In the world of psychology, relationships hold a prominent place. They are intricate, fragile, and require consistent effort from all parties involved. Whether it's a romantic relationship, a friendship, or even professional connections, one common pitfall that can jeopardize them all is the constant seeking of approval.
As a psychologist, I've seen firsthand how the incessant need for approval can harm even the most promising relationships. Let's dive deeper into this issue and understand why it's a toxic behavior.
1. It Strains Authenticity Seeking approval can make individuals alter their behavior, opinions, or preferences to match what they believe the other person wants. This might seem like a way to avoid conflict, but it comes at a high cost – the sacrifice of one's authentic self. Over time, this can lead to a sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction in the relationship because the real person behind the façade is never truly known or appreciated.
2. It Creates an Imbalance of Power Constantly seeking approval often places one person in the relationship in a position of power. The person whose approval is sought may unintentionally (or intentionally) exploit this power dynamic, leading to an unhealthy relationship where one party's needs and desires consistently overshadow the other's.
3. It Undermines Self-Esteem Relying on external approval for self-worth can be a dangerous game. When your self-esteem hinges on others' opinions, you become vulnerable to anxiety, self-doubt, and even depression when those opinions inevitably fluctuate. This emotional rollercoaster can strain relationships as the seeking party constantly seeks validation, which can be emotionally exhausting for both partners.
4. It Hampers Effective Communication Effective communication is the lifeblood of healthy relationships. Constantly seeking approval, however, often leads to passive-aggressive behavior or a reluctance to express one's true thoughts and feelings. This creates a communication barrier that can hinder resolving conflicts and fostering intimacy.
5. It Encourages Unhealthy Dependence Overreliance on approval can make one person in the relationship emotionally dependent on the other. This unhealthy dependency can lead to feelings of suffocation for the other person, ultimately pushing them away.
6. It Hinders Personal Growth Personal growth often comes from stepping out of one's comfort zone and taking risks. Seeking approval can be paralyzing in this regard, as it discourages the pursuit of independent goals or decisions that may not align with what the other person desires or expects.
7. It Sets Unrealistic Expectations Constantly seeking approval can foster unrealistic expectations in relationships. When approval becomes the metric for measuring love and acceptance, it's easy to fall into the trap of expecting the other person to meet all your emotional needs, which is neither fair nor sustainable.
So, how can individuals break free from this approval-seeking cycle and cultivate healthier relationships?
Self-Acceptance: Start by learning to accept and love yourself for who you are, independent of others' opinions.
Effective Communication: Practice open and honest communication with your partner or friend. Encourage a safe space for both of you to express your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
Set Boundaries: Define and maintain personal boundaries to protect your emotional well-being.
Therapy: Seek professional therapy or counseling to work through the underlying issues that drive the need for approval.
Constantly seeking approval can indeed kill a relationship by eroding authenticity, causing power imbalances, undermining self-esteem, hampering communication, encouraging dependence, hindering personal growth, and fostering unrealistic expectations. Breaking free from this pattern is essential for fostering healthy, fulfilling relationships built on trust, respect, and genuine connection.