In a world that puts a lot of emphasis on external validation and instant likeability, the concept of self-approval might seem somewhat unconventional.
However, self-approval is a potent source of personal empowerment that can transform our lives in significant ways.
Self-approval is an essential building block of our mental and emotional well-being.
It’s the foundation on which our confidence, self-worth, and well-being are built, ultimately shaping how we perceive and interact with the world around us.
Self-approval is the act of recognising, acknowledging, and validating ourselves independently of external opinions, judgements, or validation.
It involves embracing our self-worth, our abilities, and our intrinsic value, thereby promoting a positive self-image and a sense of self-acceptance.
Self-approval is an essential component of personal well-being. It signifies the capacity to trust our own judgements, decisions, and actions, free from the relentless need for external validation.
Self-approval is like an internal safehouse, a secure inner sanctum where we are free to be our authentic self, a place in which we can relax with total self-acceptance and independence from the opinions of others.
Through self-approval, we gain the inner confidence to face life’s challenges, build genuine connections, and pursue our dreams with unwavering belief in our purpose and abilities.
Self-approval is therefore a cornerstone of a fulfilling and successful life. With it, we are empowered to lead a life true to ourselves and our own values.
Without it, however, we become inauthentic, needy, and ineffective.
Self-approval, unfortunately, is a rare commodity. Studies have shown that up to 85% of people worldwide, adults and adolescents, have issues with self-approval.
This means that every time you enter a place where people have gathered, whether socially or at work, only one in six of those people in that gathering has a strong sense of self-approval.
The remaining five out of six have a low sense of self-approval. They don’t like the way they look, they think others don’t like them, they make negative comparisons with other people, they have a gloomy view of their future, they are critical of themselves, they see themselves as weak and powerless, and they are generally unhappy with the cards life has dealt them.
The issue with low self-approval is that it gives rise to a persistently pessimistic outlook that infiltrates our thought processes, which potentially drives self-destructive patterns of behaviour and a range of mental health concerns.
Low self-approval is, as researchers have shown, associated with a number of societal issues, including high dropout rates at school, violent behaviour, elevated suicide rates, teenage pregnancy, and academic underachievement.
Although these behaviours are the extreme consequences of low self-approval, it can still cause dysfunctional behaviour that limits our day-to-day effectiveness.
Approval-seeking is a common human behaviour. It’s normal to want to be wanted. It’s normal to need to be needed.
But approval-seeking behaviour can become a problem when it interferes in your personal life or your work, when you constantly seek approval from others to validate yourself or to feel good about yourself.
Fear & Need
There are many reasons why people seek approval, but its origins can often be sourced to two main causes: fear and need.
In my book, The Flea Circus, I discuss some common reasons for approval-seeking behaviour, which include:
-> Fear of looking foolish.
-> Fear of offering opinions/feelings/beliefs.
-> Fear of saying ‘No’.
-> Fear of hurting another’s feelings.
-> Need to belong/be accepted (fear of rejection).
The Need for Approval Seeking
But what is it that we are actually seeking when we seek the approval of others? What is it we are really looking for?
The answer is usually a mix of emotional, mental, and social factors, some of which include:
- Our social nature.
- Validation and belonging.
- Cultural and societal norms.
- Social learning.
- Self-belief and confidence.
- Comparison and competition.
- Emotional security.
#1: Our Social Nature
Humans are inherently social creatures. We naturally gravitate to live and participate in groups and rely on the support and approval of our social networks.
Seeking approval from others is a way to ensure we remain in good standing with the world.
#2: Validation and Belonging
One of our primal human needs is to belong and to be accepted. Approval from others often provides this sense of
validation and belonging. It reassures us that we are accepted and valued by those around us, that we are loved.
This can be a fundamental source of emotional well-being.
#3: Cultural and Societal Norms
Many cultures and societies place a strong emphasis on conformity and fitting in. Individuals may seek approval from others to adhere to these social norms and avoid ostracism or criticism.
For many, what others think of us is very important.
#4: Social Learning
We learn from what we do well and from what we don’t do well.
External approval (or disapproval) provides feedback on our actions and behaviour, which we use to gauge our performance, make corrections, and adapt to our social environment.
#5: Self-Belief and Confidence
For some, external approval can boost our self-belief and confidence, especially children.
Positive feedback from others can reinforce our sense of self-worth and encourage us to continue our efforts.
#6: Comparison and Competition
In competitive environments, we may seek external approval to assess our standing in relation to others.
This can drive us to perform better or strive for excellence.
#7: Emotional Security
Receiving approval and praise from others can provide a sense of emotional security.
It reduces feelings of vulnerability and inadequacy, promoting a sense of well-being.
