Ever feel like your happiness depends on that "like" notification or a friend's compliment?

 Moira and Alexis from Schitt's Creek looking at a mobile phone, with Moira saying,

You're not alone.

We all crave approval sometimes, but when it starts controlling your life, it's time to find healthy alternatives to approval seeking behaviors.

Why Do I Seek Approval?

We're all hard-wired to seek approval. In human evolutionary history, our very survival depended on us being part of a group.

A stick figure caveman and an angry-looking sabre-toothed tiger.

So, a need for social acceptance and a fear of rejection are powerful instinctive forces.

And wanting acceptance and approval aren't bad things!

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Think about the positive reinforcement you received as a kid for trying hard, getting good grades, or doing the right thing.

Praising children for good behavior works, because validation boosts our confidence and self-esteem by giving us a little hit of dopamine (the brain's chemical messenger responsible for feelings of pleasure), and so increases the chances we'll repeat that good behavior.

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Approval seeking behaviors, though, can become incredibly unhealthy if you depend on them for your self-worth.

Is My Approval-Seeking Unhealthy?

To identify whether your approval-seeking behaviors are healthy or unhealthy, dig into your behavior and motivations.

Some questions to ask yourself:

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  • What situations cause me to feel the strongest need for approval?

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  • What thoughts or emotions do I experience when I don't get the approval I seek?

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  • Do I often change my opinions or actions to please others, even if it goes against my preferences or values?

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  • Imagine getting 100% approval from everyone — How would it make me feel? Would it truly solve my underlying concerns?

With some self-reflection, you'll have a clearer idea of why you seek approval and how these approval seeking behaviors affect you.

How Do I Find Alternatives to Approval Seeking?

Finding healthy alternatives to approval seeking behaviors isn't a one-size-fits-all situation, but the following 5 strategies focus on different aspects of self-worth and fulfillment. Explore the ones that resonate with you.

Captain Picard in Star Trek says,

1. Cultivate Self-Compassion 💝

Practice self-acceptance — treat yourself with kindness and understanding, and celebrate your unique qualities and strengths.

2. Develop Intrinsic Motivation 💪🏽

Identify your personal values and passions — set goals aligned with those values, and find joy in the process of achieving them, regardless of external validation.

3. Build Healthy Relationships 🧑‍🤝‍🧑

Surround yourself with supportive and encouraging individuals who value you for who you are — learn to communicate your needs assertively, and set healthy boundaries.

4. Practice Mindfulness and Gratitude 🔇

Focus on the present moment — appreciate your experiences and accomplishments, and cultivate a sense of thankfulness for the positive aspects of your life.

5. Embrace Continuous Growth 🪴

View challenges and setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow — celebrate your progress along the way, and commit to lifelong learning and self-improvement.

Putting it into Practice

A group of young people gathered around a laptop screen. Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Imagine working really hard on a presentation for school. You think it went well, but you don't receive the grade or praise that you expected from the teacher.

  • Cultivate self-compassion: Say to yourself, "I didn't get the grade I was hoping for, but I studied hard and learned a lot. So, I can do better next time."

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  • Develop intrinsic motivation: Focus on improving your presentation skills, because they'll make you a better communicator.

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  • Build healthy relationships: Turn to supportive friends, who will really listen if you want to share your frustration and disappointment.

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  • Practice mindfulness and gratitude: Think about all of the valuable things you learned in class. Be grateful for the support of your classmates, friends and/or teacher.

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  • Embrace continuous growth: Realize that you can use the teacher's feedback to do better next time.

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Knowledge Check

You're invited to a party by a group you're not very close to, but you really want to make a good impression.

You spend hours getting ready, trying to decide on the perfect outfit and thinking of conversation topics. At the party, you find yourself feeling anxious and unsure of yourself, constantly worried about what others might think.

Gif of Kermit the Frog nervously clasping his hand to his mouth and trembling.

Which of the following actions would be most helpful in managing your need for approval in this situation?

A. Strike up conversations with everyone you meet, hoping to impress someone.

B. Focus on having fun and connecting with people you genuinely enjoy being around.

C. Pay close attention to how others are reacting to you and adjust your behavior accordingly.

D. Remind yourself of your own strengths and interests, and focus on being yourself.


Which actions would be most helpful? Select all that apply:

Take Action

Finding self-acceptance and confidence isn't easy, and it'll take time and conscious effort.

But you can do it! So, get ready to take the next steps to move away from approval seeking behaviors.

Gif of a little girl, grinning and giving a thumbs up. The text beneath reads, 'You got this'.


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