bummed. And if an article I wrote gets an extremely positive response, I’m ecstatic.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling happy when something you did gets praised. The problem emerges when you rely too heavily on the approval of others and not enough on how you feel about yourself.

This problem is exacerbated by the plethora of social media sites that exist, allowing us to create an image of who we want to be. This addiction can also take a toll on your relationship.

Having a case of AA inevitably leads to neediness because you constantly seek out praise and validation for everything you do. You aren’t able to give freely in your relationship because all you really want is for  him to notice you. You’re not giving for the sake of giving, you’re giving for the sake to getting attention.

MORE: A Guy’s Take on Neediness

If you’re addicted to approval, then you feel like nothing until someone tells you you’re something. You’re ugly until you’re boyfriend says you’re beautiful; you’re incompetent until your boss says you did a great job on a project; you’re not good enough until someone–anyone–pays you a compliment.

I think you can clearly see that when left unchecked, AA can do some serious damage. For one, it puts you right at the mercy of everyone you meet.

Fortunately, overcoming this addiction is relatively simple. The solution is to try and do nice things and not expect or seek out any praise or recognition.

I have a good example of this. So when I was in college, my dorm only had a few dryer machines. If you left your stuff in there for too long, you could be sure someone would take all the stuff out and put it on the nearest surface (or sometimes on the floor!).

One time I got caught up doing something and wasn’t able to go down to retrieve my laundry the minute it was done. I went downstairs expecting to find my laundry scattered all over the floor, and instead was very surprised (and touched) to find that my stuff had been neatly folded and placed on a table near the machine.

I have no idea who folded my stuff, but to this day I remain very awed by him/her. That is a perfect example of doing something nice without an expectation of recognition (unless the person went on Facebook and told everyone about the kind deed!).

I’m not saying you should go out and be saints. Just do something, even something small, without expecting a pat on the back or an ‘atta girl. When you do this, you’ll learn to find satisfaction within yourself. You’ll learn to be happy with yourself, without relying on others to perk you up.

MORE: On Loving Yourself and Being More Confident

When you can step outside yourself and consider the needs of others, you empower a part of yourself that often gets lost in this me-centered world, the part that wants to be a selfless giver. All of us have this desire deep down, it’s the reason why we feel so good after doing something kind for someone else.

There are all sorts of ways to go about this, depending on your life circumstances and what you do, so just find something that fits. I’m telling you, it can be quite transformative and can have a huge impact on you and your relationship.

Got and insight or a story about how you overcame AA? Tell us in comments!

– SABRINA ALEXIS

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Sabrina S

Enjoyed reading this, Sabrina! I’ve got another ‘AA’ – anxious attachment, as my psychiatrist likes to call it. Its the same thing – an overwhelming need for approval, that’s fueled by anxiety and fear. I’m realizing more and more that I just need to be ME – someone who is generous by nature, but not defined by which people recognize it and which do not.

Reply March 23, 2013, 10:32 pm

E-

I used to fold laundry in the dorm rooms – and i know “posting” this is hypocritical to the point of the article – but it’s always nice to hear that those small favors help to change someone’s thought process.

Reply March 21, 2013, 3:44 pm

Jen

Great article Sabrina. I was touched by the story about your laundry. It’s true, we can become so addicted to the approval for good deeds that we can forget about the refreshing and moving power of giving.

I’ve found that giving in itself is a pure and wonderful emotion. Thanks for the reminder.

Reply March 21, 2013, 3:06 pm

Iris

I love this post, because it’s a problem that few people out there truly realized. I’m in my late 20s, and it’s amazing how I’ve noticed a shift in society due to social media, etc. in the past 10 years.

My AA got bad that I just recently deactivated to facebook. I wanted to give this certain impression of myself to other, and especially to the guy I liked. In addition, I got lost in other people’s projections of what THEY wanted to be.

Thanks for putting up this post and this site in general, and for sharing some valuable truth. You, and Eric Charles, and everyone who helps in this site’s mainteance…you are all awesome!

Reply March 21, 2013, 2:09 pm

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