When’s the last time you craved approval?
I’m not referring to an official type of approval, like from a bank for your mortgage, or from a client for your project to move forward. I’m talking about someone else seeing you and giving you that ‘ya done good, kid’ pat on the back, or that heart on your social media feed. It could be a harmless little yearning for acknowledgment. Your clients nod and smile at your ideas in that meeting.
I recently noticed an uptick in how often I was seeking other people’s approval. It was subtle, but I noticed it. Let’s be honest…it bugged me. It showed up in both my personal and professional relationships. I even made a special trip to Trader Joe’s just to get that warm and fuzzy feeling buying a bag of nuts. I am a grown-ass businesswoman, so why did I care so much what my friends and family thought about something I did?
We’re social creatures. Approval can lead to belonging, a natural and healthy feeling we cultivate with our family and friends. People are at various stages of resuming what used to be normal activities, like going into an office. These typical routines don’t feel typical anymore. Office layouts and schedules might be different. Public transit requires a mask. Companies are using more inclusive language and adding pronouns to signatures.
As an entrepreneur, I’m constantly looking to improve and optimize. I seek out feedback that will support my business and my clients. Feedback, however, is different from approval.
Feedback is information on reactions used as a basis for improvement, (per Google).
Approval is the act of accepting something as satisfactory, (thank you, Merriam Webster).
Wait a minute….SATISFACTORY? Does this mean I’m looking outside myself to see if I am merely adequate? I would not tell my friends they were satisfactory or adequate in a million years. I would acknowledge them, compliment them even, but never call them satisfactory.
Let’s take a closer look. What’s with this desire for approval and why am I noticing it show up more lately?
Lots of change for the better is still lots of change. No matter how well we think we’ve adjusted to uncertainty, it still can leave us feeling vulnerable which may cause us to look outside of ourselves for approval rather than trusting our own wisdom.
Remember that as we educate ourselves, we still need to put what we’re learning into practice. Hiccups are bound to happen. We may unintentionally say or do the wrong thing. Being compassionate with ourselves and others is a must right now.
What causes this?
Rather than giving ourselves more space for grace when we don’t get it right, fear of failure and perfectionism may show up.
When we look at a specific area of our life, we may find interesting reactions we hadn’t noticed before. An overall sense of confidence doesn’t mean we are confident in all areas of our lives equally, especially with everything changing as quickly as it is right now. Even positive changes like a promotion or new opportunity might put you out of your comfort zone. That vulnerability can increase a need for approval.
So, what can we do about it?
Notice when that impulse comes up. Ask yourself: What approval am I seeking? It may be a legitimate need for feedback. If so, ask for that information specifically. What is working? What can use more attention? What am I missing?
Remember what matters.
What inspired you in the first place? Reconnect to that. Who needs approval when you can be inspired instead? Before you needed the approval, you wanted something more. You saw a gap to fill in your business, your community, your life. You didn’t care about approval then, you cared about getting it done.
Listen to your gut. Know that your effort and insight will generate the result. Give yourself permission to fail. Chances are you will. You’ll learn from it. You’ll move on, (and so will everyone else). Trust yourself.
Let it go. Move on to the next challenge. The world is waiting.
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