Do You Approve?

To recap from the video, our society is conditioned to be approval-seeking, because all humans have a survival instinct to desire belonging. From birth, parents condition children to be approval-seeking through operant conditioning and rewards versus punishment. In addition, children have a natural survival animal instinct to belong. To feel safe, protected, and wanted, a child seeks parent approval, so it is a symbiotic relationship, but one that is oftentimes dysfunctional. Psychologist Carl Rogers called the approval seeking behavior “positive regard.” Carl Rogers stated that children would even accept “negative regard” over “no regard.” What this means is that a child hopes to be loved, but if a child can not achieve a loving parental response then the child would accept a hateful response as opposed to being ignored. The end result is that children grow up to be emotionally-wounded adults who secretly harbor fears of rejection and emotional pain from parental rejection, which can manifest as criticism, disapproval, and conditional love. As adults, we project our childhood emotional pain onto the people in our relationships. Sometimes we recreate the parental rejection and cause people to reject us via a self-fulfilling prophecy and other times we actually meet people who genuinely reject us.

So what is the solution? The solution is two-pronged. First, the solution is to be aware of and understand how our parent-child relationship is affecting our adulthood. Second, the solution is to become self-approving seeking. This means stop living to gain approval from others and start living to gain approval from yourself. It is difficult to break people-pleasing behaviors because these behaviors have been habitual for your entire life. Breaking the people-pleasing behavior cycle will be uncomfortable. And when people reject you, you will have to remind yourself that it is OK to experience rejection and where one person rejects you another person, the right person, will accept you.

To summarize, approval-seeking behaviors are engrained in us all from childhood. Approval-seeking behaviors have no place in adulthood. Healthy adult behavior is to be self-approval seeking.

Published by analyticalperspective

Heather Blackwell is a CBT-certified mental health coach and Psychology subject matter expert (SME), dedicated to bringing Psychology insights to the self-help community. She studied two masters degrees in the areas of Forensic Psychology and MFT, and has 15+ years’ experience in behavioral analysis under her skill belt. Her discussion topics include, but are not inclusive to, dating experiences, interpersonal relationships, maladaptive behavioral development, self-identity development, self-help, holistic mind-body health, and nutrition as it applies to mental wellness.

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