- Identify approval-seeking behaviour.
- Identify opportunities for self-approval.
- Identify your strengths.
#1: Identify Approval-Seeking Behaviour
Identifying approval-seeking behaviour is the first step towards prioritising self-approval.
When you begin to understand that your actions and decisions are frequently influenced by a deeply ingrained desire for external validation, you begin to see how much of your life is being navigated on autopilot.
You also begin to understand why you gravitate toward certain choices, relationships, or paths.
In doing so, you stop being a mere bystander in your own life and begin to be an active participant in shaping your own destiny.
Some common reasons for approval-seeking behaviour 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).
#2: Identify Opportunities for Self-Approval
While the act of recognising your approval-seeking behaviour propels you toward empowerment, it also signifies a decisive step in reclaiming your autonomy and authenticity.
By acknowledging the fear of rejection or criticism that often underpins approval-seeking, you set the stage for personal and professional opportunities for growth. You become more effective.
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.
If you have identified or recognised regular approval-seeking behaviours, then the next thing to be mindful of is how to identify opportunities to prioritise self-approval over and above the need for the approval of others.
For instance, if you seek approval because you have a fear of looking foolish, how will you address this fear and give yourself approval over and above the need to receive approval from others?
As with any need, whether it’s the need for food, drugs, alcohol, money, relationships, or even approval, you risk turning anything that gratifies or fulfills that need into an addiction if you do not address the underlying cause of that need.
You will simply seek more and more gratification or fulfilment of that need if the cause of that need remains untreated.
Even the approval of others can become an addiction if left alone.
In my book, Being YOU!, I discuss in detail The Cycle of Addiction and how to break the cycle.
The Cycle of Addiction is a cycle of need, seeking behaviour, need fulfilment, diminished gratification, and finally more of the same need again, which triggers the whole Cycle of Addiction once more.
The need for approval is one such need that can trigger The Cycle of Addiction.
The need for approval causes you to seek solutions to fulfill that need, and so you enact approval-seeking behaviour.
Even if the first person you approach doesn’t give you the approval you are looking for, you’ll search for someone who will.
Eventually, you will find your mark and your need for approval will be fulfilled. They will give you the pat on the back you crave. Appraisal has been won. Victory is yours.
But the feeling of approval doesn’t last long. Soon the appraisal diminishes and the need for approval resurfaces, triggering more approval-seeking behaviour.
Problems arise when you feel you need more and more approval from others to satisfy the need for appraisal and recognition.
So much so that it becomes your dominating thought: how do you get more of what you need?
At this point, your need for approval has become an addiction. You simply can’t live without it.
The best way to crush this need for another’s approval and break the cycle of addiction is to root out the underlying cause. Which, more often than not, is usually a fear of some description.
For instance, if you have an underlying fear of rejection or abandonment, this can manifest as a need to be always right or perfect.
If you are always right or always perfect, how can anyone reject you?
The idea of being perfect, therefore, is not a positive self-image. It is a symptom of an underlying negative self-image, a self-image that is needy.
Being needy, you instigate approval-seeking behaviour to satisfy that need. You always insist on being right when in social settings. You demand attention. You go regularly to the gym or undergo plastic surgery to have a perfect body.
You study for years to become a doctor or lawyer or teacher, not so you can be of value to your patients or clients or students, but in order to get the social standing those job titles endow.
There are numerous ways we seek approval. We’ve all done it.
No-one is immune to wanting to be liked and accepted.
The problem, as we’ve discussed, is when our need becomes an addiction. We must be aware of our fears, our needs, and our behaviours. We must be the one in control.
Otherwise, if we are not, our fears, needs, and behaviours will dominate our every waking moment.
We must therefore be alert to our underlying fears and needs driving our approval-seeking behaviour and seek out opportunities to neutralise these needs and fears through better decision-making based on our own internal values and principles.
That is, you must become purpose driven.
Every choice based on your own values elevates you. Every decision founded on your own principles lifts you higher.
As you free yourself from the clutches of need and fear, you free yourself from approval-seeking.
As you become more self-determined, your self-identity and confidence undergo a remarkable transformation:
You start to become the architect of your own destiny, designing your life with greater intention and resolve.
With your newfound self-assuredness shining through, you are equipped with the resilience to face criticism, disapproval, or rejection with grace and courage.
From now on, your self-worth isn’t contingent on external approval anymore.
You start to see every moment as an opportunity to make decisions based on merit and necessity rather than the needy desire for validation.
You then start to approach your life with clarity, confidence, and strategic vision, pursuing opportunities that align with who you truly are and what you want to become.
#3: Identify Your Strengths
Now that you have identified opportunities for self-approval, the next step is to solidify the process by focusing on your strengths.
