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How Our Obsession With Other People’s Approvals Is Destroying Us

How Our Obsession With Other People’s Approvals Is Destroying Us

On a real note, we all strive for some level of approval from our peers. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a bit of recognition for our accomplishments, but it seems that a “bit” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Many people value their self-worth based on the opinion and approval of others, and are constantly asking themselves, “what would people think?”

It’s real easy to say, “don’t care what other people think,” but we all know that is much easier said than done.

We all have this innate nature to impress or one-up each other, but some of us have convinced ourselves of the falsehood that people are always watching.

Perhaps this notion comes from the fact that we are constantly putting ourselves in the spotlight. It has become a necessity to build a “following” and showcase an admirable lifestyle. If we don’t receive the attention that we are seeking, it can be incredibly crushing. And even worse; if we happen to mess up, we think that everyone is judging us and gossiping about our failures. Perhaps it’s time that we realize that the public isn’t watching as closely as you’d like (or not like) to think.

This need for approval is developed in early childhood, and only snowballs from there.

Sometimes you may feel like a puppy dog, panting and begging for approval. Did you ever wonder where we developed this need? Ever since childhood, we’ve been conditioned by our parents, teachers and mentors to do well in order to receive their admiration. As we reach new milestones in life, we develop new facets of people that we need to impress.

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As children, we are given a set of rules and expectations to live by. When we do well, we get a gold star or a pat on the back. Our mentors tell us that they are proud; so early on we develop the concept that we need approval to know that we are doing well.

Now, we’re growing up and progressing through school. We start expressing our personalities, and receive judgment for the way that we do so. Our peers divide and clique up, label each other, and compartmentalize into a caste system of sorts. Are you popular, a nerd, a “freak”? How your peers perceive you at this age has an extreme impact on how we view ourselves.

Once school is over and we are released into the “real world”, the cultural hierarchy only becomes all the more complicated. You may notice yourself trying to portray yourself in a different light to your boss and coworkers so that they’ll like you and give you their approval. You take on an almost chameleon-like adaptability to fit in and impress whichever audience is at hand.

Praise and acknowledgment undoubtedly increase our self-esteem. And since this praise is external, it is no surprise that we put an emphasis purely on external factors to determine our self-worth, and weigh our self-esteem.

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There is one huge element here that is being painfully overlooked. We are talking about SELF worth, and SELF esteem. We determine how to view ourselves based on how others perceive us. The truth is, we will never truly know what anyone really thinks about us, so the fact that we weigh approval from others so heavily is really quite silly.

We put up a front of how we want people to view us, denying our true selves, and destroying our self-worth.

It almost seems that many people are denying their true selves, squashing the elements that make them unique under the infrastructure of the façade they are putting up. A front if you will. The average person “brands” themselves and alters their personalities and appearance to fulfill a superficial image that they think others will like and admire. When that admiration is not received, it is not uncommon to experience depression because of it.

When there is such an emphasis for approval, it causes extreme turmoil when the approval is not received.

For example: social media likes. It pains me to admit that is a real issue, but unfortunately this is the world that we live in. Say that you spend hours perfecting your look, finding the right location and lighting, and using what you think is all of the right hashtags. Now you post, and you wait. The likes are stacking up, but not at the velocity that you’d hoped. You were aiming for 100+ but only received a measly 57. Now your day is ruined. You’re not as pretty as you thought. Your hair doesn’t even look good in that style. You’re so humiliated that you take the picture down, erasing any evidence of your hideous attempt at selfie-posting.

Social climbing is another common practice of the self-esteem deficient as well.

Surrounding yourself with people you don’t necessarily like because of the prestige and opportunities that it brings you. These people are not your friends, and want to see you fail. But they will support and praise you as long as you are doing well and reflect the image that they want to maintain. This lack of solid relationships will no doubt effect your self esteem. Without a good support system and a real friend to turn to, you will ultimately feel alone, and maybe a bit worthless because none of your “friends” actually care about you.

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How do we reverse the toxic effects?

Realize no one is watching as closely as you think.

Identify the Spotlight Effect, the incorrect notion that everyone is watching.[1] In all actuality, we are the only ones who fixate on our failures.

Your peers may be paying attention to what you do, but you’re not constantly under scrutiny. I don’t mean this negatively, but no one really cares how many likes you get or followers you have. And if they do, then it’s about time that person got a life (outside of the nonexistent virtual one most people just stagnate in.)

A personal example of this: for years I have struggled with a slight stammer and have gone through great efforts to remedy this impairment. Every time I stutter a bit, I think everyone is noticing and judging me. The truth is, most people don’t pay it any mind. And if they do, they’re not dissecting my worth as a person because I s-s-stuttered a bit.

Brush off the haters.

Sure, some people may judge you. Some people may even talk trash about you. Take it as a compliment. If you have haters, then that means that you intimidate others. Why would they feel the need to take you down a notch unless they felt that you were above them? Put those hater blockers on, and take it in stride. If people want to see you fail, then you’re doing something right.

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Be yourself, uncensored, and unapologetic.

I’m sure you have heard the overuse of the phrase “you must love yourself before you can love anyone else.” Well, it’s true. You will never be able to maintain healthy relationships with others unless you have one with yourself. When you are comfortable in your own skin, you don’t need the approval of others, and the negativity that is cast from not receiving approval will no longer have any effect.

You are free to be yourself, uncensored, and unapologetic. If anything, you will receive more admiration from people. So many are afraid to just let go and embrace their true selves.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: The Spotlight Effect

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Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, freelance writer, & plantbased food enthusiast.

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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