“Approval addiction develops when your perceived self-worth is determined only by other people’s opinions about you. And it comes at a cost.”

Episode 240

The High Cost of Approval Addiction

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Hello, Gorgeous Soul.

Let’s talk approval addiction. If you feel like you’re filtering yourself a LOT  – what you say, how you act, how you look – through the lens of what you think other people expect from you

If you notice that you make decisions based on other people’s opinions in the hopes of getting their validation, approval, or praise….you might be an approval addict.

If you find yourself wondering if people are mad at you, seeking reassurance that they’re not mad at you, coming up with allllll the things you clearly did wrong to make people upset, you might be an approval addict.

And THIS post is for you.

I Want You to Lighten Up

There is very little that breaks my heart MORE than my overthinking overachieving approval seekers. I see SO clearly that your old stories have such a vice grip around you, you BELIEVE that you need to be proving your worthiness by what you do, how productive or helpful or amazing you are..

I can see the truth. It’s one of my superpowers, I’m like the quickest Soul reader in the west. Like x ray vision I can see through the bullshit stories right down to the truth – that who you are is exactly who you’re supposed to be – there is nothing to prove. No approval necessary.

Honestly if I could wave a magic wand so that YOU could see how amazing you are without having to do any of the hard work, I would.

But alas, here we all are. No magic wand in sight.

Approval addiction in a nutshell.

I’m actually purposefully using the word addiction because for most people it doesn’t feel like something you can control.

In the same way drugs control a drug addict, the need for external validation controls the approval addict. Which means, just like all addictions, it’s not something that you easily just stop doing. In order to recover from ANY addiction, you have to address the ROOT of the problem. White knuckling only gets you so far.

I define approval addiction as when your self-worth is solely determined by other people’s opinions about you. Approval seekers rely on external validation to feel worthy and good about themselves. This can show up in lots of different ways, the most common being…overthinking, people pleasing, energy managing, perfectionist thinking…sound familiar? Other telltale signs? Constantly seeking praise or external validation, avoiding conflict, or chameleon-ing – aka changing your colors to fit in with others’ expectations.

And if you’re like, “Well, shit, that all sounds like me” my friend you are NOT alone.

In order to know why we all struggle with this, we have to go back to how it comes to be. The roots of approval addiction go back to childhood, as your brain develops from the reptilian brain to the limbic brain. During this process, you learn that the people around you have opinions about your behavior, and you start seeking approval from your parents or caregivers, or other authority figures in order to feel safe and loved.

If you grew up in an environment where there were clear rules of how you should behave and were judged or rejected for deviating from those rules, you probably developed a strong need or addiction to external validation. Like I NEED it in order to feel safe. And listen, it doesn’t have to be like aggressive or outright messages of “you’re wrong, you aren’t good enough.” The more empathic you are, the more those subtle messages – a look on the face, a shift in position signaling that what you are doing is NOT meeting my rules, are enough to create this behavior.

So it starts in childhood, either through direct or perceived messaging…And then you start leaving your house more. You learn that there are different rules and expectations everywhere – from school, teams, friends, and even social media. The excessive amount of opinions and expectations can be overwhelming and super confusing, and ALL be impacting your self-esteem and worthiness. SO – Seeking external validation and approval becomes a very common coping mechanism. If I can get EVERYONE’S approval then I can feel calm.

But it’s the opposite, isn’t it? There’s just no END.

If you notice that you make decisions based on other people’s opinions in the hopes of getting their validation, approval, or praise….you might be an approval addict.

Approval addiction is costing you inner peace.

This is one of the most detrimental consequences of approval seeking because it just eats away at your sense of worthiness and prevents you from feeling safe enough to really and genuinely be yourself. Every time you believe your worthiness hinges on someone else’s opinion or approval, you move further away from your authentic self. And over time, you have a hard time really knowing what you do like, what your own opinions are. When your self-worth is solely dependent on others’ approval, you never feel safe to just be yourself. You’re constantly people-pleasing and energy managing, always trying to fit in and CONTROL the situation, CONTROL the narrative. Not only is that fucking exhausting but it is robbing you from living the life you were put here to live!

Approval addiction is costing you authentic and healthy relationships.

When you are running around hyper-vigilantly thinking about who you need to be for everyone else and then BECOMING that version temporarily depending on who you’re with… then who knows the real you? It’s really difficult to build authentic relationships when you don’t let anyone know the real you. People know the version of you you have morphed into in an attempt to control their thoughts about you, but they don’t know the REAL you.

And I feel like it’s safe for me to say also, since I know quite a few approval addicts (myself included) in recovery, it’s safe to say that you probably have created relationships that are one-sided.

You’ve created safety for THEM to be themselves but you won’t let your guard down so that YOU can be seen and supported. This approval seeking leads to superficial and unbalanced relationships. If this is you you probably find yourself feeling underappreciated, undervalued, resentful.

OR maybe you are constantly asking for reassurance, asking for validation or asking people to tell you what THEY think you should do. Obviously this could be tiring for the other person. Either way, approval seeking negatively impacts relationships, no matter how it looks.

Approval addiction is costing you the life you WANT to be living: a life you genuinely enjoy, spending time with people you genuinely enjoy.

If you aren’t able to make decisions without making sure you have thought about EVERY possible angle, making sure this decision will not have ANY negative consequences for ANYONE, you are going to be spending a lot more time sitting around thinking, spinning your wheels and a lot LESS time manifesting the life YOU want. You aren’t spending your time the way you really want to, you are spending you life the way you think other people think you should. If you think you need to think about every person’s opinion, get everyone to put their stamp of approval on however you choose to spend your time, your money, your life – that is going to keep you from feeling fulfilled, from doing the things that are MEANT for you, that you are HERE to do.

