Whether you admit it or not, we all seek approval from others.
It starts when you’re very young. You seek approval from your parents and peer group.
As you get older, you continue to seek approval and crave green checks from your teachers and bosses.
Looking back on my own life, it’s crazy to think about the amount of time that I’ve spent trying to win over other people.
The desire for emotional validation in human beings is quite strong.
After all, for most our history, we lived in small tribes. If you did something that was out of line, you might be exiled by the tribe, which would hurt your survival chances. Remember, our brain is thousands of years old. The software hasn’t been updated in a LONG TIME.
“Your brain isn’t designed to make you happy. It’s designed to make you survive.” – Tony Robbins.
When I first got started in business, I had a TON of people telling me things like…
- “You should build such and such a site. What you have now isn’t gonna work. It’s too spread out.”
- “I know you want to be a blogger, but you have a job lined up right? You gotta actually pay the bills when you get into the real world.”
- “Haha, so when are you gonna go to graduate school? Don’t you need like an MBA or something? Make more money?”
Of course, no matter what the subject, you’re also always going to get told things like this from older friends, family, and bosses:
- “I know you think this way now, but just wait until you’re older.”
- “Just wait until you… (insert life milestone)” That milestone could be… go to college, graduate from school, get a job, get married, or have kids.
As I’ve matured and become older, I’ve come to realize that for the most part, all of these people are wrong. They’re not dumb, they’re just misinformed. That’s ONE of the reasons I’m so passionate about sharing information online for free .
When I was younger, I’d be told things that shaped my view of the world and my view of relationships. For a while, I believed “truths” like girls want to be bought nice things, want to be with a “good looking” guy, or that they flock to stable guys that have a good career.
There was a certain period in my life where I actively went out to disprove each of these mainstream beliefs. I was successful and it blew me away. My entire life, I had held incorrect beliefs about how attraction works.
This was also true of other subjects, like fitness, healthy eating, money management, and even public speaking.
The biggest shock was when I was invited to and gave a talk at Harvard (John F. Kennedy School of Government). Who was I to be considered an expert? They could have asked so many other people!
I then got into the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN, and other publications. The rules of the game weren’t anything like I anticipated. My beliefs about how the world worked were totally off.
If you wanna have fun, the easiest way to watch mainstream beliefs arise is to do something that seems odd, like travel to a country completely alone. I first did this in Italy when I was 20.
It was considered super weird. Haha. But, I made friends and had a blast!
Having studied economics and psychology, I truly believe that society has conditioned all of us to be extremely obedient and to defer to “experts” or commonly accepted ideas to inform our choices and beliefs.
This obedience tends to bleed into our own social groups. There is an enormous pressure to think similarly to other people around us. If we don’t, we’re considered wrong or weird.
Of course, you’re naturally gonna connect with good friends that share similar values and world views. However, really good friends are few and far in between. When I refer to one’s “social circle,” I’m referring to our casual friends that make up our circle. Co-workers, teammates, etc.
At our very core, I think that we want members of our social circle to approve of our life choices, to envy us to a small degree, and to support us in our quest.
Haha, if you ever do a product launch or an event, you’ll quickly find out how many people are actually willing to support you in a new endeavor. Talk is cheap. Action speaks.
Anyway, many people in our generation, myself included, crave approval from others in the same way that a child craves approval from their parents.
It can get dangerous, especially when you begin to care about the opinions of people online that you’ve never met and that add zero value to your personal life.
I’ve always wanted people online to like me, think of me as intelligent, and look up to me for my hard work. It turned out to be a dangerous inclination.
There are a lot of potential cravings for both men and women, whether it’s beauty, the desire to appear masculine, fame, love, and more. These cravings can guide our day-to-day and year-to-year behavior, which are all based in seeking approval from:
- Members of the same/opposite sex who aren’t friends, but are in our current stage of life.
- Romantic members of the opposite sex (or same sex).
- Family Members
- Bosses and co-workers
- Society at large or our “tribe” within society.
I’m sure that you can think of more than me. Those were just the ones off the top of my head.
From looking deep within myself, I think that there are only a handful of reasons that we do this. It’s always to satisfy an EMOTIONAL need or to FEEL some way about your life.
Here are three core reasons that I’ve come up with. If you have others, feel free to leave a comment on this article.
1. Relationships: We believe that without approval, we will not be loved or accepted.
2. EGO: We believe we will not perceived in the way we’d like (by a particular person or group) and are afraid of feeling as though our life does not match our ideal view of our life.
3. Fear: We are scared that without approval, we’re going into uncharted territory and therefore could crash our ship. We don’t TRUST ourself to navigate without the nod of approval of another human being.
I don’t have an answer for you as to how to stop seeking approval. I try to use meditation to be aware of my feelings and thoughts, but it still happens.
If I wanted to, I could log into one of my email addresses or check one of my social profiles and probably find a hater. Someone who’s just saying hateful things online. It’s harder to spot these types of people in our own life, but they’re always there.
More often than not, their words reflect their own emotional well-being. Their words are based in their own insecurity.
Sometimes though, they quite simply want to live in a different type of world than you do. We saw that quite clearly in the recent election. Both sides believed that their path was correct and that their view was “normal.”
No matter what it is, I believe it’s essential to put yourself first. Trust yourself. Trust in your feelings and thoughts. Trust your own analysis.
I’m not saying to not care about people. You can still care about people, and still not care whether or not they approve of your life.
If you fail to do this, you’ll probably end up building someone else’s dream in your 20s. You’ll end up making someone else very happy, while you feel empty inside.
Here’s a note to my future self and others online…
Don’t be an asshole, but also don’t accommodate. Don’t seek approval. Don’t care as much what people think, especially when it endangers your own well-being.
You don’t need to conform to show how much you care.
You can show love in more ways than one :).