Everyone loves a little validation in their lives. Maybe you smile when your boss gives you the thumbs up and says “good job.” You probably enjoy it when your spouse or partner says you look good in a certain shirt or pair of pants. You shoot par on the back nine Sunday afternoon and your golfing buddies are high-fiving you and it feels great.
Receiving compliments and having other people approve of our behavior is indeed a basic human trait that most of us enjoy. But what happens when that feeling of approval becomes too much? What if it controls your life? It’s known as approval addiction, and it’s no laughing matter. Approval addiction is a real addiction. In fact, it’s conformity at all costs.
Constantly needing the approval of your co-workers will kill your career. Always relying on your spouse to be complimentary of everything you do can wreak havoc on your marriage. Always needing the approval of everyone in everything you do will interfere with all areas of your life.
The good news is that once you overcome approval addiction even to a small degree, you are free of the psychological chains that bind you from experiencing world-class success. Even better news: you can learn to live life without the need for approval from other people.
Here are five tips to do it.
5 Tips to Stop Needing Approval from Others
1. Change your “what if” thinking to “so what if” thinking
Let’s say you’re sitting in the boardroom and you have what you think is the next great idea to a big problem the company is facing. Don’t let your fear of what your colleagues may think hold you back from sharing it. Don’t say, “What if they don’t like my idea?” Change it to, “So what if they don’t like my idea?” Instead of, “What if they disagree with me?” Change it to, “So what if they disagree with me?”
Reframing the worrisome thought takes all the pressure off and makes it no big deal.
2. Learn to say “no”
Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Be polite, yet firm, and understand you have a right to decline.
Time is your most valuable resource, and while it’s a nice thought to want to say yes to those additional projects, favors and various burdens, it’s ultimately taking away from what’s meaningful to you. The reality is people are still going to like you and want to be your friend even if you can’t accommodate them every time they ask.
3. Practice speaking your mind
If you’re the type of person who has to think about his response for fear of how others might react, start being a bit more impulsive. Make a deal with yourself to speak your mind even if it means other people are going to disagree. Sure it’s nice to hope others like you, but if they don’t it’s not your problem.
A difference of opinion makes for great conversation and a chance to see things from a different perspective.
4. Change your emotional responses
The key to overcoming approval addiction is to change the way you perceive a situation. Write down the activating event (saying no, making a life change, making a suggestion at work) and then write down the reasons supporting your decision (I need more time for me, I really want to make this change to boost my confidence, I really want that promotion). Writing it down and seeing it helps do away with emotion and lets you see things more logically.
5. Stop living in denial
Stop living in denial and accept the fact that you rely heavily on the approval of others. You can’t learn to move past approval addiction until you admit it’s a problem and holding you back. Don’t beat yourself up over it; in fact, it actually means you have a great deal of concern for other people. It’s a problem because it’s too much of a concern. Accept it and make the decision to overcome it.
Whether approval addiction is interfering with your professional life, personal life or anywhere else, it’s more than likely holding you back and causing a great deal of stress and anxiety. Think of how free it would feel if you could live life on your terms and never have to worry about other people’s opinions. You can! The most important rule to remember when trying to get past approval addiction is that the only opinion that truly matters is your own.
Steve Siebold is a psychological performance and mental toughness coach to Fortune 500 management teams, professional athletes, entrepreneurs and other super achievers. He is author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class.
Featured photo by Arvin Asadi