A long time ago, when I was a newbie television reporter, I covered a high profile murder case. It was kind of a big deal for a rookie like me.
As I raced out of the chambers to file my first report, I breezed past the defendant. The accused (and later convicted) murderer grabbed by wrist and asked if I was, “That girl Julie from Channel 5.”
Rather than being disturbed a killer had just taken hold of my arm, I indignantly corrected the man—giving him my name.
You know you might be an approval addict when…
You get mad that dangerous criminals fail to acknowledge you’re “good enough” by properly recalling your name.
Way before I went through life longing for sociopaths to like me, I had been called a people pleaser. I usually responded to that title with a coy shrug.
“I just can’t help it, I like making other people happy,” I might have said, with a heavy dose of false humility. Being a people pleaser sounded so good and righteous.
Only, I was really an approval addict. I went around “jonesing” for my next hit. I perpetually looked outside of myself to get others to let me know I was good enough.
The brilliant Martha Beck calls it being an “approval whore”—when we’re willing to sell what’s most precious in order to try to feel worthy.
Amy Pearson, a well-known expert on this subject says, “The tragedy is we hide our real selves in order to win over a group of people who will never really like us or appreciate us. We change so dramatically… we alienate our true tribe. We become unrecognizable to them.”
Here are some ideas for recovery from your approval addiction:
1) Be okay with you. Try a little kindness and self-acceptance. You don’t need other people to tell you you’re good enough. Insights and input from others can be great. But, learn to stop everything personally and be willing to take feedback that serves, and leave the rest.
2) Not everyone is supposed to love everything you do.That’s not the way the world works. What other people think about ME is their business. Not mine. They get to own their own thoughts.
3) Cut the attachment. Do things from a place of service, authenticity and integrity—without expecting the others to rave, gush with appreciation, or bow at your feet. Stop worrying incessantly about whether everyone likes what you do. Doing things without expectations (or attachment to the other person’s response) is so much cleaner and clearer for everyone involved. It takes FAR less energy, too.
I’m now free to stop trying to get brutal murders to recognize me—a real boon to my continued survival.
Even better, overcoming my approval addiction is helping me live more openly and authentically. I have a more meaningful connection with more people than I ever imagined.