The Need To Seek Attention & Validation – An Addiction of its Own Kind, and Ways To Overcome It - Part II
Every human being has the inherent desire to feel safe and secure, and human behavior revolves around the need to garner that sense of physical and emotional security. On a deep emotional level, receiving approval makes us feel secure with ourselves as a person. There is a huge degree of inner peace and security connected to feeling good about who we are, especially when someone else validates us. Many often ask why people create a ruckus or use dramatic tonalities, actions and words. The answer is pretty simple, when we get the attention, we feel good and rewarded, by also using dopamine – the brain’s feel good drug. Dopamine releases more dopamine when it anticipates any receiving a reward, and because this feels good for the mind and the body, and lo!and behold, does the classic attention seeking behavior begin.
In most households, children have been taught from a very young age to seek approval from their parents for almost everything they say or do, otherwise it “wont’t be good’. Since the need for approval, love and acceptance from our parents is not just strong but also natural, children become conditioned over time to seek approval from others as well, because that is what we allowed ourselves to believe and behave from the primary relationship of our life. The opposite is also true ; when someone has been used to receive attention and validation from childhood, and things change all of a sudden at a work place or in a marriage, where suddenly they are not the center of attention and validation is not always readily available, it creates havoc within themselves internally – either is excessive need for validation, or there is complete lack of confidence because they feel and realize that they cannot do anything without someone else’s help, it becomes a need to keep looking for that.
Whenever we don’t receive approval from someone, there is an automatic trigger and desire to win it back, and we keep trying to prove ourselves right in whatever way possible, because most often than not, we are unable to take in the repeated rejection we feel deep within ourselves. When we are met with ridicule or rejection, it can undermine the way we view ourselves and the potential as human beings, internalize this kind of feedback which threatens our sense of security and disrupts our ability to stay in a state of harmony.
One of the most ironic things about approval-seeking behavior is that it usually creates the opposite results to those which we want. If you take a moment to consider the people for whom you have the most respect, you’ll usually notice their impeccable ability to be themselves. They stand up for themselves, believe in what they say, and live by their own values. Approval seeking behaviour is intended to get more approval and respect from others, yet what people generally respect is the very opposite i.e. people who are true to themselves. It is nice to have the approval of others but the way to get it is to have self-approval, self-love, and self-respect first. While our modern life often conditions people to seek approval; familiarizing yourself with the steps above for dismantling approval seeking, is going to help provide an antidote to that.
Here are a few things you can do to loosen your grip on approval seeking:
1: Ask Yourself Where Your Need for Approval Comes From.
Were you taught to respect authority growing up, no matter what, even if you were being mis-treated? Were you always met with a no, or something heart-breaking every time you went up to a parent or a parent/authority figure?Did you struggle to make friends in school and develop a fear of being rejected? Was giving given more importance and receiving anything looked down upon? This may now be driving you to do whatever if takes to feel included and liked, including by your co-workers. Reflect on how your childhood or early development years may be contributing to your current approval-seeking behaviour.
2: It’s called self-worth not others-worth for a reason.
The more you go around chasing and begging for love and approval from outside of you, even if its very subconsciously, or with your behavior and body language, the emptier you will feel and the unhappier your life will get. No one is meant to nor will decide what you are worthy of, hence constantly insisting that happens is a sure short way of choosing to stay stuck mentally, emotionally, and even physically. People might make you feel less then, and it is something we have very little control over unless we choose to spend our lives behind 4 walls, and completely disconnect in order not to engage with such people and they might still have a reason to question you. For how much more longer? What all are you losing out on because of this? How many more years do you want t forgo? What more are you waiting for? Something more to go wrong? For you to feel worse? For someone to come and lift you up and save you? The truth is, none of it is going to happen. Self-worth is never going to be coming from the outside and no-one is assigned to do it for you 24/7. It is a commitment make you make to yourself, for yourself.
3: Befriend Rejection. Stop Fighting It.
