I have noticed lately that I'm really needy when it comes to attention and validation. I think I use social media for this too. I crave posting things that will bring in the "likes" and make other people jealous of my life. I am fishing for compliments. I also find myself showing off or saying things that I know will make whoever I'm with like me. I know that I shouldn't need this attention, but I do. I just wondered if you have any advice to help me stop needing this kind of validation all the time.
I think it is awesome that you are aware enough to see what you are doing. I think most of us are unconscious approval addicts and we aren't aware of the things we do to try to get it.
Most of us have been seeking approval since childhood, and it has become a big part of our subconscious programming. We honestly believe our value as human beings is determined by our appearance, performance and what other people think of us. This seeking for approval and validation usually backfires, though. The more you try to get approval from others, the less respect they have for you.
Understand, it isn't a problem to enjoy some external validation, it's only a problem if you need it to feel worth. It's a problem if you can't accurately determine your own value on your own.
Here is a list of things you might do (without consciously realizing it) to get validation, attention or approval. See if any of them sound familiar. Honestly ask yourself the following questions to see if you are an approval addict Do you:
- Change your behavior or viewpoint to get approval from whoever you are with?
- Do things you don't want to do to please others?
- Show off or feel compelled to tell your attention-getting stories?
- Talk more than you listen?
- Ask those around you, "Do I look OK?"
- Apologize constantly?
- Post things on social media to show off what's right in your life?
- Post things on social media about what's wrong in your life (hoping for some sympathy love)?
- Explain your behavior to people so they won't judge you?
- Gossip or talk about others to make you look good?
- Like being the center of attention (and use whatever you can to be that)?
- Get bothered or angry if people don't listen to you or pay attention to you?
- Stress too much about comments or feedback from others?
You must understand that a need for external approval comes from a deep insecurity about your value, and it is going to create misery in your life if you don't fix it. You can't truly be happy if you are needy and insecure.
Joyce Meyer, in her book "Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone," says you must eliminate the guilt and shame you have carried with you since childhood if you are going to cure your approval addiction. You must also change some of your fundamental beliefs about who you are. You must change the way you value yourself and learn to give yourself internal validation.
This means getting a sense of value from your intrinsic worth as a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human soul. It means letting go of shame and guilt about your past and choosing to see mistakes as lessons that taught you things but didn't affect your value.
Here are a few fundamental mindset shifts that can cure your approval addiction over time. For these to change you at the subconscious level though, you will have to make them "your official policies" and review them often.
1. Choose to see life as a classroom, not a test. As a child you were subconsciously taught that life is a test to determine your worth and every mistake counts on your grades. This idea is not truth just because you believed it was. You have the power to change your beliefs about life and your value. You can decide today that life is a classroom, and there is no test, and if there is no test, your value isn't in question. This would mean that every mistake is a lesson (which you can erase and try again) and no mistakes affect your intrinsic worth. In my book, "Choosing Clarity," I explain that SHAME is an acronym that stands for Should Have Already Mastered Everything. We experience shame when we don't see life as a process of learning and growth, and think we should have been perfect all along. This isn't realistic or accurate. You are a work in progress. Let go of shame and give yourself the room to grow.
2. Choose to see your value as infinite, absolute and unchangeable. Your value as a human being comes from the fact that you are a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human soul and your intrinsic value is more important than your appearance or performance (and much more important than what other humans think about you). You must understand that your extrinsic accomplishments, though valuable (and important), are not as important as your intrinsic worth. They are the frosting, but your real worth comes from the cake itself. It's great if you are successful, accomplished, lose some weight or earn some approval from others but you don't need any of these to be good enough.
3. Choose to see all people as having the same intrinsic value. No one is more important or better than anyone else. We are all very different and no one on the planet got signed up for the same classes that you got, so there is no level where it makes sense (or serves you) to compare yourself with others. It would eliminate most of the conflict on the planet if we could all choose to see all humans as having the same value.
4. Stop talking for a week (as much as you can). Set a goal to say as little as possible for one week, and it will amaze you how aware you will become. You will now notice all the things that you want to say for what they are. It will amaze you how many of those comments are about getting validation or managing people's perceptions of you. This will force you to start thinking before you speak. Use the acronym THINK to help you decide what's worth saying. Is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary or Kind.
5. Only post things on social media that pass the THINK filter test. At least for a while see if you can let go of your need for attention and resist the urge to post.
6. Focus on validating others everywhere you go. If you are intently focused on giving validation and approval to others, you will be a force for love in your world. This might change you forever.
7. Remember that opinions are only stories. Just because someone thinks something about you doesn't make it true. Opinions are only ideas that exist in a person's head they have no power, aren't real, aren't meaningful and don't matter. They can't change you or diminish you unless you let them.
8. Take some risks and be the genuine YOU. Disagree with popular opinion, create art and share it, perform, write a weekly column and read the comments left about your work. Taking risks will force you to let go of needing approval. If you love what you do, you will find that you don't care what others think. It takes too much energy and distracts you from loving, lifting and serving others. It keeps your focus on you and your worth, and this is not who you want to be. What others think of you is irrelevant.
9. Don't be a conformist. Be yourself. Who you are right now is perfect. The world would be a boring place if we were all the same. Alan Sherman said, "A 'normal' person is the sort of person that might be designed by a committee. You know, each person puts in a pretty color and it comes out gray."
Don't be gray and don't try to be a color that makes other people happy.
"The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself." Rita Mae Brown
You can do this.