“Hey, you think I am doing the right thing?”, “Does this have your approval, then only I will do it.”
Do you all ever wonder that why you always need at least one more person to say that you are doing the right thing or thinking in the right direction, and only when someone else approves it then only we have faith in our thoughts? Happened ever?
This happens with me almost every day and many more people like me knowingly or unknowingly are a part of the vicious cycle of validation seeking.
I am not trying to establish the fact that approval seeking is toxic in all situations. No! Sometimes you really need a boost or second opinion for a clear picture. But when the validation hides the thought of pleasing others under its garb, then I think we should retrospect, as to why we need to please someone else before ourselves. But where does this stem from?
It all starts with self-esteem, or to say the lack of it!
The root cause of most approval-seeking behavior is low self-esteem.
This inferiority stems from factors like your inherent personality, upbringing, peer pressure, education, culture, and work-life. As these accumulate over time, the need to seek approval for anything and everything we do and say gradually aggravates.
If one lacks self-belief and is generally self-critical, it would seem only natural to seek validation from others.
9 Approval-Seeking Behaviors
Here are 9 types of behavior that are common when we are trying to get approval and validation.
1. Disagreements seems like a personal attack
How do you feel when someone disagrees with you? Do you feel insulted or upset and feel like that the person has an agenda that’s why they disapprove of your idea or opinion?
Then this is the classic case of you being a people pleaser! You feel disheartened, because of your failed attempt to get validation.
2. Adapting or changing point of view constantly to fit in.
If you are a validation seeker, then more than often you change your opinions vis a vis the disapprovals you get on voicing out your opinion. You become keener on fitting in than being alienated just because you have a different opinion.
3. No “No” in your dictionary.
Do you over-commit? Or you say yes, even when you wanted to say no? Then you are signing up yourself for mental and physical exhaustion. Because you tend to go out of your way to be in the good books of people by just saying yes to everything and appearing that you agree with whatever they say.
4. Not standing up for your own rights.
You choose to be a doormat rather than standing up for your rights and calling out someone for their unfair behavior. It just reiterates your lack of self-belief and gives others a chance to think lowly of you.
5. Gaining attention or acceptance through gossip.
If gossiping is your pet peeve and you think that making up stories will put you in limelight or more palpable, then unfortunately you are digging your own grave. Sharing the “juicy stuff” might give you a boost for some time, because every time you feel like impressing someone, you’ll gossip, and mind you not everyone appreciates someone who indulges in sadistic pleasure.
6. Pretending to know or understand something.
We all have been in such situations at least once in our life, where someone assumes that we are well versed with something or have a particular skill, where in reality we don’t! Now in such situations, the classic reaction of a validation-hungry person is to fake it! But the fact is that 9/10 times our pretense is exposed and rather than getting applauded we get ridiculed.
7. Fishing for compliments.
Few things provide the validation you desire better than a compliment.
Nothing is more flattering than receiving compliments. A person who yearns for validation will always try to get compliments out of the other person, which is neither due, not appropriate. And if they fail to get those compliments or praise then they tend to feel upset.
8. Failing to cope with any level of criticism.
The one whose sole motto is to gain approval will never tolerate criticism because it’s a failure in their face. This behavior sometimes traces its roots back to one’s childhood where after parents’ criticism we used to go out of our way to seek approval.
9. Belief v/s Behaviour
Remember the high school days, where we all wanted to be a part of the group that’s popular in the school so that eventually we also would be considered the cool kids, even if they were never the kind of people you would have otherwise befriended. People pleasers often find themselves in a battle between their heart and their validation seeking mind.
Bearing in mind that this approval-seeking behavior is an ingrained response, it isn’t going to be a quick fix.
But the following steps will help you to develop self-worth and self-respect and loosen your grip on people-pleasing
1. Let’s have a flashback!
Most of the time our behaviour is a result of something that is rooted in our past. Perhaps, our parent’s impact or your difficult school friendships and maybe the rejection faced then, now scares you the most. Therefore it’s necessary to rewind our lives and try to unwind ourselves from the irrational shackles that restrain us from becoming a human that has faith in its self-worth and does not need approval.
2. Rejection and Criticism are not personal.
Try to recall a time when someone said that you failed to meet their expectations. How did you deal with that situation? Do you remember that day when you prepared a project with your heart and soul but it went unnoticed or rejected?
Think about what you learned after such disapprovals. Try to understand what you learned from those experiences, and by doing this you will develop the habit of acknowledging the Criticism and disappointment as a gateway to learning and growth.
3. Grow and Grow.
A book by Psychologist Carol Dweck named Mindset (2006), beautifully states that those who have a positive attitude towards self development were the most likely to attain and unlock their potential. Such mindset is termed as “growth mindset” by her. You need to liberate youself from the “fixed mindset” of considering feedback as your failure. You need to believe that sky is the limit for growth ,and by seeking approval you are limiting yourself to the ground, lifeless and stable.
4. Don’t limit yourself to the outcomes.
The outcomes can never determined. All we can do is try to achieve the result we want. But pinning your hopes to only the outcome and not the process and learning will only lead you to disappointment and maybe failure. For instance, you are expecting a promotion in your job and you put in your everything to get it, but possibly you won’t get promoted, because of the company not doing well. Now, this isn’t in your hand, but still, you would attach your worth to that promotion and feel upset as you didn’t get the validation in terms of promotion.
But wouldn’t it had been better if you focused on the process and made yourself indispensable by upskilling yourself? This growth would rather get you noticed and lead you to get promoted that you were hoping for.
5. Believe that you are unique. Stand up for yourself!
The best way to end this cycle of seeking validation is by accepting that you are entitled to your own thoughts and opinions , even if they are not always welcomed by others! Not having same opinions as others doesn’t make either of right or wrong. You need to respect others entitlement to their opinions but first need to respect your own identity and thought process. People might try to convince you to believe in their beliefs and if those opinions align with your thoughts then there’s no harm in accepting it. But if they don’t suit you, then better stick to your guns rather than trying to accept what your heart doesn’t approve of. Your opinion is just as valid as that of any other individual. You don’t need validation outside of yourself!