Approval; Why You Seek It | Teen Ink

Approval; Why You Seek It

June 6, 2018
By MikeMiller749 BRONZE, Amherst, New York
MikeMiller749 BRONZE, Amherst, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

From our lives as children, we constantly push ourselves to impress the people around us; whether it be family, friends, or anybody we happen to be in front of at the moment.  In all the time we spend trying to make those people like us, we never stop to ask ourselves why we desire their approval so much.  Part of it could be that we need the ones around us to see our accomplishments in order to feel like they are valid.  We naturally refuse to trust our own judgements; no matter how egotistical we may appear, in the end we still require the assurance of others to feel good about ourselves.  

Perhaps one reason we feel the need to be appraised by others is because we desire to feel like we are more important to our peers than we are to ourselves.  Feeling loved and belonging is the third most important aspect of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, meaning we need to feel loved in order to have self-esteem and achieve self-actualization.  People are the most critical of themselves and therefore feel validated by others around us who assure us of our accomplishments. Those who boast their own success seek only to have other people appreciate and support them.  Because people constantly need reassurance and positive feedback about every little thing we do, we avoid people who are prone to discredit our success and bring us down. Taking the time out of the day to spend time with people who are constantly showing contempt for our achievements proves to be a remarkably hard task as it takes plenty of willpower to listen to the opinions of those who are simply trying to bring down self-esteem. Because we do not trust ourselves, we seek positive contempt held for us by other people.  Nothing is more reassuring to people than feeling like they belong rather than like an outcast with poor ideas and few accomplishments. Being reminded of our success by other people makes us feel secure and more confident in ourselves.

The first and most important sources of approval to us are our parents, who raise us to be a certain way from the day we are born and expect us to obey them in every circumstance.  Our parents put us in school, enforce their will upon us, and punish us for disobedience. In school, we might have to achieve a grade threshold to be approved by our parents, who validate and secure our success.  Some of us lose the ability to achieve high grades for ourselves, learning only to succeed to gain approval from our mother or father. The trade off of success for a parents love creates a toxic feeling of belongingness in children; they feel like they must do what they are told to win over love later in life.  Parents teach us from the very beginning how to act and look to be accepted by those around us. This early conditioning holds a major impact for children later on in life, as they are used to impressing and pleasing those who they value in order to feel secure and content with ourselves.

Instagram and Twitter are two of the most popular social media sites on the web, which people consistently use as ways to validate their lives.  Posting a picture on instagram of an award or a graduation are ways of getting other people to see what we are doing and assure us that they are happy for us.  Nobody on instagram posts a picture without first considering how many likes they will get. Twitter, on the other hand, involves more opinions, as some might have to carefully think out their words when posting an opinion to avoid angering other people on the web who will downgrade or diminish others reputations on the app.  People that tweet whenever they can are simply looking for other users who share similar opinions. Even snapchat is a form of validation seeking where people constantly send pictures of themselves to each other, feeling validated by how many days in a row they’ve been sending pictures back and forth in a row or how many views they have on their story.  Social media outlets cause people to seek approval even more and result in constant posts or tweets to find other people who like us or agree with what we have to say.

We all consistently say and do things that misrepresent our character for the purpose of gaining approval.  When we are in a group that majorly expresses an opinion different than ours, we conform by agreeing with them as to acquire their approval.  Group polarization is another phenomenon that occurs when our opinions solidify and become more concrete as we gain approval from other members of a group that we agree with.  Due to the comfortability of agreement that we feel from other people in a discussion, our beliefs become stronger as we learn that we are not alone.

Why do we feel the necessity of approval? Earlier I mentioned the hierarchy of needs, which places all the basic needs of life in order of importance.  First there are physiological needs, what we physically need to survive: food, water, air, sleep, clothing, etc. Without these needs the human body cannot sustain itself and ultimately fails to support itself.  After physical needs come safety needs, or feelings of security such as personal and financial security and health and hygiene. Once physiological and safety needs are met, people then seek to fill their core emotional needs of life.  This is not a choice as we require friendships and deep emotional ties to feel more secure with ourselves. The reason we seek out the approval and affection of other people is to make us feel better and more comfortable with our own lives.  

The problem with seeking approval becomes evident in how we treat ourselves as a result.  In searching for ways to make people like us, we tend to put our own wants aside for the well being of others.  While it is a part of social functioning to respond to the needs of others, approval-seeking can prove to be toxic when we put other people’s wants before our own.  Desperate approval-seekers constantly say yes when put in a tough spot for the purpose of not disappointing whoever asks them to do a task. For them, it becomes almost impossible to say no, even if it sabotages their self-interests.  Most people pleasers have a poor ability to judge the value of their own actions, and as a result spend excessive amounts of time looking for validation from other people rather than themselves. The environment where children sacrifice their own wants or needs to please their parents creates a fear where people feel that if they do not strive to succeed, they will not be loved. As a result, consistent people-pleasing causes its victims to feel as though they are not in control of their own life.  Pleasers also tend to get increasingly resentful of the people they are pleasing and become passive-aggressive to those individuals as a result. The only way to take back control of our lives is with temperance.

Rather than neglecting the other’s needs entirely, the way to break a cycle of people-pleasing is by retaining traits such as friendliness and sensitivity but establishing and asserting your own needs as well.  When asked to do something for someone, consider your own needs first and give your time only once those are met. If there is something more important to you, tell that person and remind them that you have needs, too.  Once your needs are met and you feel available, then can you assist somebody else without feeling the stress of your own life. To stop being a yes-man or woman, you must constantly remind people who ask you to do things that you have your own needs that must come first to theirs.


The author's comments:

For this piece, I chose to write about the need for approval that everyone feels, whether they know it is there or not.  I decided on this topic because it is something that I have seen myself and it is everywhere at all times. Since people are constantly trying to make everyone else like them, I sought to explain why and relate it to our lives today with social media.  My intended audience is teenagers and older children who wonder why they see those around them trying so hard to fit in with groups and classes that they would not typically seem a part of. My paper was more of a research paper as I hoped to help my audience break down their own need for approval and understand that there is not much wrong with wanting people to like them, until it reaches a degree of losing the ability to do things for ourselves entirely, that is when we must re-evaluate the extent to which we please others.


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