If you could wave a magic wand and make it disappear, this incessant need to seek out approval from other people, you probably would. If we could just find it in ourselves to trust our own gut and be comfortable within our own skin, wouldn’t that be a prime example of living the best life possible?
The need for validation is something we are all guilty of doing, and sometimes without even realizing it. The pattern started long before you could even walk or talk. Parents teach their babies to mimic them and seek their approval by providing positive feedback for a job well done.
They used clapping, kisses and hugs, smiles and laughs; everything a small brain needs to form an attachment to approval-seeking behavior. Was it wrong? Of course not! But it certainly doesn’t have to control thought-processes as an adult.
Even long into the school years a child is rewarded for good behaviors and achievements. This type of structure laid the groundwork for the desire to fit in, to be part of something bigger than ourselves and to reach for reassurance that we were on the right track.
The downside is the incapability to trust our own judgment without reinforcement. It’s easier said than done, but with some self-awareness and behavior modifications, it’s very possible to break the cycle and learn to stop seeking the approval of others.
Your Life, Your Choices, Your Consequences
If you struggle with seeking the opinion of others before making decisions in your life, you could be headed down a long road of insecurities and failed relationships. These other people aren’t in your shoes.
They aren’t really living your life or dealing with the consequences of your decisions. So really, they are putting their own spin and personal preferences on the advice rendered.
“If I were you” type of advice is often times flat out wrong, and sometimes can even be dangerous. You are the only one who can evaluate your situation from all sides and effectively weigh the options.
The problem in cases like this is that we don’t trust our gut enough to stand firm on a decision. It’s also likely we know what we should do, but don’t really want to do it because it’s hard, we are scared or will be faced with a painful aftermath.
Believe in Your Opinion
You didn’t get this far in life without an opinion and the capability to make decisions. So, don’t believe the hype that your opinion isn’t worth anything or not worthy of self-validation.
If your first inclination seems a bit off the beaten path, go for it. No harm, no foul. Don’t short-change yourself by believing you have to be part of a flock to be worthy. You are more than capable of dancing to the beat of your own drum if that’s the direction you choose.
If you find yourself hush-mouthed in meetings at work because you are afraid others will think your idea is stupid, you’re going to love this. First, upper management thrives and builds on new ideas. And creative thinking starts with a single idea that gets shifted, molded and formed into a great idea with teamwork.
And second, you aren’t the top priority of your coworkers. You might think all eyes are on you, ready to pounce at the first sign of vulnerability. The opposite is probably true and you’re giving them the courage to chime in with their own input.
Unrealized Fear is Counter-Productive
If your approval-seeking needs are based out of fear, you’ve already made up your mind. You are telling yourself a future that you simply don’t have the power or fortitude to predict, and it’s usually because you’re afraid of what might happen without relation to the likelihood of it happening.
It’s during these times that you need to ask yourself what you are really afraid of and are you automatically jumping to the worst-case scenario. Because 9 times out of ten, the results are never as bad as we allowed ourselves to imagine.
A healthy dose of fear should be a contributor in the decision-making process, but it shouldn’t have the authority to dictate an outcome. We tend to seek approval from others in just about every area of our lives. It’s entirely too easy to fall down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and feared consequences.
Start with little steps and work your way up to the big stuff. Gain a little bit of confidence in your ability to make good, sound decisions for your own life and then keep going. Like with anything else worth your time, it takes a bit of practice.
But it does get easier. You’ll become stronger emotionally and mentally and in the long-run you’ll thank yourself for taking the initiative to trust yourself.