Stop Needing Approval and End Your "Approval Anxiety" Now

One of the most common anxieties is "needing approval" or the fear that someone might disapprove of you. I used to suffer from approval anxiety quite a bit when I was younger, and I gained some relief from a simple passage in the book on social anxiety, Dying of Embarrassment: Help for Social Anxiety and Phobia:

It's okay if some people dislike you or disapprove of you sometimes. In fact, it's inevitable.

Even well-known and widely-admired people are disliked or even hated by some people. Reminding yourself of this can be a relief. It's a kind of perfectionism to try to get everyone to approve of you, and the effort causes extra stress hormones, and leads to even more anxiety.

Most of us have a need for approval, at least to some degree. It is normal to want to fit in and be accepted by others. In a species as social as ours, where being accepted by the group has been important to survival, we're bound to have some built-in desire or instinct to try to be approved of by our fellow group members. Those born without a need for approval would be less likely to have any offspring in a hunter-gatherer group. One of the most important things our species has relied on to survive is banding together — for hunting, defending against enemies, and helping to raise children.

Social anxiety is an important evolutionary development, keeping people cohesive as a group, improving our chances of surviving during dangerous or difficult times. But of course, times have changed.

One thing that has made our need-for-approval instinct so much more troublesome for modern people is that we now interact with so many strangers. It is an unnatural situation, and we have not evolved to deal with it. It's much easier to learn to get along with a small group of people you have known all your life. But those days are over. Approval anxiety is a natural result.

But there are things you can do to stop needing approval so much. You can alleviate much of this natural and perfectly understandable approval anxiety.

The first step is something simple but immensely effective: Remind yourself that no matter how perfect you try to be, some people will dislike you. You cannot get everyone to like you. Even if you were able to achieve it for a moment, someone would dislike you because you were so popular! Every time you feel some approval anxiety, immediately remind yourself that you cannot get everyone to like you. Say it to yourself emphatically and repeatedly.

Getting everyone to like you is an impossible goal. Remind yourself of that fact over and over. This will go a long way toward ending your anxious need for approval, and help you live a more enjoyable life. It will help you be in a good mood more often.

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