CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- How much energy do you spend worrying about what other people think? Whatever the amount is, it's wasted -- because we can't control what others think. And, yet, the need for approval drains the energy of so many.
While there are the more commonly labeled addictions -- alcohol, drugs, nicotine, gambling -- approval addiction is a more subtle affliction that strikes at the hearts of many.
This was brought home to me this past week when I heard a close friend say to another, "You're so starved for their approval. They can throw you a few crumbs and you act like it's a loaf."
That got me to thinking. I grew up in a household where there was a heavy emphasis on what other people think. It's interesting how the conditioning worked.
It's paid off for me in the life skills of diplomacy, tact and courtesy. Maybe it even had something to do with my chosen career field of public relations. But I have to admit that at times it can take on a life of its own. Before you know it, you're living your life according to someone else's expectations. Or, even worse, perceptions of someone else's expectations.
Growing up, I was the one in the family who strived to create harmony. This pattern continued in my life until authenticity became more important. And I still get lessons from time to time that test my mastery of this concept.
Why is it so important for us to have the approval of others? For one thing, we're social beings; and healthy people in general would rather be liked than disliked. Again, there's a balance to all of this. And we're all wired differently, with varying needs.
If you've ever found yourself sacrificing your own principles to please someone else, you may be an approval addict. Of course, we all compromise to some extent in our lives. Like the saying goes: "We pick our battles." I'm talking about an ongoing pattern, though, in which you live your life on autopilot. If you do this for too long, you won't even know who you are -- or what you think -- without having it filtered through someone else.
The approval demon often sneaks up on us. Before we know it, we've rolled over to the whims of another. So, if you see yourself -- or someone you care about -- falling into this trap, what can you do about it?
And what are the signs? Here's a favorite checklist of mine. Believing any of these might indicate approval addiction: