The Dangers of Approval Seeking

The Dangers of Approval Seeking


Chapter 23/53: In this lesson, Epictetus highlights an important issue we can run into when we chase the approval of others.

I/ The Main Problem with Approval Addiction

As you go through life, you may be tempted to seek the approval of others.

You might have thoughts such as the following:

"If this person thinks I'm great, then I can feel great."

"If this person thinks I'm unattractive, then I am unattractive."

"If this person thinks I am good at my job, then I must be good at my job."

"If this person agrees with me, then I can feel good about my opinion."

In each of these cases, you are giving your power away. You are allowing your emotional system and worldview to be owned by another person—by something external and not within your control.

The biggest issue when you care so deeply about approval, beyond simply living with unnecessary ups and downs, is that you will begin to chase after it.

When you chase after approval, you may start to change your natural personality and values to get the validation drug you so desperately crave.

If you change your personality to get approval, you have compromised your integrity.

I/ The Solution for Approval Addiction

You have spent much of your life, learning to get the approval of others and so little time learning how not to need it.

As practicing Stoics, we must learn this vital life skill.

The solution to approval addiction is to develop self-trust and learn to become your own witness.

In other words, learn to view your own opinion about life just as highly as anyone else's.

Whenever you are in doubt about something, simply ask yourself the following questions:

"What do I think about this?"

"How do I feel about this?"

"How should I behave in this situation?"

When you receive your answer, act according to it. This is what it means to live according to your values.

Even though this sounds simple, it does not come easily to those of us who are always looking to others for answers.

But with enough practice, you will find that you not only make better decisions this way, but you will be much happier too.

If you are ever tempted to look for outside approval, realize that you have compromised your integrity. So be satisfied just being a philosopher, and if you need a witness in addition, be your own; and you will be all the witness you could desire.