This Habit Might Be Pushing People Away From Your Life
I’m the kind of person who worries about my friendships, over-thinks the littlest things in my relationship, and, more often than I’d like to admit, lets my insecurities dictate my behaviors.
One less-than-stellar habit I struggled with was seeking my approval, from the people closest to me, to compensate for the lack of my own.
I really didn’t like myself. But I figured I could fix that with other people liking me.
The insatiable need for people to want me in there lives started when I dated a man who was verbally abusive. He withheld his affection for me when he was upset or wanted to control my actions. He had me work for his approval. That could look like something as simple as helping him run his lines for an audition he had or skipping a meal so I could show him I was serious about losing weight (even though I was a thin 21-year old).
But that relationship was over six years ago. That boyfriend might be long gone, but the impacts he made on my life are still present, including the need to seek other’s approval.
It wasn’t as noticeable with my friends. I’d dress a bit differently, depending on who I was hanging out with. I either reeled in my outgoing personality or let it shine. Then I’d go home, replay conversations in my head, and wonder if people secretly hated me.
With my relationships, I didn’t try to hide it as much. When I was with my most recent ex, I would try on a new sweater and ask him how he liked it. Instead of believing whatever came out of his mouth, I’d pick apart anything from his eye movement to the tone of his voice for the real truth I thought he wasn’t telling me.
Then I’d amp it up a notch — I’d question his feelings for me. I’d have him clarify something he said and I’d twist the conversation into me prying words of affirmation out of my boyfriend. I needed to hear, every day, that he still cared about me. I was very insecure, and a bit addicted to feeling accepted by him.
And through this toxic behavior, I watched him, and others, pull away from me. Every compliment I pried out of my friends and every talk about my ex’s feelings for me created a rift in our relationship. I wasn’t just wanting approval, I needed it. And it wore on their patience.
When we seek approval, we’re putting a lot of pressure and responsibility on the other person.
Approval seeking puts the weight of you feeling worthy on another person’s shoulders. While your partner or friend should make you feel cared for, a constant reassurance of their desire to be in your life isn’t something that needs to be stated repeatedly.
No matter the amount of approval, you’re always going to feel like it’s not enough. That’s a common thread between people with anxious attachment styles. It’s not a matter of finally getting the validation; nothing ever seems to feel like it’s enough.
And the people in your life will start to realize the same.
But it makes sense why we do this.
Every person on this planet has shared needs. The most primal are those for water, food, and safety. But once those met, we move on to emotional needs — the feeling of belonging and being loved.
Some people, more than others, are raised with importance for needing their parents’ approval. Over time, this habit of seeking validation becomes part of them and extends to others in their lives.
When that need isn’t met, it’s hard to feel safe and protected. And I’d argue that both are one of the main parts of feeling secure in a relationship or friendship. So while this habit can be quite damaging, it’s nothing you should feel shame around.
Luckily, there are ways to work through this habit.
The process of changing your approval-seeking habit is going to take time. But awareness is the first step.
Work on reframing your beliefs about yourself. Remember that, at this moment, you are enough and always will be. Be the one who is most proud of yourself for your accomplishments. Create goals and work towards them. Engage in activities that interest you. Do whatever makes you happiest.
Take time to be by yourself and practice self-care that makes you feel more like your authentic self. If that looks like face masks and bath, go to the store to buy products that make you feel pampered. Or perhaps exercising does it for you; set aside time throughout your week to make sure you prioritize movement.
Allow time for building your sense of self-worth. It took years for it to get torn down, it won’t be built back up in a matter of days.
All parts of you are worthy of love and acceptance, even the parts that feel rather unspectacular or feel like mistakes.
What’s important is to remember to forgive, be kind, and love yourself through all of life’s ups and downs. Take the responsibility off of your the people in your life’s shoulders and work on becoming happy with who you are.
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