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I Do Not Need Your Approval! The Mad Musings of an Approval Addict.

Last night I received an invitation from a friend to join the Facebook group, “Homosexuals should be able to give blood like everyone else.”

What?! I thought, “Gay men can’t give blood?,” I had no idea. Outraged, my response was to join this group immediately! But then my approval seeking addiction started to kick into gear. What if I offend a Facebook friend? Someone might not agree

That’s when I caught myself. Who cares?! I believe gay men should be able to give blood, so what does it matter what anyone else thinks?

Approval seeking. We all do it. Some more than others (ahem… Hello. My name is Amy and I am an approval addict).

But why?

I love Brooke Castillo’s take on approval seeking in “If I’m  So Smart, Why Can’t I Lose Weight?,” which by the way, is a great read even if you have no weight issue. She says, “I used to spend a lot of time trying to get people to like me. In fact, the less they liked me, the more I tried to get them to like me.”

She goes on to explain that, “what happens is when we aren’t giving ourselves enough love and approval, we are looking outside of ourselves to get it. When someone actually gives us some approval, we do whatever we can to keep getting it. We start doing the approval-earning dance based on what we think they like.”

I used to do this dance all the time. I would try to get approval when I went nuts cleaning the house before a visit, when I obsessed about what outfit to wear before going out with friends, when I yearned to lose five more pounds, when I drank at parties so I could be more “fun.” Hell my whole master’s degree was one big approval seeking jig.

There you have it. A good part of my life was one big scramble (a Quickstep perhaps?) for approval. THAT was exhausting… and expensive. The thing is, as I mentioned in a previous post, we can never really now what other people think. Even more important for the sake of this post – unless you are a Jedi Warrior or you work in advertising, it is impossible to ever be able control the thoughts and impressions of other people.

All of that scrambling left me totally lost. I was so worried about getting approval that I forgot what I liked. I forgot how to be myself.

Approval addicts come in many flavors. Some try to get approval by saying clever things at parties. Some just keep quiet as not to say anything that might warrant disapproval (or they skip the party all together). Some try to look good all the time through endless dieting, teeth whitening and nipple piercing. Others get degrees. Others try to please specific people and Do. Whatever. It. Takes. Or whatever they think it takes.

Here are my five steps to a life free from addiction:

Step 1) Mindfulness. Find out what flavor you are. Be what I like to call a “scientist of your life” and identify the when, where, why, how and who of your own approval seeking behavior.

Step 2) This is a biggie. Compassion. When I caught on to the enormity and extent of my approval seeking addiction, my first instinct was to beat the crap out of myself. Please don’t do that. The point is to offer yourself approval, so beating the crap out of yourself kind of defeats the purpose.

Step 3) Courage. In my opinion, once you catch on to this behavior, it takes a lot of guts to “just be yourself.” On paper it sounds simple; but in my case, I was so used to first seeking approval that doing anything without getting approval felt really scary.

Step 4) Vigilance. Remember once an addict, always an addict. There will be times when the urge comes back. Just remember the first three steps and you’re on your way again.

Step 5) Enjoy. Take it from me, there is a crazy wonderful freedom that comes from being the real you. It’s fun. I leave you with this quote which comes from an entry for a Dove Soap commercial:

“Luxury is being able to be the real you 100% of the time.”