To feel approved and accepted by others is a human need, totally natural and necessary for our survival. Having others validate our self-esteem grows, in addition to our well-being because we feel safe and protected.
The need for approval is completely natural and adaptive in humans, As long as it is healthy. Sacrificing yourself as you are to make sure you fit in with a group or the rest of society is not healthy because you are not approved for who you are, but for who you claim to be.
The line between the need for healthy and pathological approval, this is addiction, may well be and it is this issue that we will see below.
What is the need for approval?
No matter how hard it is for us to admit it, we all seek the approval of others. This is natural, because the need for validation is as human and inherent in our nature as the need to eat or breathe. It has a very important adaptive function, which is that of get others to accept us in their respective groups in order to obtain their protection and help in the face of a threat or an unfavorable situation.
Many people are so obsessed with pleasing others that they even sacrifice the way they are. In order to try and fit into a certain group, they behave in a completely different way than they really are, even fearing that others will know what they really are. It makes their life totally controlled by how other people see them, feeling very unhappy when they see someone criticizing them or not pleasing everyone.
Human beings want to be loved and flattered, but it’s one thing to feel valued and another to be extremely dependent on others who accept us in order to feel good. The need for approval it can become a real mental health problem if it becomes extremely addictive, Especially if the person changes their way of being and their appearance to meet people who do not have to offer real help.
Approval and childhood
From the moment we are born, we need others to validate and approve us. This is perfectly adaptive, because if we see it from an evolutionary perspective, there are times when we seek to be accepted by others, admitted to us in their respective groups, and thus we receive their protection and security. The nature of human beings is social, and as the social animals that we are, we need others to survive.
Approval is already seen in infancy and in our childhood we need validation from adults and other children. By interacting with them, we not only achieved protection and security, but we also managed to find ourselves in an environment conducive to learning and emotional well-being. By feeling loved and appreciated by others, we are more likely to emulate their behavior, in addition to the love and affection we have received from them filling us emotionally.
However, in the case of marginalized children, their need for approval may not be met. This can have multiple consequences at the psychological level, the first and most visible of which is a great lack of self-esteem which, in the end, has an important social component: if others do not value us harshly, we can value ourselves in ourselves.
Another case is that of children who are taken into account but in a negative way. If we are told all the bad things we do, highlighting our flaws and weaknesses, it is clear that our self-esteem will be drastically reduced. Receiving negative comments from coworkers and family members pushes the need for approval further. When he grows up this child will desperately seek an approval that he did not receive and, at the very least someone shows him affection, will try to bond intensively with this person in a very pathological way. and dependent.
The need for pathological approval: emotional dependence
There can be several situations that have caused a person to have a great need for approval, that is, to have a great dependence on others to show him his validation. As we have just seen, this need plays an important role in childhood and it is in this period that, if there is a problem, it turns the need for healthy approval into a pathological addiction.
There are several aspects that warn us that someone is very dependent on the approval of others. People addicted to approval never express disagreements or different opinions. They confuse being kind and loving others with saying yes to anything the person they are trying to please likes or says they want to do. In other words, they think that if they say “no” or show a different opinion, they will anger the person they are trying to get their approval from and are very afraid that this will happen.
People dependent on the approval of others have an emotional state that varies widely depending on the opinions of others. If they’re flattered or praised, even though it’s a very simple comment and there is nothing like it, they feel euphoric and happy just to hear them. On the other hand, if you tell them a criticism, no matter how small, constructive, and peaceful, they feel very sad and worthless. Whether good or bad, the comment received exaggerates it to inadequate levels.
They are usually very concerned about their appearanceBecause they care a lot about what other people think and, of course, image is one of the issues they want to be accepted for. It is not pathological to fix a little or to follow the fashions, but it is in case of becoming a necessity. These people are unable to go out on the streets without complete repair, hiding their “flaws”, combing their hair in the latest fashion, and wearing the fashion that suits them best to suit the people they want to please.
Can the need for pathological approval be eliminated?
It is possible to eliminate the need for pathological approval, but we must understand that this will only be possible with the advice of a psychologist and a lot of work. Likewise, there are several tips and recommendations that we can take into account if we want this need for approval to not completely control our lives.
1. Only we know each other well
There will be people who stay with one of our faults and judge us totally based on it, but these people are not in possession of the truth. We are the ones who know ourselves best and who know (or should know) what our strengths and weaknesses are..
The important thing is that we accept ourselves as we are and know where to improve. This is not to say that we should only seek approval from ourselves, because as the social animals that we are, we must interact with others in order to have emotional well-being, but we cannot establish a relationship. healthy relationships with others without first accepting ourselves. to know itself.
2. We can’t please everyone
People are very diverse and we can see virtues where others see flaws. There will always be people who criticize and disapprove of us, but there will also be people who support and accept us.. It is in this second type of people that we must approach, because it is they who will bring us emotional well-being, by accepting us as we are, with our strengths and weaknesses.
3. Criticism is not synonymous with rejection
We all want to receive compliments and compliments, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes we get disapproval and criticism, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing or a sign of rejection.. It is true that there are those who abruptly drop these comments, but others do so politely and constructively, often thinking of what is best for us, making comments so that we learn to to be better people.
Maybe this comment will provoke negative emotions in us, but it is not necessarily a bad or a personal attack. We need to try to react calmly to criticism, be patient and learn not to feel attacked, as well as learn to control our emotions. Critics, well done, are used to learn.
4. Let’s be a little selfish
Yes, that sounds bad enough as they say, but being a little selfish is okay if it gives us sanity. When we do something, before making a decision, should we ask ourselves who we are doing it for? How much do the opinions of others influence what we do? Will it make us happier? The answers we have to these questions will show us how much our lives depend on what we want others to accept or how we think.
5. Let’s be ourselves
Finally, there’s the basic tip for anyone who’s desperate for someone else’s approval: just be yourself. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, which makes us equal with each other. In some things we will be good and in others bad, but that’s life. There will be things that can be improved, but others that are not and it is with these seconds that you have to show yourself.
As curious as it sounds, while those most concerned with finding external approval do not find it, those who do not seek it if they find it. Being yourself will make some people not accept us as we are, but it will bring us closer to those who value us, people who will only criticize us when we do something wrong or see that there is something wrong with us. something that can be improved. Either way, stopping worrying about outside opinion and trying to achieve unattainable goals will bring us closer to emotional and psychological well-being.
- Alonso, LI (1993) The social production of necessity, Economists Magazine, núm. 28.
- Castello, BJ (2005) Emotional Addiction: Characteristics and Treatment, Publishing Alliance.
- Smith MJ (2010) When I say NO, I feel guilty, Editorial DEBOLSILLO.
- Aumann, J., Lanzguerro, S., Velasco, P. and Domínguez, A. (2017). Need for social approval and developmental resources in Mexican adolescents. Teaching and Research in Psychology, 22 (2), 204-211.
- Franco, C. and De León, V. (2015). Increase self-esteem. Logos Scientific Bulletin of the Preparatory School, 3 (2).
- Kelly, RA (2010). Social skills training: a practical guide to interventions. Bilbao: Desclée de Brouwer.