the approval addiction

Today we ask that you look at the ways in which you are addicted to approval.

All humans instinctively crave approval, the same way they crave sugar.

The human body requires a certain amount of glucose in order to survive and function.  That is why it is evolutionarily advantageous for humans to crave sugary foods.

It is the same with approval.  If a child’s parent does not approve of the child, the child may not be cared for, and thus will die.  Back in tribal days, if your tribe did not approve of you, you were cast out.  This was usually a death sentence.

So — craving sugar and craving approval are equally hard-wired into the human body and mind.

The problem is, this instinctive craving leads to addiction.  People become addicted to sugar, and consume so much of it that it makes them very ill.  People become addicted to approval, and also consume so much it that it makes them ill, in a different way.

Sugar addiction results in a weak, bloated body.

Approval addiction results in a weak, bloated ego.

You can see this happen to celebrities, and the rich and famous.  They are deeply addicted to approval, and consume so much of it that it makes them very sick in their egos.  They can become quite monstrous. They also suffer terrible withdrawal symptoms the moment they are out of the spotlight, when they cannot suck down great quantities of special attention, and approval.

Just as children are often conditioned to develop an unhealthy relationship with sugar, most children are conditioned to be approval junkies.  The educational system plays into this, by doling out grades.  Many of you may know straight-A students who have difficulty adjusting to life in the “real world.”

One of the most powerful steps you can take to radically improve your physical health is to master your instinctive sugar craving.  There is nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, but too much sugar is simply not good for you.  The less you consume, the less you will crave.  You do not need very much at all to function well.  In time, it is possible to cultivate a healthy relationship with sugar, where you are no longer completely at the mercy of a mindless, instinctive craving, but instead consume sugar consciously, as a choice.  This is not easy, but it is very possible.

It is the same with approval.  In order to have a strong, healthy sense of self, you must liberate yourself, once and for all, from the addiction to special attention, approval, and external validation.

This is even harder than getting over the sugar addiction.

To understand whether or not you are an approval addict, first you must examine your behavior.

You must ask — do I do things out of a deep, true desire, or do I do things to get special attention and approval? 

How much does my need for approval factor into my decision-making?  

How much am I motivated, on a daily basis, by my need for approval?   Would I still be motivated to do what I do, if special attention and approval weren’t part of the equation?

If you really examine this, you might be quite alarmed.  

As with sugar, some approval is necessary to thrive in life.  If you are creating things, building things, or doing meaningful work, then it is important that others appreciate what you do, in order to survive in this plane.  A business cannot thrive if everyone hates what it produces.  

But approval is like sugar.  You don’t need nearly as much as you think you do.  You don’t need nearly as much as your craving would indicate.  Truly, this is so.

If you need constant approval, then you will behave like a junkie.  You will constantly need special attention, and suffer terrible withdrawal symptoms when you don’t get it.  People who compulsively post on social networking sites can be like this, particularly if they are posting about the tiny minutia of their lives.  

Someone who behaves this way does not have a healthy sense of self.  It is like having a diabetic ego.

You can wean yourself off the approval addiction the same way you do a sugar addiction.  You stop being a sugar addict by becoming conscious and mindful around what you are eating, and why.  You stop being an approval addict by becoming conscious and mindful around what you are doing, and why.  The more conscious and mindful you are, the less compulsively you behave.  This is the true meaning of freedom.

There are few greater freedoms in this life than freedom from the addiction to approval.