Rather than being genuine, you labor to create an image that you think people will find appealing. In the process, you compromise your authentic self, gradually becoming less honest, less natural, less “you.” The more you hustle for approval, the less others feel at ease with you. They sense something counterfeit in your responses, have trouble trusting you. They may even begin to feel manipulated. All this can make a relationship with you exhausting….
In my psychotherapy practice, I have found that people who long for approval usually experienced some sort of emotional trauma in their childhood. They may have suffered verbal abuse, physical abuse, or emotional neglect. Whatever the situation, they didn’t feel valued or celebrated for their uniqueness. Instead, they got the message that love was conditional; they had to work hard for it. Being themselves just wasn’t enough….
Start by noticing how you’re feeling when relating to others. Ask yourself these five questions:
- Am I being genuine?
- Am I working for approval?
- Am I being agreeable to avoid conflict?
- Am I reacting genuinely, or am I objectively crafting responses?
- Am I caretaking, or am I responding truthfully?
Group therapy is the ideal option for people struggling with relationship issues, because it exposes bad habits more directly than individual therapy. In other words, it empowers your therapist with greater insight into your social dilemmas.