Approval seeking is a very common behaviour that all of us are guilty of at some point in our life. It might be that we are trying to impress someone we like, make a new friend or make a good impression on our new boss. It is perfectly normal to seek approval in others occasionally.
Approval seeking only becomes a problem when we do it chronically. When we constantly seek to be validated externally because we don’t feel comfortable to accept ourselves as we are.
This is the topic of today’s video, which I felt was very important for those of you who are people-pleasers and/or codependents.
When someone criticizes us, it tends to touch a nerve and can sometimes leave us feeling very vulnerable, very angry and sometimes both!
This may be because there is absolutely no truth in the criticism and we feel it is completely unfair or actually because there is some truth in the criticism and we are just not ready to deal with it.
Being criticized is also especially difficult when the person criticizing us is someone we hold in high regard. It could be our boss at work or a new partner.
The thing that most people don’t realise is that criticism on it’s own isn’t what makes us upset. The meaning we attach to criticism is what affects us. As I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, being a people-pleaser means that we give others too much power over our emotions and how we feel about ourselves. If others’ approval is extremely important, then we give them consent to always make us feel bad about ourselves.
In order to stay away from seeking approval, we have to learn to practice self-acceptance and only rate our actions or traits but not ourselves. We are responsible for our reaction to someone’s criticism and it is up to us to change how we respond.
If we already have low self-esteem, then criticism will be especially hurtful and it could take us days to recover from it.
Are you someone who struggles from others’ criticism? Do you find that you always get overly upset when someone criticizes you or overly agree? Do you avoid contact with that person after the criticism occurs? I would love to hear your experiences.
If you are a childhood abuse survivor, I am especially interested in your experiences. When you have internalised your parents’ negative and unhealthy criticisms, this will then follow you around and will be brought to the surface everytime someone criticizes you. This is actually quite a painful, traumatic reaction because a present criticism can send you into an emotional flashback of your parents’ abuse. This is something I am particularly experienced in through my own recovery from abuse but also through talking to others who still struggle with this internal self-critic.
If you are afraid of experiencing other peoples’ negative responses or emotions, then you will do everything you can to avoid this.This fear will make it hard for you to say NO to someone and you end up doing things you really don’t want to do.You feel compelled to always do as they say and become completely submissive to their needs. This is the core of being a people pleaser.
These fears usually stem from childhood abuse, where you had an overbearing, manipulative parent or parents. If your parents would punish you severely if you didn’t do what they wanted, then you will have been conditioned to be obedient at all times.
Some really important characteristics of being a people pleaser is when you have lowself-esteem, are addicted to others’ approval and are always dependent on them for your self-worth and validation. This happens especially when you might have had a narcissistic/psychopathic parent that criticised you negatively all the time and made you feel excessively guilty and shameful when you didn’t do as they said. With extremely self-centered parents, everything is always about their needs and your needs take a backseat. Every time you want to take a step forward and be more independent in your thinking & behaviour, they will always find a way to pull you back and make you feel dependent on them and their way of thinking.(codependent).It is a very strong type of conditioning that happens in abusive homes and as a young child you aren’t able to escape this environment.
Something that is very common when you are people pleaser is always rationalising peoples’ abusive behaviour to the point of always forgiving it. You always make excuses for others’ bad behaviour and say things like ‘Yes my father beat me but at least he provided a roof over my head’ or ‘I know my mother is very manipulative but deep down she has a good heart’.This has a lot to do with ‘toxic bonding’ or stockholm syndrome’, where you are extremely attached to your abuser in a very emotionally damaging way. You aren’t able to accept the reality of how bad something actually is, because it is extremely painful.
Another couple of traits that make someone a people pleaser and also make them more susceptible to emotional abuse is the fact that they may be emotionally immature and have very weak boundaries. They don’t know what is theirs and what is others’. If they grew up in a home with a parent that would constantly go through their things as a teenager, always invade their space whilst at the same time parentifying them and giving them things to do that weren’t their responsibiliy, this has a detrimental effect on how they view others and how they view themselves. They grow up thinking that it is ok for someone to use them, to take advantage of their lack of assertiveness and self-respect.
A very important part of dealing with manipulative or pushy people is developing self-assertiveness. This is something very useful for people that are constantly submissive to others in an unhealthy way. Assertiveness can be taught and this is something I offer in Coaching.
If you think you might need assertiveness training, then please let me know.