Every thing you DON’T do, don’t say, because you think someone else is going to disagree or disapprove or dislike? Every time you do that you are reinforcing the bullshit belief that everyone needs to think you’re okay in order for YOU to feel okay.

“Approval addiction is costing you inner peace. It’s costing you authentic and healthy relationships. It’s costing you the life you want to be living.”

So. If there’s no magic wand, what to do?

The first thing I want to offer is that I don’t think approval seeking behaviors are something we ever completely RID ourselves of. Think of it like a chronic health condition that you can’t CURE but you can get really good at understanding it, managing the symptoms and preventing flares.

The reason I am offering this disclaimer is because the TRIGGER of approval seeking is other people and their opinions. Which means in order to completely eradicate approval seeking you’d probably need to live a life where you have no contact with other humans and their opinions. So, that lady who lived in the cave for 500 days. Which by the way, if you didn’t hear about that story, it’s fascinating AND spoiler alert – she loved it and didn’t want to return to the above ground world.

So that’s saying something.

How to become an approval addict in RECOVERY.

1. Unlearn the unworthy story.

The roots of the approval addiction lies in a lack of self worth.

Ultimately, the way to free yourself from the approval trap is to unlearn the unworthy stories you have that there is something wrong with who you inherently are, and that you need validation from others to be yourself and make decisions for yourself. Unlearn the stories that you can’t trust yourself.

Another disclaimer. Stop trying to do this shit on your own. Unlearning this story isn’t about being strong enough or consistent enough. It’s simply because we tend to really believe our own stories. Your brain is designed to believe whatever it’s been told to believe and so you probably aren’t even SEEING your worthy blindspots. ESPECIALLY when the risks seem SO very dangerous. The potential consequence of letting go of approval seeking is that you will lose people, you will be rejected, you will be criticized, you will be left behind. THIS is a primal fear…being rejected or abandoned and anytime we’re dealing with primal fears, your brain is going to convince you to KEEP the story. You don’t do this on your own. Get a therapist or a coach to help you.

So that’s the first step: Unlearn the story.

2. Give yourself the compassion you so readily give others.

As you unlearn your approval-seeking behaviors, it’s crucial to treat yourself with kindness and compassion, just like you treat everyone else. Because you DO. You know all that love and empathy that you seem to have an ABUNDANT amount of, that you freely give to others when they feel down? Ummmm how about you give that to yourself?. Whenever you catch yourself seeking approval or feeling like you need someone else’s permission, pause and ask yourself: “What would I say to someone I love in this situation? How would I comfort my child if they didn’t feel worthy enough? What advice would I give to my best friend if they were afraid to pursue their dreams because of their partner’s opinion?” Put yourself in the shoes of a compassionate witness and direct that same level of empathy and understanding towards yourself.

3. Rewrite your worthy story

As you’re unlearning the old stories, you also need to be REWRITING the story you WANT to believe. The story of how you are worthy of love, kindness and respect, no approval or validation necessary. You want to mindfully choose the new story you want to believe in.

Think about the version of yourself WITHOUT these unworthy beliefs. If I could suck them out of you with a vacuum, who would you be WITHOUT this fear? How would you talk to yourself? How would you make decisions? How would you handle other people being disappointed or disagreeing with you when you KNOW IN YOUR SOUL that their disapproval means NOTHING more than they have an opinion.

How does this version FEEL? Just going about their day, NOT overthinking what everyone else is thinking? Not needing to overachieve or overproudce in order to get validation or approval? What does THAT life feel like?

This feeling is the one you are going to start adding more of into your days on purpose.
you will FEEL without need for approval. What thoughts will you have, and how you will you show up in the world. THIS is your Future SElf. Connect with your future self regularly, to get to know the worthy version better, not just when faced with challenging situations.

4. Practice practice practice.

You don’t just rewrite the story and then never look at it again. This takes time. It takes practice. It takes repetition so that the new story’s neural pathway becomes stronger than the old story’s neural pathway.

Again, this is something we usually need reminders and accountability for. In calm AF life I send everyone a written REMINDER of their worthiness in the form of a love letter EVERY SINGLE DAY. I remind them to align with their Future Self EVERY SINGLE DAY because that is how new neural pathways become hardwired neural pathways.

Decide HOW you’re going to practice this new story every day. Decide how you’ll hold yourself accountable to becoming this next version of yourself, this version that doesn’t need anyone’s approval. Decide what that looks like and MAKE IT HAPPEN. Don’t just listen to me right now and think “YEah, totally” and then do nothing until you listen to me again next week. DO something. Find a support system where not only will you get that daily reminder, you also have access to a person who can see through your bullshit so they can help YOU see it.

This is what Calm AF Life is designed for – to guide you and support you through the whole process from unlearning, to rewiring, to practicing to embodying your new story so you can stop the overthinking, people pleasing, energy managing, approval seeking shit. So join me today and feel better today!

– Kristen

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And if you want to dig deeper and work with a coach who’s GOT YOU, contact me to set up a free consult or to apply for my exclusive coaching program, Calm AF Life. I love working with people who are hard on themselves, the over-thinkers, people pleasers, perfectionists, and overachievers. Any of this ringing your bell? I’d love to hear from you!