I was once an approval addict.

This is a repost of a previous article.

I recently watched a video by a chap on how to cure an approval addiction. His advice came down to this little snippet:

“Learn to feel okay with not feeling okay.”

As a fully recovered approval addict I’m not too impressed with this advice. It might sound acceptable to some of you, but in essence the very act of seeking approval is because you don’t feel okay. The speaker is trying to tell us that this can never be cured and you must just learn to live with it. He is effectively saying that change is not possible. I disagree with this message. Here is his video:

In my 19th trait of the modern man, the modern man is not I, I wrote this passage:

Change is necessary if you do not like who you are or if you are constantly searching for an external satisfaction to fill an internal void. That void is your dissatisfaction with your self. External forces are beyond our personal power. You might have a very high opinion of me. But it is beyond useless for me to value that for you may change your opinion of me at any time and then what do I possess? I have nothing, just as I had when your opinion was positive. It is an illusion.

Personally I consider this trait to be the most important out of all of them. Let’s see how I worked through my own addiction approval.

For a start it’s important to understand that seeking external satisfaction in this way comes from a deep sense of insecurity. So for those of you who have never suffered this it can be hard to relate to. You will most probably look down on someone who is in its thralls as simply being weak. In all honesty, even though I myself lived many hard years in a state of chronic insecurity, today I have to watch out that I don’t also judge insecure people unkindly. Looking back on my past mindset I struggle to understand how I behaved the way I did.

But insecurity is not rational. If it were then there wouldn’t be any insecure people. Who would choose that existence?

My first attempt at dealing with insecurity was to become a chronic liar. I lied about almost anything. If I earned $100 I said I earned $300. I lied about being on television, I lied about sleeping with girls, I lied and lied and lied. The crazy thing is that I was lying because I was seeking approval, but every lie that was believed and every piece of praise that I received due to a lie only made me feel worse. I was the hollow-man, empty inside and receiving accolades for an imaginary person.

Every time I lied I hated myself just that little bit more which only added to the insecurity. So eventually I made a conscious effort to stop lying. It went away only gradually but I did get on top of it. If I were to go through that again I feel that the best way to surmount the problem would be to immediately admit a lie once uttered.

“I’m sorry, I just lied then. I don’t know why.”

Apologizing in this instance is not only acceptable but required.

But conquering my addiction to lying did not save me. I merely passed through to the next addiction, that of seeking approval. In reality the two are very closely linked. The liar seeks approval for things they haven’t done. The approval seekers seeks approval for things that they have done. It is a step, but only marginal. Believe it or not curing the addiction to approval seeking was much harder. And that’s because there is no third addiction after approval addiction.  The only step left is to cure the fundamental problem.

Insecurity. The approval addiction is the symptom, as was lying. Insecurity is the disease. Insecurity is caused by internal dissatisfaction with who you are. Overcoming this is too hard for most people. The most common method that people seek to fill this void is an external romantic relationship. The person who is going to save you from yourself. This is the real reason that most relationships fail, particularly as most couples are both seeking fulfillment in the other person. Disappointment can be bitter in these circumstances. The other common void-filler is material purchases. Buy more stuff so you will feel better about yourself. This is what advertizing is built upon. The product will make you a different person. It will help fill your internal void. You believe it because you want it to be true.

I wish I could give you a blueprint right now on how to fill the void, on how to become a well-rounded person who you like to be. But there is no blueprint and there is no quick fix. And trying to just “feel okay with not feeling okay” is never going to cut it. You either have to do the work to change yourself or know that you will constantly search to fill that void in external ways.

However, one curious thing about my approval seeking was that I very rarely sought approval for things that I was very good at. My guitar playing, for instance. My musical ability was one of the few things I liked about myself so I neither lied about it or sought approval from it. Perhaps this is the clue. Becoming good at things can help fill the void. Becoming good at life is a very good way to go about it.

In essence the act of filling the void could be the primary reason most of us are on this planet. There is no one way that is the right way, just take comfort in the knowledge that it can be done. My first book is the story of how I made this change. You can’t use my book as a blueprint for your own life as I’ve already said. But you can read it to remind yourself that change is possible. I wouldn’t lie to you about that.

4 thoughts on “I was once an approval addict.

  1. Somebody

    There isn’t a single post of you that doesn’t speak sense, Adam.
    Just like you, I went through the exactly same stuff – lying, seeking approval, insecurity.
    I overcame the lying part just like you, I forced myself to stop, that was a uncontrollable trait of mine that was destroying me from inside.
    The seeking approval thing, I agree with you that self-improvement and turning yourself in a better person, the person you wish you were, is the all-time solution and that will fix insecurity.
    Unfortunately for me, I still haven’t done this, specially due to powerlessness. I’m still at University [Engineering], with no prospect of finding a job right now and still living with my parents. I believe that when I graduate and get myself a job and maybe some cheap flat (something I’ll work hard to achieve), the insecurity will start to vanish (I really hope so).

    Now, the state I’m right now is of “stability” regarding the issue (Why do I keep talking about myself? Because I think this is worth sharing experiences), specially because since ~4 years ago, I started becoming “redpilled” and that freed my soul of many things – social issues, economics, politics, news (fake and real), racial issues – things I was constantly feeling I knew nothing about (I didn’t, the Redpill is primarily about shoving this phrase on your face: You don’t know what you don’t know) and knowing them gave me peace of mind, I finally discovered what was going on with the World, with my Country, with the People, within Academia, with the Media, with the Economy and all of those things before were huge question marks for me, that contributed to my insecurity, primarily because I couldn’t even understand how what was happening was happening, “why do I keep hearing the economy is good when everybody around me is struggling?”, things like that. (of course, at first I was angry, and this anger phase destroyed me a little, specially regarding interpersonal relationships, but now everything’s fixed).

    Thank you, Adam.

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  2. MarkT

    “Feeling ok with not feeling ok” is perhaps a starting point, a way of getting off the habitual treadmill of trying to make unpleasant emotions go away by validation from others, or trying to pretend you’re happier than what you really are. It’s acknowledging the reality of where you’re really at, and surrendering the front you may be putting on for other people. But I agree that leaving it at that achieves little. You then have to start reprogramming your subconscious sense of value, so you recognize what is truly important, and then work hard so that the reality matches what you want to be. It requires both thought and action, and some bravery. The subconscious takes a while to adapt to this change, but it eventually happens.

    I see approval as something we’re all born with a predilection towards seeking, to varying degrees. In a tribal societies that have little respect for individual rights, survival often requires approval and going with tribal impulses – and that is one main reason they remain relatively primitive. So I think it’s somewhere in our DNA. The extent to which we can break that tendency though, and see the world on our own terms is generally the extent to which a society is prosperous and happy.

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  3. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 08.23.17 : The Other McCain

  4. BWV

    I took a personality test recently. Among other things it said that I don’t care about persuading other people. This was at the same time an unexpected revelation and a welcome explanation. I’d noticed in myself a trait that I don’t see in most other people who talk about politics: I don’t “debate” or argue. I tell them how it is and they can take it or leave it. Either way I am unaffected by their decision.

    Strange trait for someone who makes a living selling things, I’ll grant. But the things I sell have always been complex, high-dollar, with an element of “screw this up and someone dies” involved. This allows me not to care whether someone’s kid won a soccer game or what their birthday is. They do business with me because I am competent and effective – not because they like me.

    Sometimes I wonder if I’m a sociopath – but then I realize I don’t really care.

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