"When we base our self worth on how people treat us, or on what we believe they think about us," says Joyce Meyer, author of the book "Approval Addiction," it causes us to become addicted to their approval. We don't have to be approved of by other people in order to feel good about ourselves. We may spend a lot of time and effort trying to please people and gain their approval. But then, if it only takes one glance of disapproval or one unappreciative word to ruin our sense of self worth, we're in bondage."
Meyer continues: "No matter how hard we work to please people and gain their acceptance, there will always be someone who disapproves of us."
Go back and read that last sentence again. I actually think it's freeing to think about this because it shows that no matter how hard we try, there will always be that person who doesn't approve. It could be because they're jealous of our accomplishments -- or because they're overcompensating for their own insecurities.
You teach people how to treat you. This is one of my favorite life principles, and it may very well resonate more in the approval realm than in any other area.
Those who are addicted to approval can frequently get burned out. Does this sound familiar? You say yes because you can't say no. And then the burnout sets in. Next comes resentment. And all of this is a result of giving away your power.
Instead of learning to take responsibility for your own happiness by approving of yourself, you've handed yourself over, making you dependent on others to validate your own sense of self worth.
Because an addiction is something that controls our behaviors, it's no wonder you act in certain ways. Until you accept and approve of yourself, no amount of approval from others will keep you permanently secure. Approval addicts attempt to avoid or to remove the pain of disapproval by doing whatever people want them to do.
Rather than fight with an addiction, though, you can starve it to death by simply not feeding it. It's not an easy road. Every time you break the pattern, though, the pain and discomfort will lessen.
It takes lots of repetition for a new habit to form. It's definitely an "inside job," and you can start to take the first step next time you're confronted with some of this autopilot behavior.
You really do teach other people how to treat you. And you also teach yourself.
Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and Chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications company specializing in advertising, public relations, government relations and interactive marketing. Reader comments may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or e-mailed to livelifefu...@arnoldagency.com.