Your strengths are the unique qualities and talents that define you. They are the pillars of your identity, the attributes of character that set you apart from others.
By focusing on your strengths, you acknowledge the unique value you bring to the world.
When you recognise and celebrate your strengths, whether they lie in creativity, problem-solving, empathy, leadership, or any other area, you honour the richness of your character and your capacity to make a positive impact.
Strength-based thinking also builds confidence and self-worth. This confidence is not rooted in arrogance but in a deep-seated belief in your capabilities.
It empowers you to tackle challenges with optimism, knowing that your strengths will get you through times of adversity.
Focusing on your strengths reshapes your self-image by shifting the narrative from self-criticism and doubt to self-appreciation.
“Focus on what you’re good at doing,” I often advise my children and my clients, “not on what you’re not good at doing.”
Too many times we trip ourselves over by focusing on the things we’re not good at. When we get caught up in our own incompetence, it’s as though we tie our shoelaces together and then try to run.
More often than not, we fall flat on our face.
All roads may lead to Rome, but you can only travel on one. Sooner or later, you will need to make a choice.
So choose the road that gives you the greatest chance of succeeding—the road of your greatest strengths.
Focus, then, on making your strengths stronger, not in making your weaknesses a little bit better.
When it comes to being more effective, it is better to be exceptional at one thing rather than average at a lot of things.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve your all-round game, it means you shouldn’t sacrifice your greatest strength in order to cover all your bases.
A baseball coach doesn’t pressure his best pitcher to be the best hitter. He lets his pitcher do what he does best, which is pitch.
A soccer coach doesn’t ask her best goalkeeper to be the best striker. She lets her goalkeeper do what she does best, which is defend the goal.
Imagine how the pitcher would feel about himself if he were asked to take the responsibility of hitting most of the runs.
Imagine how the goalkeeper would feel about herself if she were asked to take responsibility of scoring most of the goals.
It wouldn’t be fair on either of them. Yet this is what we do to ourselves when we focus on our weaknesses instead of our strengths. Our performances don’t meet our expectations, and we suffer for it.
We become ineffective and unproductive. We let ourselves down and we let our family and colleagues down.
This has a negative impact on our self-image, which in turn has a negative impact on our performance at home and at work.
This is because the focus of your awareness is very powerful:
What you focus on you experience.
Focus on your weaknesses, and that will be your experience. Focus on your strengths, and that will be your experience.
The choice is yours.
What you focus on, you also remember. Do you want to remember your weaknesses or remember your strengths?
What you focus on, you also reinforce. Do you want to reinforce your weaknesses or reinforce your strengths?
Consistent focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses, helps you to develop a healthier self-concept.
This positive self-image in turn paves the way for greater emotional well-being and a more authentic relationship with yourself and others.
Yet, focusing on your strengths doesn’t mean that your weaknesses are disregarded. Rather, it equips you with the maturity to address them constructively.
Identifying your strengths will give you the motivation to work on areas in need of improvement.
Rather than dwelling on your shortcomings, you approach them as opportunities for growth and development.
So, focusing on your strengths will enhance your effectiveness in all aspects of your life.
Whether in your career, relationships, or personal pursuits, leveraging your strengths can lead to improved performance, successful attainment of your goals, and overall confidence and well-being.
Exercise: The Strength in Me
Here is an exercise that I call, ‘The Strength in Me’, which will help you to focus on your strengths in the most important areas of your life.
Your strengths can include your talents, character traits, values, emotional intelligence, IQ, even your physical capabilities.
Some examples of people’s strengths include kindness, patience, hand-eye coordination, painting, storytelling, honesty, loyalty, calmness, good work ethic, and so forth. The list is endless.
The next step in this exercise is as important to a baseball pitcher and soccer goalkeeper as it is to the development and strengthening of your innate strengths—practice.
A baseballer has practised thousands of different types of pitches before he has even strode out to the mound and struck out his first batter.
A goalkeeper has made thousands of saves before she has positioned herself between the goal posts on game day and blocked her first shot.
The same is true for your strengths.
You must practice to hone your strengths so that you can perform to your highest ability and be as effective as possible as and when the situation arises.
For instance, if one of the strengths you have listed is generosity, how will you practice being generous? Will you always be generous in every given moment, or only some of the time?
Will there be conditions on your generosity? For example, will you only be generous to those in your family or who you like?
If kindness is one of the strengths you have listed, how will you practice being kind?
Will you be kind to others but not to yourself? Will you only be kind when you feel like it? Will you only be kind to those you love and ignore kindness to strangers?
- 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.
Every choice based on your own values elevates you.
- Focusing on your strengths reshapes your self-image by shifting the narrative from self-criticism and doubt to self-appreciation.
What you focus on, you experience.