I need love and approval from those significant to me - and I must avoid disapproval from any source.
I like to be liked - you probably do too. And there is nothing wrong with that. It is fine to want approval. Unfortunately, though, people often go beyond wanting it. They make approval into a need - an absolute must without which they think they cannot survive. When this happens, approval-seeking becomes a recipe for self-defeat:
Know When You are Approval-Seeking
You are probably approval-seeking when you feel or act in ways that show you are worried about what others think:
Identify The Irrational Beliefs Involved
What kinds of thinking lead to overconcern with what others think of you? To begin with, the fear of disapproval is often triggered by distorting reality.
Note, though, that while misinterpretations of reality may trigger your fears of disapproval, it will not be the underlying cause. The real problem is the evaluations you apply to disapproval: your awfulising, cannot-stand-it-itis, demanding and self-rating in response to it.
If you worry about how others see you, this shows that you do not accept yourself. You are, instead, rating yourself and relying on other people to confirm that you are OK. When you are not getting the love and respect you think you 'need', this plugs into self-doubts which already exist in your own mind.
Underlying this self-rating (or the fear of it) will be demanding. Do not pretend that you just want approval - if you are anxious, hurt, or hostile, then you are telling yourself that you need it. Watch for thinking like: 'For me to be happy and feel worthwhile, other people must love, accept and respect me; and hardly ever disapprove of me.'
Awfulising & Discomfort-intolerance
Disputing The Need For Approval
Can human beings overcome the irrational fear of being disliked, unloved and rejected? Yes - by getting hold of the idea that approval is not a need.
It is good to get love and acceptance from others. It contributes to satisfying and helpful relationships. It is useful when others have authority over you or control access to things you want: your parents, teachers, employer, bank manager, landlord and other such people.
Approval, though, becomes a problem when you exaggerate your desire for it into a necessity. In other words, you tell yourself that you must have it in order to feel good about yourself and be happy.
What is the solution then? Seek approval wherever you can get it. Do what you reasonably can to avoid disapproval from others. Work on yourself and your relationships to increase the chance of getting the love and affection you desire. But remind yourself all the time that while approval is important, you can survive without it. Then, when it is not forthcoming, you will feel disappointed instead of anxious or depressed, and you will be less likely to give up your own wants in order to please others.
In fact, expect disapproval. In the real world, positive feedback from others will not always be forthcoming. Not everyone is going to like you. Because different people have different ideas about what they want you to be, pleasing others will work only some of the time. If you expect disapproval, you will be less likely to overreact when it happens.
Remember, too, that it is human to be imperfect. So if you have been criticised because of something that you have done, this is proof of your humanness. When a criticism is valid this does not mean you are totally flawed. If you are able to rate behaviours without applying the rating to your total self (e.g. 'I am not a useless person, just a person who sometimes does useless things') then you will find it easier to listen to and learn from criticism. What if the criticism is mistaken? This shows that the other person is human. Either way, you do not have to feel bad because someone dislikes you.
Finally, note that disapproval or criticism is not unbearable. You have been criticised before, and you are still alive. You do not like it - but it is uncomfortable rather than awful. If you remind yourself of that, you will make it even less uncomfortable.
Approval-Seeking Versus Self-Acceptance
Is it time to change what you tell yourself about what other people think of you? Compare the two lists below:
Getting Into Action
Now it is time to move from rethinking to action. Below are some strategies for acting against your fear of disapproval. The first few will help you get moving against approval-seeking right away, and the rest are for longer term use:
There may a block to change to get out of the way: the fear that you will become less than human. Do you worry that if you stop needing love, approval, and acceptance from others you will become self-centred or somehow non-human? This is far from the truth. In reality, you will be freer to love and concern yourself about others when you do not expect them to always repay you in kind. And accepting yourself will make it easier to accept them too.
Finally, keep things in perspective. While you do not need approval, it is still desirable to have some people like and accept you. Could a few changes be to your advantage? If there are things about you to which people react negatively - slovenly appearance, habitual lateness, losing your temper, aggressiveness or other tendencies - and you dislike the disapproval, consider making some positive changes.
There may be some things you cannot change - for example, the shape of your body or a disability which makes you less physically attractive. But you could still develop social or communication skills or other assets which will, to some extent, compensate and add to your appeal.
Remember, though - you do not have to change. If the disapproval does not bother you, it is not an issue. By all means make changes to gain more recognition from others. But remember - it is not essential to your survival.
If you keep approval as a preference rather than a need, you are more likely to stay in charge of your own life
Other helpful resources
Links within this programme
Separating your self-view from your performance.
Keeping reasonable boundaries between yourself and other people.
From Approval-Seeking to Self-Acceptance
Is it time to change what you tell yourself about what other people think of you? Here is a new rational belief to replace the old one:
'Love, approval and respect from others are all good things - but they are not absolute necessities for my survival. And while I dislike disapproval, it is uncomfortable - not catastrophic; I can stand it - as I have many times before. Better that I learn to accept myself, independently of what others think of me.'