Consequences of Low Self-Approval
Unfortunately, constant approval-seeking behaviour can get in the way of reaching your personal or professional goals, or cause you to be less effective.
The problem with an over-reliance on external validation is that only you can fill the void of low self-approval, nothing external can.
Any sense that it does is fleeting and short-lived, soon leaving you with that hollow sense of despair.
As adults, constantly seeking approval from others can therefore have its downsides:
- Anxiety and stress.
- Inhibition of creativity.
- Lower self-approval.
- Lost identity.
Over-reliance on external approval can lead to emotional dependence on others for your own self-identity and self-worth. This can make you highly sensitive to criticism and unable to navigate adversity.
#2: Anxiety and Stress
The constant need for approval can lead to a heightened sense of anxiety and stress. The fear of disapproval or criticism can be emotionally debilitating and mentally taxing.
In your quest for external approval, you run the risk of compromising your authenticity.
If you adapt your behaviour and beliefs to match what you believe others want from you, your relationships will become superficial and fragile, and you will feel a deepening sense of emptiness.
#4: Inhibition of Creativity
Constant approval seeking can hinder your creativity and prevent risk-taking.
You may start to dismiss innovative or unconventional ideas or avoid taking action on these ideas for fear of disapproval or rejection.
#5: Lower Self-Approval
Paradoxically, constant approval-seeking behaviour can undermine your own self-approval and self-worth.
Over time, dependence on external validation and other’s opinions may cause you to question your intrinsic worth, identity, and abilities.
#6: Lost Identity
The more you seek approval from others, the further you will drift from your true self.
Once your identity becomes entangled with external approval, your own values and beliefs become obscured and suppressed.
You feel as though you don’t know who you are anymore.
The Benefits of Self-Approval
While external approval is important and can contribute positively to your life, it should be balanced with a strong sense of self-approval.
Achieving a healthy equilibrium between seeking external validation and fostering self-approval is essential for your overall well-being and personal growth.
It allows you to maintain your authenticity, navigate challenges, and build positive, meaningful relationships.
Here are some of the benefits of prioritising self-approval:
- Independent validation.
- Unwavering self-belief.
- Positive self-identity.
- Positive relationships.
#1: Independent Validation
Self-approval is an internal anchor that allows you to validate yourself without the need of anything external to you.
It means acknowledging your inner worth and significance without constantly seeking external approval or validation from other people or other things.
Self-approval liberates you from the ever-changing opinions and judgements of those around you, giving you a resolute sense of self-determination and complete control over your self-worth and identity.
#2: Unwavering Self-Belief
A core aspect of self-approval is the unwavering belief and inner conviction that you are deserving of love, respect, and success.
With a strong sense of self-approval, you also have belief and trust in your own judgement and abilities, irrespective of external influences or challenges.
Those who prioritise self-approval are more resilient in the face of adversity than those who seek external approval.
Criticism and setbacks can be absorbed without severely damaging your self-belief and confidence.
Self-approval also bolsters your capability and capacity to bounce back from life’s challenges, helping you maintain your effectiveness even in trying times.
#4: Positive Self-Identity
Self-approval forms the core of a positive self-identity, an internal source of healthy self-regard that transcends superficial markers of success, such as social status, wealth, possessions.
A positive and healthy self-identity empowers you to embrace challenges, make choices aligned with your values, and maintain a balanced and authentic self-image.
Self-approval is intertwined with authenticity. It’s the confidence to be true to yourself, embracing your wonderful uniqueness and all your imperfections.
With self-approval, you don’t feel the need to conform or to mould yourself into someone you’re not to gain approval from others.
Self-approval is inherently empowering. It gives you the courage to pursue your goals, dreams, and aspirations, even in the face of criticism or doubt from external sources.
Self-approval fuels the confidence to venture into the unknown and take risks.
#7: Positive Relationships
With healthy self-approval, you lay the foundation for positive, healthy relationships.
When you accept and love yourself for who you are, you become more capable of forming genuine connections with others.
Your relationships thrive because they become grounded in mutual respect and authenticity.
- Self-approval is an essential component of personal well-being. It signifies the capacity to trust your own judgements, decisions, and actions, free from the relentless need for external validation.
- Achieving a healthy equilibrium between seeking external validation and fostering self-approval is essential for your overall well-being and personal growth.
- There are many reasons why people seek approval, but its origins can often be sourced to two main causes: fear and need.
- Identifying approval-seeking behaviour is the first step towards prioritising self-approval.
- Understanding the reasons for approval-seeking behaviour gives you the opportunity to make choices that are rooted in your values and aspirations, rather than being driven by external pressures.