Oprah, you and I are not the only ones who suffer from the disease to please. A number of years ago, Oprah Winfrey helped the distraught Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York (known as Fergie), get out of a very tough and embarrassing situation. She produced a feature show with Fergie called Finding Sarah Ferguson.
You may or may not know that, after building a lucrative business selling her children’s books, Fergie ended up in big trouble when she agreed to take 500,000 pounds or close to three quarters of a million dollars for arranging access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew, The Duke of York. The whole thing was a media set-up.
Yes, I watched an episode of Finding Sarah Ferguson where she came to the realization that she was “addicted to acceptance and approval.” I relate. At one time I would give gifts to those I knew or imagined didn’t like me. I still struggle as many do to say “yes” when the answer is best “no.”
In assertiveness training the term approval seeking means to act passively and allow others’ rights to supersede yours. If like Fergie, we agreed to do something that is immoral, not in our best interest, against the law or simply against our values, we can become depressed, angry, resentful and possibly riddled with guilt.
The Root of Seeking Approval
What is this compulsion to seek approval? Approval is needed by children to help them stay safe and develop self-discipline. But as children mature, wise parents gradually hand over responsibility to their off-spring allowing them to make their own decisions: giving them the power to decide when to say “yes” and “no” and to what.
The mature adult can handle others not liking or even objecting to their decisions while staying open to constructive feedback. We’re not talking about becoming arrogant know-it-alls but about knowing what is necessary to maintain our own well-being.
Signs of Seeking Approval
How can you tell if you are addicted to approval? Consider these five questions:
- Do you say yes when you want to say no?
- When asked what you want to do, is your automatic response, “Whatever you want?”
- As soon as someone else says, “I disagree?” do you give up your point of view?
- Do you invite people you actually don’t like to your home or gatherings or give them gifts?
- When someone asks your opinion of their clothing, furniture or idea, do you fib, in the hopes they won’t be offended or reject you?
The Antidote to Seeking Approval:
The hard part is to develop some self confidence and stay true to yourself. Experiment with:
- Tell your truth. Start with “I feel (or think, believe, want, don’t want) . . . “
- If saying no is difficult say “I want to think it over” or “Saying yes is not good for me.”
- Say, “Interesting point. I have a different idea or perspective.”
- Give yourself self-compassion for wanting to please others. Doing so has probably done little harm to the world. At the same time you want to enhance your own life by more often pleasing yourself.
- If your need for approval is deeply ingrained, consider if it is rooted in childhood neglect and/or criticism. If so, consider therapy, perhaps inner child work.
Perhaps you have developed other strategies for dealing with the tendency to give up on yourself for the sake of receiving acceptance and approval. What are they? Please share your success in ending the disease to please; that tendency of seeking approval.
Please check out these related posts:
- How To Be A More Resilient Adult: Explore Your Childhood Wounds!
- 25 Affirmations to Help Reprogram Your Negative Self-Talk
- How to Begin Healing Your Inner Child
Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.