Are you living life how you want to live it? Or are you living life for other people? What you might not realize is that while you think you are living the life you want to be living, you're really living for other people.
How can you tell? Professionally, are you full of potentially groundbreaking ideas that could move the company or your department to the next level of success? Do you contribute to the conversation or do you keep quiet out of fear of what your coworkers might think?
Personally, is there some big change you've wanted to make, perhaps try a new hairstyle, shade of lipstick, or even feel young again by buying the two-door convertible, but are terrified how this could change the way your friends or family members look at you? Do you often just go with the flow and do what your friends want to do out of fear they will reject your idea?
In your intimate relationship with your spouse or partner, is there something new you've been wanting to try in the bedroom, secretly fantasizing how it could take your sexual relationship to the next level, but are so terrified of what your partner might think that it brings on more anxiety than pleasure to think about it?
In any situation when you are afraid to show your true feelings or say what you're really feeling because of the fear of what other people might think, you are suffering from approval addiction. It's extremely debilitating because it's conformity at all costs. The misguided thinking of the approval addict is, "I won't be loved or accepted unless others approve of my behavior."
Overcome Approval Addiction
The good news is that once you overcome approval addiction even to a small degree, you become free of the psychological chains holding you back from reaching success and happiness.
On a scale of one to seven, seven being highest, how high is your need to be approved and validated by other people? Next, ask your spouse or best friend to rate you on the same scale, and then compare answers.
Some other ways to overcome approval addiction:
1. Learn to say 'no:' Time is your most valuable resource. As you grow personally and professionally, additional projects, favors and various burdens threaten to eat away at your time. Identify an activity that is not giving you the results or satisfaction you thought it would. Make a commitment to discontinue it. Get in the habit of saying "no" more often in order to protect your previous times.
2. Respectfully disagree with others: If everyone agreed with each other all the time, think how boring life would be. Having a difference of opinion whether it's with a family member or a complete stranger is a good thing. Of course, always be respectful about it. By sharing your point of view and then listening to someone else's take on the matter, you are opening yourself up to possibly learning something new.
3. Don't always play it safe: Many times the reason you are stuck in a rut is because you're approaching the same situation the same way you have for years or even a lifetime. Don't be afraid to take a risk and try something new. Be open to new things and stop worrying what others might think.
4. Stop 'Iffing' on yourself: The approval addict is notorious for being a 'What if" thinker. What if they don't like me? What if they think my ideas are dumb? What if I'm being too aggressive? Change your what if thinking to "So what if" thinking and answer the question. So what if they don't like me? It's their loss. So what if they think I'm dumb? Well at least I contributed and I can find someone else who will appreciate what I have to say.
5. Play the "If I should die tomorrow" card: Ask yourself this critical thinking question: If I should die tomorrow, am I truly satisfied with the life I have lived? Be honest. Most people go through life trying to arrive safely at death. We only have so much sand in the hourglass, so make sure to live life how you want to live it.
When it comes to overcoming approval addiction, remember this: you are responsible to your employees, customers, associates and friends, to be honest, sincere and to act with integrity. But you are not responsible for their attitudes or behavior towards you. Hopefully they like you because it's more pleasant that way, but if not, it's not your problem.