Rejection has often been glorified into a catastrophe, especially by various forms of media, which eventually has a deep implication on not just our psyche, because it totally disrupts confidence, but also on the physical body. In many cultures, love is shown as a form of control and if that if not adhered to, one faces potential threat to be disowned- physically or emotional. This actually also kicks in the fight and flight mechanism in the body, which eventually leads to the adrenal glands being compromised little by little. Many are also habituated to live and work in high-stress environment since childhood, and not having any feels uneasy, and abnormal, and sometimes rejected because there is no more stimulus externally validating anything, even if its not empowering. The person sometimes also becomes weirdly attached to the person who constantly inflicts pain or keeps rejecting, and in extreme cases its known as the Stockholm Syndrome. People wound up being addicted to their own stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, and eventually letting this addiction take over their lives, often i subconscious ways.
How does one deal with this? It is important to first ask yourself what all areas of your life do you feel rejected the most- grab a pen and paper if you feel the need to and jot it down. Next, note down since when, and for how long, and how it has served you. What have you gained? What have you lost? What will you gain if you let go of rejection? What will you lose if you let go of the need to hold on to rejection.
The truth is, no matter how hard we try not to get rejected, no matter how careful we try to be, no matter how much we try and control things and people in order to be perfect, rejection is sometimes inevitable, and very much part of life and growth. If one chooses to look at it and react to it as a life and death situation, it will have that kind of an impact on your life, including your body. By embracing it with open arms before hand, and by responding to it as a re-direction, the journey to overcome any challenge post rejection becomes a lot more lighter. Disapproval is a form of feedback. It also helps to also re-frame rejection as something positive. It means you’re moving forward and pushing limits, rather than just staying in your comfort zone.
Take the lesson, turn it around, and keep moving forward.
4: Focus on the Process, Not Just Outcomes.
If you’re prone to approval-seeking, focus on working on the journey, rather than achieving a particular outcome. When you invest your entire emotional, mental and physical energy on one singular result, such as getting a promotion or raise, or winning someone’s heart, you attach your entire self-worth to external standards—which may be outside of your control, most of the times. Many do not realize how and when this also ends up becoming an obsession and addiction of sorts which is not quite healthy for the body as well in the long run, because we choose to keep ourselves in constant stress. It is absolutely important to take goal-centric action, but it is also important to be flexible enough and trust that whatever changes may occur, are part of the learning process and for a good reason. For example, even if you’re performing well and hitting all your benchmarks, your company might not be doing as well as a whole and decide to put a salary freeze into effect. While this is completely outside of your control and doesn’t reflect on your value as an employee, if you’ve been banking on that raise, you’re bound to be disappointed. However, in this situation, if you instead concentrate on a process that you can control, you can reduce the power that approval has over you. For example, maybe you strive to become more organised, so you’re seen as more effective—and therefore, more deserving of a promotion, or focus on ways that you could do anything from your side in order to help the company grow instead of b****** about the boss and cribbing about it.
There are NO real shortcuts for this, the best way to not let fears and apprehensions get the best of you is to commit to a daily practice on how to focus on the moment. Motivation does not last for more than 3 days. That us why discipline is important.
5: Everyone has the right to be right.
The world and your life within it is not black and white. You are entitled to your own thoughts, beliefs and opinions, just like everybody else Just because you think differently to someone else does not mean that one of you is right and one of you is wrong. It is important to be able to respect the right of others to have their own opinion but to do so; you must first be able to respect your right to have your own opinion.Respecting your own views requires you to avoid approval seeking behaviours. Disagreeing is okay. Insulting yourself or the other is not.
6: YOU ARE ENOUGH
One of the many ways in which you can let go of approval seeking behavior is by realizing and internalizing the fact that you alone are enough and you really don’t need anyone’s love and approval in order to feel the way you need to, even if you try and spend lifetimes looking for it and debating over it. All the love you need and desire will never be found in another person or by accumulating a lot of material things. It can only be found by looking within and recognizing that you already are whole and complete and that you don’t need anyone or anything to feel this way. You alone are enough! Whether you believe it or not, whether you like it or not, it is a blatant fact. Also, it is no-one else’s duty but yours to remind yourself for that and the only way you can do it is by taking 100% responsibility of yourself and your emotions.
