This article was first published on KSL.com
I had a huge fight with my husband last week because he doesn’t validate me or give me compliments enough, and I honestly don’t ever feel like I’m good enough. More of his comments are negative and about what I haven’t done, than what I have done. He says he compliments me all the time and I don’t hear them. I’m willing to admit that could be true, my whole life I remember every criticism, but maybe don’t accept the positive. I have also always needed a great deal of praise to feel like I have any value at all. How can I get him to build me up more and how can I accept it and hear it?
The truth is you are the one who is responsible for your self-esteem and no one else can fill that bucket for you. He could praise you day and night and you might remain just as needy for compliments as you are now. You are an approval addict.
Validation is your drug of choice and when you get some, it quiets your fear of failure for a minute, but that quickly wears off and you need another hit.
You have this problem because you are basing your self-esteem on the wrong things. You were taught as a small child your value is determined by these four things: your appearance, your performance (how well you do what you do), your property (clothes, car, phone etc.) and what other people think of you.
The problem with this system is, you can't win it. No matter how hard you try to be good enough in these areas and earn validation, it will never be enough. There will always be people ahead of you. This will also make you needy for praise, approval and validation, and this always backfires because the more you try to get approval from others, the less respect they have for you.
People can feel it in your energy when you don’t know your own value and they can tell when your posts on social media are all about trying to prove your worth or illicit likes or comments, and when they feel this neediness in you, it doesn’t impress them. (You shouldn't care of course, but because your self-esteem is based here, you do.)
Here is a list of things you might do (without consciously realizing it) to get validation, attention or approval. See if any of them sound familiar. Honestly, ask yourself the following questions to see if you are an approval addict.
Isn’t this more the person you really want to be?
Here are 8 steps to stop your approval addiction and improve your internal self-worth:
1. Change your foundational belief about human value and choose to see all humans as having the same infinite value all the time.
This means your value is unchangeable and the same as every other human being. It means seeing everyone as different (having their own unique classroom journey) but with the same value as you. It means you must give up the judgment of others and casting them as the bad guy or worse than you. It means choosing to see your mistakes (and others mistakes) as lessons that don’t affect value at all.
This will take some work, time and practice to consciously choose to see yourself and others this way — but you can do it and it will have a dramatic effect on your life, relationships and self-worth.
2. Choose to see life as a classroom, not a test.
As a child, you were subconsciously taught that life is a test to determine your worth and every mistake counts on your grades. You can decide today that life is a classroom, and there is no test and this would mean that every mistake is a lesson (which you can erase and try again) and no mistakes affect your intrinsic worth.
3. Choose to see all people as having the same intrinsic value.
No one is more important or better than anyone else. We are all very different and no one on the planet got signed up for the same classes here you got, so there is no level where it makes sense (or serves you) to compare yourself with others. It would eliminate most of the conflict on the planet if we could all choose to see all humans as having the same value.
4. Stop talking for a week (as much as you can).
Set a goal to say as little as possible for one week, and it will amaze you how aware you will become of your approval addiction. You will notice most of the things you want to say are about trying to get validation or managing others perceptions of you.
If you cannot say those things, it will leave you at risk of being judged and you will have to own the fact that judgment actually can’t change your value and means nothing.
Other people’s thoughts about you have no power and mean nothing, unless you decide to give them power. Don’t do it. Choose to see your value as the same as others no matter what, all the time.
5. Only post things on social media that are about building up other people.
At least for a while, see if you can let go of your need for attention and even resist the urge to post.
6. Focus on validating others everywhere you go.
If you are intently focused on giving validation and approval to others, you won’t have the time or energy to worry about what you are getting or not getting. This will be especially powerful in your marriage. There is a universal law that says "You get what you give." So, if you want more positive validation or attention from your spouse, start giving it to them. Give what you want to receive, though make sure it fits their love language too.
7. Understand opinions and thoughts are only stories.
Just because someone thinks something about you, doesn’t make it true. Opinions are only ideas that exist in a person’s head. They have no power, aren’t real, aren’t meaningful and don’t matter. They can’t change you or diminish you unless you let them.
8. Be yourself.
You are a one-of-a-kind and there will never be another you. Who you are right now is perfect and being different, being quirky and even flawed is what makes the world an interesting place. How boring would it be if we were all the same? Alan Sherman said, “A ‘normal’ person is the sort of person that might be designed by a committee. You know, each person puts in a pretty color and it comes out gray.”
Don’t be gray and don’t try to be a color that makes other people happy. Be the real, quirky, flawed, beautiful you.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and 12shapes.com where you can find resources, assessments, coaching and classes on self improvement and better relationships.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.