“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, being nothing” ~Aristotle
The need for approval kills freedom.
Trust me, I know, because I spent my entire life seeking approval until I realized it was a waste of time and didn’t work anyway. The desire to get people to like me motivated the majority of my choices and actions in early life.
Queen of social chameleons, I mastered the art of telling people what they wanted to hear and being someone they would find impressive—all the while worrying incessantly about what others thought of me, fearing criticism, and holding myself back as a result.
When I first started building my coaching business, this craving for acceptance caused me to hide from opportunities where the potential for reward was high, but the possibility for criticism was equally large.
As an example, one of my first client referrals was to coach the CEO of a major corporation. It’s painful to admit that I told my client I wasn’t the right person for the job and referred the person to someone else.
My need for approval created immense anxiety about the value I provided for my clients and caused me to spend far too much time on tasks in order to perfect them.
It got to the point where I was wasting so much time and losing so many opportunities that I had to make a big decision: either let the business go or learn how to get over myself!
Fortunately I chose the latter option. I created a plan to learn to let go of needing others’ approval (well, at least letting go enough that it would no longer sabotage my success). Here I am, seven years later, running the same business with much greater ease and success as a result.
Can you relate to these issues?
Do you constantly make choices to avoid disapproval or criticism, rather than what is most valuable, effective or important to you?
Do you hold yourself back from speaking your opinions or hide your true self?
This is something you can, and dare I say, must change if you want to be happy in your life and successful in your business or chosen work.
It is possible to change. I have done so myself, and since then have helped many other people through my business to do the same.
How is the Need for Approval Holding You Back?
A. Need for approval / low performance
The need for approval is negatively impacting your performance—you procrastinate, avoid doing important things, feel anxiety and fear, and get stuck in worry and rumination.
Wanting people to like you results in declining new opportunities, being too nervous to perform effectively, and showing signs of avoidance, such as apathy, withdrawal, analysis paralysis, and giving up.
If this rings true for you, focus upon how the need for approval is holding you back from doing the important things. Once you move past this, you will be free to achieve and create what you want in life with much less stress and effort, because you are currently exhausting yourself through avoidance.
B. Need for approval / high performance
Although you’re a high achiever and get great results in your life, it is often at the expense of everything else.
The need for approval in this case results in doing too much, feeling anxiety, worrying, being unable to stop ruminating about challenges, trying to please everyone, not making time for yourself, working too hard, and being unable to say no.
If this is you, focus upon how the need for approval is causing you to do too much instead of only what is important, and to do things for others at the expense of yourself.
C. Self-acceptance / low performance
In this instance, what others think of you has little impact on your decision-making about how to spend your time. However, your performance is low due to other motivational factors, such as being unaware of what is important to you, what drives you, and what makes you happy.
Hence, you may be stuck doing work you don’t really enjoy and have habits that hinder your performance, or alternatively may not have the skills to work effectively at what you are doing.
If this is you, focus your energy upon getting in touch with what really matters to you. Start to listen to what you really want in your life and act upon this to make it happen. Life becomes much more effortless when you are living in alignment with what is important to you.
D. Self-acceptance / high performance
This is the goal I am always working toward with my coaching clients. It’s a place where you make decisions based on what is right for you. You make effective choices with your time, are OK with saying no when it is required, and are committed to only doing that which is important and valuable for what you want to achieve or create in your life.
In this space, you spend much less time in your head worrying about people and situations and more time just getting things done. You don’t need to be busy in order to appear successful. Instead, you choose to see success as measured by doing what matters to you and to your results. This is a collaborative space where you lead and connect effectively with others, without being at their beck and call.
Once you’ve identified where you are, it’s time to do something to about it! Below are a handful of strategies to help you get to “D”—the place where you no longer need others’ approval, as you have a sound sense of self-acceptance and you make choices from this place.
How to Let Go of the Need for Approval
1. Build a sound sense of self-acceptance.
The first step is to strengthen your core foundation so that you feel strong enough to go with what feels right for you. This way, you will no longer feel the need to look to others to feel good enough about your choices and decisions.
Keep a self-appreciation journal, where you start acknowledging daily or a few times a week the things you’re most proud of about yourself: choices you’ve made, insights you’ve learned, things you like about yourself, times you’ve stayed true to yourself, or whatever feels right for you.
2. Let go of seeking validation from others.
Secondly, you need to practice letting go of seeking validation for your choices and most importantly, for whom you choose to be.
This means noticing your language, self-talk, and behavior, and identifying when it is coming from wanting someone else to say you’re ok, that you made the right choice, or that you did the right thing.
Instead, when you do make a decision, check in with yourself that it feels right, remind yourself that it is your choice, and give yourself validation for just being you.
3. Evaluate tasks based on approval-seeking efforts.
Lastly, start being honest with yourself when you take on a new task or commitment, whether you are doing it because it is “right” for you or because you want to get approval and avoid disapproval.
Sit down and evaluate your weekly tasks and ask yourself what is really necessary and important, and what is driven by people pleasing. Then slowly work through the “people pleasing” list and eliminate them.
How has the need for approval impacted your life?
Photo by -just-jen