Stop Seeking the Approval of Others

stop seeking approvalDo you approve of yourself – or do you seek the approval of others? When we lack confidence and in particular have low self esteem, we find ourselves needing the approval of others to feel good about ourselves.

Unfortunately, in this day and age of being over worked and under valued, the approval of others may be slow to happen. Saying “well done” or “thank you” doesn’t seem to common language in modern society – and how often do you say such things to others?

Being self critical is an easy habit to get into, and forms the basis of our needing approval from others. The root of our self criticism is usually being at the receiving end of criticism from others as we grow up. I like the expression that “criticism is negative feedback badly delivered”. Constantly receiveing messages like “you’re too slow/stupid/bad/ugly/…” etc leads to us believing that this is a reality.

And language like “don’t do that” “why did you….” “you shouldn’t have” “you always” “you mustn’t” “you always” doesn’t exactly help a child feel good about themselves. Every expression is a sign of disapproval, so its not surprising we grow wanting that approval from others.

A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. Mark Twain

Comparing ourselves to others is another way we end up being critical of ourselves, as we usually find ways we don’t match up. This perpetuates our own self disapproval. If you must compare – find positive things where you are better than others. Even if you find yourself with role models you are trying to emulate, there will be aspects of their personality, perhaps particular skills or attributes that you already have but they don’t possess.

Identify situations where you find yourself seeking the approval of others. Is it with particular people – boss, parent – or in particular environments – workplace, home, social? Is there any reason you can identify why this should be, why you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to their moods and frustrations?

Whether or not you can find reasons for your seeking approval, start getting in the habit of getting approval solely from yourself. As you find yourself automatically deferring to others opinion of you, catch that thinking and challenge it. If you have deep seated fears of rejection or abandonment you may need to seek professional help (such as a psychologist or counselor) if you have difficulty challenging these thoughts yourself.

One easy way to challenge such thinking, is to remind yourself that most people are quite self centered. In the same way you spend most of your time full of self talk, worrying about you, other people are not as concerned about you as you think. They’re mostly concerned about themselves.

The bottom line, whilst you’re worried about others opinion or approval of you, they probably haven’t given you any thought at all. Like you, when they’re thinking about other people, it’s mainly in relation to themselves. None of us know what anyone else is thinking. Whether or not they’ve even noticed you or what you have done, you may never know. So why beat yourself up about it?

A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. Mark Twain

Another technique, which I have written about recently in self esteem building, is to get in the habit of approving of yourself. Keep reminding yourself what you’ve done well, what you are pleased about that you have done.

The “portfolio” technique is something many people now have to do for courses and professional competence. Keep a file or folder with reminders of what you have done and achieved. Its easy to forget the things that we’re good at, perhaps things we do automatically without a second thought. You may find it helpful to ask a friend to help you at this.

Another technique is to use positive affirmations. I have previously written that I use affirmations to reinforce character traits – such as confidence – rather than to gain material possessions (as fans of the Law of Attraction suggest). Use affirmations to reinforce your approval of yourself – what you like about you.

Jenna May 20, 2008 at 6:33 pm

Wonderful post..

I stopped worrying about what other people think of me a while ago.. I have to be the best I can be, regardless of what anyone else thinks or does.

If you can’t love and accept yourself, you’re going to have a tough road ahead!

Jenna’s last blog post..May I Have Your Attention, Please?

Robert A. Henru May 22, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Hi David,
Is this the answer to my question about law of attraction?
To approve yourself?

Robert A. Henru’s last blog post..The three secrets to limitless possibilities

David May 22, 2008 at 9:35 pm

Jenna – I agree, although appreciate for some its easier said than done.
Robert – I hadn’t thought of any link to the LoA! Although I’m not the total skeptic that I once was, and use techniques like affirmations that LoA followers also use, the LoA does not give me a framework for personal development.

David’s last blog post..Stop Seeking the Approval of Others

Christine May 25, 2008 at 7:27 am

I had read a lot of moivation book like this..and im always charge up after reading these..but still..after a few days i’ll like back to the same position.,..
what should i do to mantain my self esteem?


David May 26, 2008 at 9:02 am

Confidence, self esteem, motivation – none of these are permanent states. But in the same way we have to do things daily to maintain our physical health – eat, drink, sleep, wash, etc – you may need to do things regularly to improve your self esteem. This probably centers on thinking habits, as we can easily get into negative habits as we grow up.
So do persevere. David

David’s last blog post..Stop Seeking the Approval of Others

Alex Kay June 1, 2008 at 12:49 pm

Wonderful post, David.

Not seeking approval (to approve yourself) is so important in life.

Have a GREAT day 🙂

Alex Kay’s last blog post..Why Gifts and Flowers don’t work for Creating Attraction – Only for Amplifying it

Nick Grimshawe June 3, 2008 at 6:30 am

Hi David,

Another interesting article. I like the idea of the Portfolio where you put your accomplishments and things your feel you did a good job on.

As some one who had problems with self esteem, approval seeking is one of the hardest things to overcome and to understand.

I got there with my journal, and a lot of reading: articles like this, books, and one very good coaching program.

You do an awesome job, keep up the good work.

Walk in quiet places.


Nick Grimshawe’s last blog post..There is a Door Inside of Me

Larry February 20, 2009 at 10:30 pm

“…remind yourself that most people are quite self centered. In the same way you spend most of your time full of self talk, worrying about you, other people are not as concerned about you as you think.”

Sage advice. I’ll try and remember that whenever I can.


glenn age 53 September 7, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Approval seeking can be overcome if you desire to be free of it, as a medical office Administrator and a consistant student of Mental Health, I have come to understand this distuctive behavior, specially in itimate relationships such as marriage, a degree of approval is healthly but when it becomes unhealthly is when its all the time on a consistant seeking cycle, building your self-esteem, self-worth and self-respect from others will never gain or substance a person for a suficient time but these emotions are very needed and you should find those healthy ways (maybe a mentalhealth professional) that are comfortable for you to gain grounds in those areas, soon you well begin to feel the change and the true value you do have without having to rely on others for your worth and value.

illeagle February 4, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Freedom is knowing that there is no authority outside of yourself.

KALIUMA July 7, 2010 at 6:09 am

It’s none of my business what other people are thinking about me. Their thoughts are their private domain. So when I start approval seeking I say to myself (kindly): “It’s none of my business!”

Om May 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Nice post.

Even following or having role model isn’t “External Approval Seeking”.

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