Approval Addiction

I’ll admit it: I’m a recovering approval addict.

It’s a hard addiction to break, I’ll be the first to say it.

The worst thing about approval addiction is that it can sneak up at any time, attaching itself to you when you least expect it.  You try to convince yourself that it’s “okay to want approval” and let the addiction feed itself as you turn to others to validate you, love you and give you a reason to exist.

The thing is this: There’s nothing wrong with wanting approval from others. We’re human – it’s natural. It becomes a problem when we substitute other people’s judgment for our own. When another’s opinion of us means more than our own. When we look to others to provide us with what we’re unable to provide ourselves.

I lived like that for more than a decade. I was able to break the addiction when it came to some people in my life – my mother being a prime example – but there were still many more people that I turned to for love, validation and self-worth. I looked to others to approve of me, to mold me – hell, even to define me.

Love me, love me, love me was my personal mantra as I gobbled up their judgments, their assessments, their definitions like it was candy.

The problem with candy is that eventually it makes you sick and doesn’t nourish you one bit. I was always left feeling empty.

I assumed that meant there was something wrong with me. It took me almost an entire decade to stop and wonder if maybe, even despite all the soul-searching and introspection I’d already done, that maybe I was still looking for love in all the wrong places.

And so, I began working on loving me. And it was a long, hard road.

The true wake up call was when, last winter, CBG made the decision to break up with me. It wasn’t long after that, that I had a falling out with yet another “friend”. She decided that she no longer wanted to be friends with me.

These two things helped me come to a very important conclusion: The only love that I can count on in this world is my own.

Now, I know that it’s not as harsh as all that. I know that there are people in this world whose love I can count on, even when things seem hopeless. But I realized that until I was able to love myself properly, that no one else’s love would ever be enough for me.

And so it began…my fight for self-love and self-acceptance. It’s been a very freeing and eye-opening experience.

No, I’m not perfect with it. But today, at almost 36 years old, I can say that I love myself now more than I ever have in my entire life. I am able to see myself realistically, without the harsh judgments of others. It’s finally okay when other people don’t love me perfectly or approve of every single thing I do…because I have my own love and approval and validation, and really, those are what matter the most.

I’m getting there…slowly but surely. Thankfully, life is handing many, many learning opportunities. I am so grateful for that.

16 Responses

  1. Great post!

    We absolutley have to love ourselves and be able to put that out there in order to find it reflected in someone else’s eyes. And if we dont find that we will be fine because we didnt give up our self love in the process.

    • You’re absolutely right, Mindy. 🙂 I realized this the day that I knew that if things didn’t work out with CBG and I, that I would be okay. I would be sad and upset about it…but it wouldn’t break me, because I haven’t given up self-love for the sake of this relationship. 🙂

  2. So, how are you doing it? I, too, am (hopefully soon to be was) approval addicted. I definitely believe I am totally wonderful and have lots to offer, but seem to always be willing to make the change that I think others would prefer of me…

    And, btw, I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now – LOVE it! Lisa

    • How am I doing it? Lots of trial and error, I guess.

      I started by going ahead and making decisions and doing things without talking to other people about it first. Small things, like getting a haircut or buying something that I liked….doing these things purely for me.

      Of course, being on my own and having to manage a household all by myself for the first time in my adult life certainly helped as well.

      I try very hard to be aware of my tendency to seek approval and validation from others, and question my motives when it feels like I’m leaning too far in that direction. Something interesting that I’ve noticed, too – lots of people in my life have come to admire and appreciate my newfound independence. I know that this is something that CBG in particular loves about me. So there are lots of benefits. 😉

  3. This is a great post, Sunshine. It makes one think. 🙂 Thank you for that.

  4. Gorgeous. You are shiny today!!

    I love this post and can definitely relate.

    Another thing I’ve learned is to not limit where I see love. I tend to only want love and validation from specific people. When I love myself more, I tend to notice it all around me in many different forms. Then it seems to grow exponentially!

    Big love!!

    • Thanks for this, T. You’re right, you know. Sometimes I get really focused not only WHO I want to see love from, but HOW I want to see it, too. Learning how to accept what is offered – in all forms and from all sources is important, because when you look at it that way, you see that there is way more love out there than you ever imagined. 🙂

  5. I have a problem with this too! Wanting others’ approval tends to make me take into account their opinions/approvals into my decisions – which is NOT the right approach. I see it, and try not to let that impact decisions, and usually am pretty successful, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. One day a time, bad habits can be broken, right??

    • I think it has to happen one small decision at a time. I think that eventually, as we make good choices and decisions (on our own!) that gives us the confidence to keep doing it.

  6. I envy you. Great post, probably my favorite of yours. Because it is what I am learning to do for myself right now.

  7. I so understand your post. Maybe this is a bit different but I am a pleaser. I want people to like me. I stayed in my marriage for eleven years because I wanted to please my husband. My mother was a pleaser too. It is a hard habit to break but I am trying. I love myself too! Best, P

    • I think that being a “pleaser” is a lot like being an approval addict – I, too, always want people to like me. That’s why I ‘bend’ who I am – to shape myself in such a way so that other people will like me more.

  8. very very very very (did I say very?) timely post for me. The ending of a recent relationship, this post, and self-reflection has put this all into perspective. = )

  9. The theme of addiction is coming up a lot lately on the posts I follow.

    Your post is wonderful. And yet, I can’t help but think…

    If you seek approval until you black out, then you definitely have an addiction. If you seek approval alone? Likely, it’s an addiction. If you try to keep approval a secret? Yeah, that’s probably an addiction.

    I’ve got a small stash of approval here in my kitchen. But it’s just for medicinal purposes.

    Seriously. I can quit any time that I want.

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