Is Approval Disorder Destroying Your Life and Career?

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These days you can lose your job, friends and life from an ill-spoken comment, but what should that mean to your pursuit for a better life? Think about this: When was the last time you posted a photo, told a joke, or had a discussion with a co-worker without monitoring yourself to maintained absolute political correctness? In a modern cancel culture you must do this to survive, but think about what else you could be losing in the process. On the reverse side of maintaining correctness is to lean so far over the sidelines, you become afraid that if you even act outside of the box in any way, someone will ultimately disapprove and ruin you. But that’s just not true.

Someone is always going to disapprove of your ideas, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong. Seeking opinions is one thing, but seeking the approval from others in order to act on your life and career is debilitating. This is basically the definition of conformity. On the other side of this coin is the fear of disapproving of yourself – otherwise known as the fear of failure – and no man wants to be caught between these two afflictions. If you have ever been afraid to act on something you truly wanted because you feared failure or the loss of someone’s approval, you could be teetering towards a life of mediocrity, boredom, and minimal achievement.

Today we are going to discuss how to navigate today’s world so that you can maintain correctness while still breaking down old traditional barriers. But the first question you need to answer is what is approval addiction, and at what degree are you suffering from it (because we all have it to some degree)?

What is Approval Addiction?

Approval addiction, is simply being compelled to achieve the approval of other people before you act on ideas. It is the belief that you can’t be an accepted person in society, unless the majority of people approve of your behavior. In harsher terms, it can be defined as conformity at any cost (the most costly being your own well being). This definition has placed this addiction among the mental health profession’s most dangerous list.

“I am responsible to my employees, customers, and business associates; to be honest, sincere, and to act with integrity,” says Bill Gove, a professional speech coach. “But I am not responsible for their attitudes or behavior towards me – I hope they like me – but if not, it’s not my problem.” And here lies the difference between maintaining respect for others, and teetering too far into the corner of approval seeking. But how do you know when your respect has been taken too far towards the grey area of approval addiction?

If you are ready to see just how affected you are from addiction disorder, take the quiz below, answering each question with a rating from one to seven. One, signifying you never do the action, and seven, you always do.

Approval Addiction Test

  1. Have you ever done something uncharacteristic to impress somebody?
  2. Do you alter your personality, depending on the people you’re around?
  3. Have you ever apologized for not agreeing with someone?
  4. Do you ever worry about saying the wrong things to people?
  5. Have you ever hesitated to speak in a meeting, due to fear of what the other people might think?
  6. Are you afraid to say, “no,” because you might hurt someone’s feelings?
  7. Have you ever lied to someone to make yourself look more impressive?
  8. Do you avoid confrontation by not admitting how you really feel about certain topics?
  9. Have you ever wanted to ask a girl out, but failed to because you were afraid she’d say no?
  10. Do you feel the need to please your boss, friends, and family more than yourself?

“The average person is more addicted to approval than they realize,” says Steve Siebold, author of the international best-seller 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class ( “It holds people back from getting what they want.” The average score for most people will be somewhere between five and six. If you scored a four through seven, approval disorder could be seriously affecting your life. If you scored less than a two, you are either among the minority, or were not being completely honest with yourself.

“People always rate themselves as less addicted,” says Steve. “There is a huge level of delusion that goes on there.” Steve tells us that the best way to get an accurate reading of your addiction to approval, is to present these questions to three or four of your closest friends and family, asking them to score you in the same way.

But isn’t Agreeableness a Good Thing?

While some of you may not want to admit how much you rely on other people’s opinions, others may not see the harm in creating harmony and good feelings within your relationships. After all, isn’t it favorable to care about what other people think? Well, yes and no, depending on your degree of need for approval. If you absolutely need people’s approval, you are considered a seven on the scale, and are incapable of making decisions on your own. However, if you would like to have people’s approval, but can live without it, you are probably a three or four, and that may be a perfect balance for you.

