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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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Published on July 13, 2018

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

How attachment develops

Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

Different types of attachments

In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

  • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
  • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
  • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
  • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

What attachments mean to adults

So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

  • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
  • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
  • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
  • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Move towards secure attachment

The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

How to restructure your thoughts

Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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For the Avoidant Style

As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

For the Anxious Style

For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

For the Secure Style

Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

Strive towards Secure Attachment

As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

  • Positive self esteem and self image
  • Close and well adjusted relationships
  • Sense of security in self and the world
  • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
  • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
  • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
  • Trust in self and others
  • Close, intimate relationships
  • Strong determination and problem solving skills

If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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