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.