Friday, January 18, 2008

The approval addiction........

Why is it that we are always seeking approval? Is it an addiction with us? Are we so uncertain of our own decisions that we have to have validation all the time? Some will say that seeking approval is just a way of being respectful to others, as a way of including them in the decision you are trying to make, but it isn't. Because if you think about it, asking someone for approval is basically giving them the last say......THEY get to make the decision.

Can I?
May I?
Do you like?
Can you validate me?
Is my idea worthy of your approval?

When does the time come when you say to yourself........."I have decided to become"......... or "tomorrow, I plan to"........ or............This is my opinion. I've thought it through. I'm comfortable with this opinion and I'm not going to ask someone if they think its right or wrong."

We all have had mentors and parents in our lives who have guided us and have hopefully provided us with the skills and gifts to get along in this world. Though we will always be students, or always be a son or daughter.............we outgrow the need to check in for approval. And yet, our conditioning kicks in...........and off we seek it. This is exacerbated if one works in a hierarchical environment when one has to ask for permission all the time........where you're monitored and evaluated all the time just like school......just like when you were a kid.

It's hard to let go of this addiction................

Can I
May I
I want you to approve of me..................

I read recently that spirituality is a matter of becoming who you really are. We seem to live under the illusion that it's important to be loved, important, respected and well thought of. This sets us up to be on the constant look out for approval, affection and love. But here's the paradox. If we turn that around..............instead of always looking for approval and we put all of this energy and attention on thinking well of others....... we will fulfill the two true real urges we human beings have: to love and to be free.

If we are constantly seeking approval, we will never feel free. There will always be a sensation of feeling shackled.........waiting for the nod from someone.

If we reach out to others instead of trying to convince them to reach out to you through approval, then you are freely offering your love.

There are healthier ways to gain the respect of the important people in our lives. Seeking approval isn't one of simply gives the power of your life over to someone else. Isnt there enough out there that we have no control over??

When the time comes when we can break away from the approval cycle, is this when we can honestly say we are adults?

just wondering............


Shaz said...

I totally agree, so many questions seeking approval. I had a problem with that when I was younger always after approval from everyone. Then I rebelled and went the opposite. Now I am happy with what I know in my heart and I dont need approval from anyone but I dont go out of my way to dissapoint either I kind of think I have found balance in that area and I like it.

Gypsy said...

Wow Dana. You really know how to get to the heart of the matter. I'm afraid I am one of those people that always seeks approval from others. Now that I have read this post from the perspective of freedom I will be making a conscious effort not to do that anymore. If there is one thing I would like to feel it's to be me. Yes it's a cliche but it's true. Thankyou for the enlightenment you just gave me, it has really opened my eyes.

Disillusioned said...

What a powerful piece of writing, Dana; it is really making me think. I am definitely an approval seeker - always have been, it was something I learnt young. Now you have me thinking about whether and how I can change that.

Awareness said...

Shaz. I wonder if thats what it takes sometimes....and maybe that's the case with a lot of adolescents when they are trying to find that elusive balance.
Somewhere along the line though I think many of us move into adulthood with the misbelief that approval is tied in with respect. Its the only reason I can up come up with to try to understand it. And yet, by asking for approval "out of respect" we are not respecting ourselves and our abilities to figure it out on our own.

gypsy....i don't think the conditioning we live with and in (and I'm including myself here.....too)can be turned around overnight because it would be such a huge shift in how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. We all live with scripts and patterns when it comes to our interactions with the world. Yet, if the essence of spirituality is becoming who you are, letting go of the need for approval is a necessary step in our own transformation.
Don't ask me how to do this!! I'm just throwing out the idea as I chew on it myself. :)

Caroline.....I'm wondering if women more than men are conditioned this way....or maybe we are all conditioned this way, but more so in women? It seems to get all tied in with the message....

"Good girls do what they are told...."

When a woman stands up for themselves in an assertive and forthright manner, we all know how thats perceived by many.....not only is there a feeling of being threatening (and the nasty need to put the lady in her place) they quickly pull out the bitch pms label to try to shut the woman up.

our conditioning, our illusions over this one is very deep.

while i'm at it's the area that was missed out on the early feminist movement. If this had been handled differently, I think the female movement would've moved much further along than it is.

Rainbow dreams said...

