I am the kind of person who is fuelled by the validation of others, who wants to be liked and respected. I am the kind of person who would rather let someone else monopolise the conversation than be assertive. I am the kind of person who is forever seeking approval.
I haven’t always been like this. Most people would have described me as an extrovert in the past, as someone who couldn’t wait to get their opinion across and take the lead. However, I have been aware of my need to be accepted for as long as I can remember and I have noticed it increase in recent years, as my anxiety and depression have worsened. It seems to show itself in such a wide array of situations that it has been hard not to notice it.
The main way this frustrating habit exhibits itself is through continually questioning; “do you like this?/did I do that right?/are you sure that was okay?”. Even though I heard the answer the first time, one lot of approval just isn’t enough, and I feel myself asking the question for the second and third time.
I’m also affected by non-verbal communication. Depression makes me very aware of the judgements of others and I take non-verbal signals as cues to how others are judging me. It can be something as little as not returning a smile that can make me start to wonder if I have done something wrong.
One of the major problems with an excessive need for approval that I have noticed is that it’s almost as if we can’t do much on our own initiative but must always get permission. I sometimes feel I must ensure that things I do are approved by others, such as deciding what clothes to buy. When I go against the recommendations of those closest to me, I feel guilty for this and I will overthink the issue for hours.
The other issue with this need to be liked is that I can end up doing things I don’t actually want to do. I find myself agreeing make plans and then later regretting my decision; sometimes I have the balls to back out of the plan, sometimes I don’t.
However, the main thing I am trying to remember is that whilst approval feels good, you can’t base your self esteem on it. You need to try to be strong and independent in your decisions where depression and anxiety make you indecisive.