7: Be true to yourself. Stop running after perfection.
Perfection is actually a form of anxiety, and it truly doesn’t exist. One of the ways of seeking approval is trying to be something you are not because you want to fit into someone else’s perception of perfection which is doesn’t exist. Life isn’t about behaving in the way others expect you to behave. Life isn’t about wearing all kind of masks and costumes and pretending to be something you are not. Life is about honoring your authenticity. It’s about living life with integrity and doing the things that feel right to you, not to others. No matter what you try to do, how much ever you invest your time, energy and money in proving to someone how good you are and trying to teach them something by trying to get their attention, it isn’t going to work. In fact, you will push them away all the more. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that who you are is not good enough and that in order to be loved and approved by others you have to start pretending to be something you are not. You cannot spend your life pleasing everyone, and not everyone is going to be pleased with you either, no matter how hard you try. Stop burning yourself.
8: Give more of yourself, to yourself, by loving yourself FIRST.
Seek to give all of those things you want from others to yourself first, because you truly cannot pour from an empty cup- you can NEVER give what you do not have, neither can you hate yourself now in order to love yourself late. . If you want compliments, if you want to receive attention, if you want love and appreciation, give yourself all of these things and more, first. Love and approve of yourself as much as you would want the world to love and approve of you and by doing so you will finally understand that who you are is enough and that there is nothing about you that is lacking. This has to be made into a conscious practice, in order to change the hate story that you are telling yourself, 24 x 7. The truth is, most people who do not love themselves can adore others because adoration is making someone else big and themselves small, which in turn serves as an addictive form of validation – make yourself small in order to receive the love you want. Desire comes out of a sense of inner incompleteness, which demands to be filled. But they can not love others because love is an affirmation of the living growing being in all of us. If you don’t have it, you can’t give it.Let go of the need for approval and start focusing on loving yourself for who you are not for who you think you should be. Always remember that getting the love and approval of those around you is a bi-product of loving yourself, honoring yourself and living your life from a place of integrity and authenticity.
9: Focus on what truly matters & draw boundaries.
You know those people who waste most of their lives chasing success, fame, and fortune, thinking that by having all of those things they will be happy? Well, the need for validation is a lot like that. You think it will make you happy and you think it will fill all the empty holes in your life but the truth of the matter is that it won’t. That’s not what validation does. There is no real essence in the validation you get from others.That’s not what your heart needs. Your heart needs you to understand that who you are is enough and it wants you to embrace, to love and to accept yourself for who you are. Your heart wants you to stop pretending to be something you are not and to just be yourself. It just wants you to be the wonderful, unique and valuable being you were born to be. That’s all it wants from you.
We cannot really avoid criticism if we plan on making it big in life. Yet we constantly worry about what others will say and portray situations of utter disasters, to the extent of internalizing them in every fiber of our being. We choose to ponder over every single opinion and crash and break down as we internalize them, giving away our life force to the people who do not really matter. Do these people pay your bills? Do they matter in their long run? Are you benefiting in any way as they try to pull you down with their negativity and you go out of the way trying to prove yourself right, validating it? Is peace more important or being right? Do these people help you grow in any way – mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually or even content wise on social media? What if you say no and progress? What if you say no and feel empowered? What if you say no and its good for your health? What if you say no and it leads you to say yes to the right person. Boundaries and eliminating toxic situations and people are an act of self-love for your mind, body and soul, and you do not have to feel guilty about doing it.
The important thing to realize here is that not all neglect is necessarily a lack of love. Sometimes, people only have so much they can give; and sometimes that is not enough. There is a sense of healing in accepting that your parents/friends/relatives/teachers did not give you as much attention as you required, and maybe they may have not really intended it – thats all they knew and that’s all they could give from what they had learnt and carried forward. Forgiving yourself first and then forgiving them for being who they were and are is going to not change dynamics and heal relationships but also ground and your emotions.
“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, being nothing” – Aristotl