Approval: Why we seek it

22 October 2019 | Opinion

Michelline Nawatises



From childhood, we constantly push ourselves to impress the people around us, whether they be family, friends or anybody we happen to be in front of at that moment.

In all the time we spend trying to make those people like us, we never stop to ask ourselves why we desire their approval so much.

Part of it could be that we need the ones around us to see our accomplishments in order to feel like they are valid.

We naturally refuse to trust our own judgements; no matter how egotistical we may appear, in the end we still require the assurance of others to feel good about ourselves.

Perhaps one reason we feel the need to be appraised by others is because we desire to feel like we are more important to our peers than we are to ourselves.

Feeling loved and belonging is the third most important aspect of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, meaning we need to feel loved in order to have self-esteem and achieve self-actualisation.

People are the most critical of themselves and therefore feel validated by others around us, who assure us of our accomplishments. Those who boast about their own success seek only to have other people appreciate and support them.

Because people constantly need reassurance and positive feedback about every little thing they do, we avoid people who are prone to discredit our success and bring us down. Taking the time out of the day to spend time with people who are constantly showing contempt for our achievements proves to be a remarkably hard task, as it takes plenty of willpower to listen to the opinions of those who are simply trying to bring down our self-esteem. Because we do not trust ourselves, we seek positive contempt held for us by other people.

The first and most important sources of approval to us are our parents, who raise us to be a certain way from the day we are born, and expect us to obey them in every circumstance.

Our parents put us in school, enforce their will upon us, and punish us for disobedience. In school, we might have to achieve a grade threshold to be approved by our parents, who validate and secure our success. Some of us lose the ability to achieve high grades for ourselves, learning only to succeed to gain approval from our mothers or fathers. The trade-off of success for a parent’s love creates a toxic feeling of belongingness in children; they feel like they must do what they are told to win over love later in life.

Instagram and Twitter are two of the most popular social media sites on the web, which people consistently use as ways to validate their lives. Posting a picture on Instagram of an award or a graduation are ways of getting other people to see what we are doing and assure us that they are happy for us.

Nobody on Instagram posts a picture without first considering how many likes they will get. Twitter, on the other hand, involves more opinions, as some might have to carefully think out their words when posting an opinion to avoid angering other people on the web, who will downgrade or diminish reputations on the platform.

People that tweet whenever they can are simply looking for other users who share similar opinions. Even Snapchat is a form of seeking validation, where people constantly send pictures of themselves to each other and feel validated by how many days in a row they are sending pictures back and forth or how many views they have on their story.

Social media outlets cause people to seek approval even more, and result in constant posts or tweets to find other people who like us or agree with what we have to say.

Why do we feel the need for approval? Earlier I mentioned the hierarchy of needs, which places all the basic needs of life in order of importance.

First there are physiological needs, what we physically need to survive - food, water, air, sleep, clothing, etc. Without these the human body cannot sustain itself and ultimately fails to support itself. After physical needs come safety or feelings of security, such as personal and financial security and health and hygiene. Once physiological and safety needs are met, people then seek to fill their core emotional needs. This is not a choice, as we require friendships and deep emotional ties to feel more secure about ourselves. The reason we seek out the approval and affection of other people is to make us feel better and more comfortable with our own lives.

Rather than neglecting the others’ needs entirely, the way to break a cycle of people-pleasing is by retaining traits such as friendliness and sensitivity, but establishing and asserting your own needs as well. When asked to do something for someone, consider your own needs first and give your time only once those are met. If there is something more important to you, tell that person and remind them that you have needs, too.

Once your needs are met and you feel available, then can you assist somebody else, without feeling the stress of your own life. To stop being a yes-man or -woman, you must constantly remind people who ask you to do things that you have your own needs that must come first, before theirs

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