Are You An Approval Seeker?


Are you a chronic approval seeker in your love life? If so, I recommend you read this post. Approval seeking can result in a substantial amount of love life disappointment, simply because you are asking for something no one else can give you. You are asking for something only you can give you.

Think of it, just on a superficial level, you’re in for a lot of frustration, if your objective is to get something from people that they can’t give you. Let’s assume for starters that you are trying to get someone to say you’re OK or a great person or a good lover or handsome or pretty, etc. You get the picture. You want someone to tell you or show you something about yourself that you will in turn feel good about.

The first question that occurs to me is, why can’t you tell yourself? It would be so much more convenient and manageable if  you could. I’m afraid that what you would tell yourself, in most instances, would not carry the same punch, intensity, or impact, right? I think this is a big part of the problem.

This is not to mention the fact that, whatever short-lived positive feeling you might get when you hear something positive about yourself, it is only temporary, hence the adjective ‘chronic.’ Inevitably, you’ll be back to trying to get the coveted approval again and again.

A lot of chronic approval seekers are simply trying to get a little outside help with their self-esteem. And most of the time, they just don’t know it. Trying to get someone else to tell you something about yourself that will make you feel good about you in any permanent way is truly an exercise in futility. Even if you did succeed in finding someone who is willing to do it, the price tag will be considerable. What price tag?

Because, you’d only be that much farther away from the real and only way to fix this approval-seeking problem: by increasing your ability to persuade yourself of your own worth. Plus, by the time you realize what I’m saying is true, you will have wasted a lot of precious time seeking the approval you think you need. You don’t want to get it in your head that the ‘cure’ for your approval seeking problem is in someone else.

For most of us, it is very common in love to try to get other people to do for us what we can only do for ourselves. The reason this is so common might have something to do with the fact that much of our emotional lives involve seeking something (love) from someone else in obvious or subtle ways. The interpersonal need for love, which is a natural need we are all born with, can look and feel like a need for approval, which is not a natural need in adulthood.

There is a time and place for seeking approval, and that’s when you are very young. As a child and adolescent, seeking approval is one of the methods by which we humans develop a useable self-esteem. However adulthood, and especially the love life we have in adulthood, requires that our self-esteem have a firmer and more matured foundation in how we feel about ourselves.

If that doesn’t happen by the time you make it to adulthood, your love relationships will be adversely affected by your efforts to ‘commission’ your lovers, partners, and spouses to help you build your self-esteem now as an adult. From what I’ve seen and heard, it is very difficult if not impossible, to successfully commission a lover to accomplish this ‘parentified’ task and be a lover at the same time.

Learning how to relate in a healthier way to yourself as an adult is either something you do in the privacy of your own thoughts and feelings or you get professional help with. Understanding, challenging, and ultimately getting the negative beliefs you have about yourself out of your head will be the vital first step.

I would avoid imposing the responsibility of rehabilitating your self-esteem on a love partner, or anyone else for that matter, unless you’re paying them for professional treatment.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan


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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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