Approval is something we learn as a child as a safety mechanism. I wonder if thats why it is so hard to let go of it...

and then as you say there are those people who expect us to look to them for approval - they use it as some kind of control, feeds their sense of importance - am thinking, in my experience, of primarily power crazed female bosses - oh heck I think I could go on for hours about this... but won't...

you have written so well about it here..

it certainly is a very adult - and a very freeing thing to consciously decide to break those approval bonds - either by us not feeling we need to seek approval for ourselves, or by moving away and breaking ties with those who feed off others asking them for approval.

You're right - respect should come from somewhere else other than approval - personally I have far more respect for someone who listens and discusses and who shows a mutual respect for who I am and what I think as a person, than I do for anyone who thinks I should require their approval...

Thank you for this Dana, I am conscious I still have thinking to do on this....

have a lovely weekend, x

Open Grove Claudia said...

Gosh, this is a thought provoking post. In a lot of situations, with a lot of people, I don't really care about approval. In others, with some people, I cling on every word. Sadly, those situations and people are the most likely to be negative, unkind, thoughtless and know me the least. The kind, thoughtful, supportive people and voices sometimes get pushed aside for this other "truth".

I know it's just a habit. I wish the negative voices didn't feel so true. You know?

This happened in my practice. I worked with thousands of people but could tell you word for word the 5 or 6 people that really broke my heart, threatened to sue me, blah, blah. Sad, huh?

Awareness said...

Katie. I agree with the mutual respect relationship that you refer to where the conversation. In Transactual Analysis terms the relationship is an Adult-Adult one where the playing field is level. When the relationship switches to Parent-Child, the approval thing kicks in.
Approval and looking for reassurance and guidance as a child is a way of learning. Social learning theory is based on this.... unfortunately the message that it is tied in with respect has skewed the lesson. Children do need the reinforcement of approval, but I guess somehow we need to be more cognizant of the underlying message it gives, especially with our daughters.

Claudia. I wonder if these situations/people somehow manage to press our trigger buttons...the ones that are linked to the negative perceptions we all carry of ourselves....where the worthiness card is played.
I'm not very good when someone tries to micromanage me or give me feedback in the form of approval when I have no respect for them, or feel that its manipulative. Consequently, I'm not very good with the whole way performance managment systems and workplans are generated, which as you can guess, puts me on the outs with the people who LOVE to freely hand out approval or disapproval. Writing this piece and thinking about it a bit more has made me realize this.
I am working in an environment where this kind of stuff is a part of the fabric....and here I am paddling upstream. No wonder i get so frigging frustrated.

Undoing the habits? The first step is to know what is triggered in you.........what areas are you lacking in confidence, why...etc... Once you know where this kind of feedback takes you, then you can work at remaining unhooked to it.

Do you love this bloggie world??? I had no idea that this would generate such interest and terrific comments. It's allowing me a chance to think and go deeper in my own understanding of this approval thing.

Robert said...

wow dana you sure have almost a surgeons precision in unpacking this subject. This is one of those subjects i wish we all were in a huge auditorium and could stay like for a week till we exhausted it!!! Shazzie and gypsy have both given me wonderful wisdom in overcoming self-degradation. You have hit on another deep issue. Why do I have such a emotional struggle to accept my own decisionmaking ability and to rest on my decisions as valid on their own?? I hope more discussion can be had on this dana may be emailing you to carry it along :) alot of your posts bring emotional/persoanl/spiritual issues into a solid focus your truly gifted my canadien friend!!!

Awareness said...

Thank you Robert. I have been rereading a book by Francis Stroud, called Praying Naked. In it he interprets the key messages that Father Anthony de Mello espoused in his own books and spiritual work. My thoughts jumped out of a passage I had read.

I also was thinking about my friend Pip who often writes about becoming an adult at 40.....and it dawned on me that perhaps we become adults when we jump over the hurdle of approval.....when we realize that our decisions and journey are tied to free will and our ability to take control over our own lives with confidence.

No one knows me better than me.... no one knows YOU better than YOU. So why would I think someone else's approval is more important than my own self approval? This is where my head is at.

Marja said...

It seems you have the ability to go right to the core and understand exactly were human struggle lies. I find this a hard one to tackle. I feel that when I work with children and adults alike that giving them positive feedback makes them feel acknowledged and motivated to go on. Eventhough we shouldn't rely on it, I can't help it that it makes me feel good as well.
Doesn't mean you always need approval but I couldn't go without it either.