How Much is Too Much Approval Costing You?

Relationships and career are two of the biggest aspects of life that approval disorder can affect in a negative way. Take a look at the questions you answered earlier, and note which ones had the highest scores. If you scored high on questions one, two, six, seven, and nine, your addiction is focused on relationships. If your scores were highest on questions three, four, five, eight, and ten, your influence is more likely to be career oriented. You may have scored evenly between the two, but the purpose of mentioning this is to introduce you to the idea that not every aspect of your life is as affected as others.

You may be more susceptible to the approval of family, or by those in positions of authority (boss). To understand what areas are costing you the most, you’ll need to identify your relationships, scoring each by your need for approval. Such categories may include women you want to date, women you are currently in a relationship with, employers you are working for, and employers you’d like to work for. Now take each relationship category with the highest scores, and decide how much it is affecting you.

While any addiction is bad, only some will really affect you in a negative way. For example, if you depend on your current partner’s approval, it may reduce your overall position in the relationship, but this may or may not be important to you. In opposition, your need for the approval of your employer, may cause you to avoid speaking up about opportunities to move up in the company, and your career growth will be stagnated.

So now that you have a better area of where you stand, you probably have an idea of where you want to be and all you need to do now is…

Take Action!

“What number (score) do you want to be,”  Steve asks. “Now ask yourself how to get there.” Remember that you are using your logical brain on this and not your emotion one (we’ll get into that a bit more soon).

“Decide what you’re willing to do to get to that number, then take action on the things that you care about,” explains Steve. “It won’t be the same for everybody.” Your path will take its own course once you have decided how much influence you are willing to accept from outside sources. To help guide you on your way we offer a four step plan to success.

FIRST STEP: Say No to Approval

You do not always need to have your ideas approved as long as they are respectful, well thought out (from your and other people’s perspectives), and something that is important to you. Give yourself permission to take calculated risks when it involves something that you really want.

SECOND STEP: Rely on the Logical Brain to Tell You what’s Right; Not Your Emotional One

This step is critical, because when you are looking at a new idea, it should be seen from a logical perspective and not an emotional one. Some people might say that today’s culture relies on emotions to navigate the waters safely, but how often would you have regretted a decision if you did not rely on your logical side to keep some of your emotional outbursts in check? Even when you are using emotions to feel out a sensitive subject, your logic will be what keeps you honest and sincere towards the goals that you are working to achieve and any pitfalls that may be hiding along the way.

THIRD STEP: Forgive Your Mistakes and Give Yourself Permission to Succeed

The important thing to move on from any failure is to accept the outcome, and whatever negative consequences, as a means to an ongoing path towards achievement. If you can’t accept failure, you will lose sight of your path because the rough terrain will appear too difficult to navigate without guidance. Tradition and approval will eventually take the place of your past adventurous spirit.

Forgiving others can be tough, but forgiving yourself is actually the most difficult. Unfortunately, no matter how good you are, when you take risks you will eventually fall upon some form of failure. In other words, along your path of action, you are going to make a few (some more than others) mistakes and suffer for them. This is the point where some begin to take a more practical outlook on taking chances, stiffling any future thought process and creativity. You can either do this, or you can forgive yourself for those mistakes and give yourself the permission to move on to success.

FINAL STEP: Never be Fearful to Take a Risk Because You’re Afraid of Rejection

Rejection should logically be downplayed by your success of trying in everything that you do. Your alternative is fear, which is simply the result of failing to do anything unique or challenging. Don’t play it too safe in life and never live in fear; you should live your life how you see yourself living it, and not how you want others to see you.

I know that there are some of you out there who are already doing most of these, but for those who aren’t; you will discover a whole world of possibilities once you fully immerse yourself into these four steps.

About Dr. Eric J. Leech

Eric has written for over a decade. Then one day he created, a site for every guy.

About Dr. Eric J. Leech

Eric has written for over a decade. Then one day he created, a site for every guy.