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Overcoming Approval Addiction: Who Are You Trying to Please, Anyway?

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For the longest time, I worked overtime to please people. I went all out to be the version people wanted me to be. I checked every box of the stereotypical good girl. From a warm smile when I literally felt like screaming my lungs out, to the perpetual yes, all the way to f*ucked up requests. I buried the real me for over a decade. I know. It’s sad.

Who was I trying to please? My parents, siblings, boss, colleagues, friends, and boyfriend. Somewhere in my wounded mind, I thought those around me would love and appreciate me if I pulled a particular character. And I did. I pulled it off, people. I bought their acceptance!

Then slowly, I started to lose it. The yearning in my heart for something different; something real, intensified with every passing day. The real me was fighting to come out. The more I tried to strangle her to death, the more she got pissed and fought even harder. I couldn’t play pretend anymore, so I gave up. I broke the yoke of approval addiction. My awakening meant I had to let go of some people and a job. It was tough, but I had the honour of rebuilding myself. Of knowing who I am and what I want beyond what people want me to be. Though tough, it’s been the most fulfilling journey.

If you are struggling with approval addiction, you have the power to let go. The world is yearning to meet the real you. But you have to do the hard work first and let her/him out. Here are actionable steps to help you work on your approval-seeking behaviour.

Know what you want

Life is full of choices. Often, we choose what is expected of us, rather than what we want. The constant fear of what people will say if we choose differently chains us. And in the long run, it makes us try hard to blend in.

As you go to rest today, I request you have a meeting with yourself and ask this very important question, “What do I really want?” Write it down in bold. With every answer, dissect it further until you get why you want what you say you want.

Suppose your response is money. Your next question is, why do I want money? With every response, prompt further to find the real reason. This should go on up to the seventh response. The seventh response will tell you if what you want is for your own growth and fulfillment, or just to please society.

Permit yourself to follow your passion without worrying about what people think about you. Yes, we will laugh, judge, and criticise or applaud and cheer you on. Despite our reaction, step out and do what you really want. That’s the only way to conquer your approval addiction.

Cultivate your worthiness

There’s a long list of what society labels worthy. Education, job, family, etcetera. These are some things that will determine your worth in the eyes of those around you. Since you want to be accepted and loved (these are normal human desires), you might go overboard to check these boxes.

Before you start the unending process of adapting yourself to these standards, make your needs a priority. Cultivate your worth by being content in your own skin.

Your perception of yourself shouldn’t be tied to what people think about you. Rather, it should be about what you think about yourself. So, work on that. What we say and think about you doesn’t change who you are at all.

Be compassionate towards yourself

Accept who you are, fully. Your positive attributes and negative ones make who you are. So, embrace your flaws and imperfection. Lift the judgement blanket. Whatever you feel you are not good at, accept it and practise to be better.

Whenever people use your weakness to ridicule you, let them know there’s nothing wrong with being weak in a particular area. You, like any other human, are imperfect. You know it, and you are working on your weakness. No one can shame you about anything you are not ashamed of.

It’s important to do this because as an addict to approval, you’ll find yourself working overtime to change people’s perceptions whenever they criticise you. But by addressing the criticism, you lift the drive to seek their approval.

Just like any other addiction, approval-seeking behaviour is hard to let go of. It’s a lifetime journey that you must be committed to. There are moments you’ll lapse. Don’t beat yourself up. The fact that you’ve recognised your lapse is a sign you are becoming more self-aware.

In everything you choose to do, remember, choices have consequences. Therefore, when you pursue your heart’s desires, be ready to bear the consequences, whether positive or negative.

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