Acceptance by others is a fact upon which many practices in our society rest. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we can also find the need for appreciation, which is closely related to acceptance by others. All people need to be respected and recognized by others in some way.
According to Maslow, the lack of satisfaction with this need can lead to a loss of self-esteem or a feeling of lower value, or in another case, grandiosity and a feeling of too much personal importance. No doubt, all people have a need to contribute to society, which is recognized, and this can have positive social consequences for the community.
People strive to be better participants in society and dedicate their careers to researching how to improve it, or how to improve the lives of other members of the community because they want to give back to society and contribute. In this way, some people feel fulfilled, because they feel useful.
However, in a large number of cases, the excessive demand for acceptance by others has negative consequences for an individual’s life, since this need can often overflow and become the central focus and landmark of life when problems arise.
In the rest of the text, find out how to recognize an unhealthy pattern of needing acceptance from others, and how to help yourself overcome it.
How do recognize an unhealthy demand for acceptance from others?
Having friends and being surrounded by people who can offer you honest advice and support is truly something to be grateful for. However, you should be careful and ask yourself what your motivations are for seeking advice and consultation. Are you perhaps unconsciously or consciously seeking their approval?
Affirmative answers to some following questions may indicate that you have an excessive need for acceptance from others:
• Do you change your plan of action based on people’s negative reactions?
• Are you afraid to share your decisions about life plans with other people?
• Can you recall any instances where you regretted not doing something you wanted to do, just because you were afraid of other people’s reactions?
• Do you occasionally keep silent about your opinion and wishes for fear of judgment in conversation with others?
Do other people somehow dictate the decisions you make?
Advice and criticism from close people, when you engage in self-destructive behavior or decisions that are bad for you, are characteristics of love, care, and friendship. However, what about when you are afraid of starting a new business, or changing a conventional, socially accepted job in order to follow your dreams?
What about cases when, out of fear of judgment, you neglect your personal intuitions and desires, and sabotage your own growth and development, which is also one of the basic needs of every human being? Then we are talking about an unhealthy demand for acceptance from other people.
Why is it wrong to insist on acceptance from everyone?
Many people worry too much about how others will perceive and accept them, and the problem arises when there is an irrational demand and opinion that acceptance in every sense is possible and necessary for a happy life. It is healthy to have conflicts of opinion and disagreements with other people, and the demand that everyone lives according to the established rules of life is, to say the least, impossible.
The problem of many is that in the case of seeking acceptance from others, they fall into a vicious circle of seeking confirmation from everyone for all decisions and opinions, which when not fulfilled, lead to feelings of lesser value, insufficiency, and incompetence, which further leads to psychological problems and discomfort.
It should be borne in mind that the demand that everyone else always accepts and loves you is first and foremost a perfectionist demand, which in its essence is unattainable. Even if you have had the experience that until now all people accept and agree with absolutely everything you say and do, it is very unlikely that it will always remain so in every situation.
Many people will disapprove of your life or views out of their personal inability to understand or relate to you for various reasons. It is possible that the person who is judging you comes from a different culture or has undergone a different type of socialization, and your behavior is completely unacceptable.
The definition of happiness and good life is not universal!
There are many other reasons why you won’t always get the approval of others.
Excessive concern for other people’s opinions and the need for approval from others can lead to a life subordinated to other people’s needs and the satisfaction of other people’s desires, which is in direct contrast to an authentic, fulfilled, and happy life. You have to remember that the definition of happiness and good life is not universal.
Each person must find his own way to happiness and his own explanation of a fulfilled life within himself, and true friendship, love, and acceptance happen when other people accept your wishes even when they don’t fit into the standard pattern of behavior.
The excessive need for acceptance by others often comes with an irrational attitude that this need is absolute and that without the approval of others, one’s inner and personal value is lost. Then there is an endless struggle for the affection of other people, which, as I mentioned, leads to a complete change of focus from your authentic desires.
How to help yourself and get rid of irrational needs?
Psychologists agree that an excessive need for acceptance almost always masks or is accompanied by a sense of one’s own worthlessness. A person with such a need constantly says to himself:
“Without love, I remain an ordinary wretch and incompetent, absolutely unable to protect and defend myself in this world, and therefore I have to provide the care, attention, and love of others that I need”.
People, therefore, commit themselves to the mission of securing as much success and validation from others as possible, in order to protect themselves from the fear of being unloved. However, it is important to note that this need, although it exists, is absolutely not necessary for life. People can live without love, and the absurdity lies in the fact that such thoughts lead to the exact opposite – blocking the potential for love.
What is the solution?
The solution, apparently, is simple – give up the demand for absolute acceptance and love. If you do things solely out of fear of being rejected and unloved – is that really love? On some level, you hold beliefs and act a certain way, not out of a genuine emotion of love – but fear.
An excessive need for love seriously blocks the expression of love and its experience. It sounds counterintuitive, but an excessive need for love sabotages a love relationship because most people who require intense and lasting love have neither the time nor the energy to devote themselves to the growth and development of those whose love they require.
An even more interesting thing is the fact that when you live in harmony with yourself and when you follow your authentic goals and experiences, you gain self-confidence, self-reliance, and actually – you also gain the most sincere love and acceptance. When you live according to your principles and desires, you live an authentic life.
And love and acceptance of you, as an authentic and confident individual, leads to the only true acceptance and love. Behaving out of fear of rejection and leading a life out of fear of judgment, leads only to insincere and fragile relationships, which are prone to break as soon as you deviate from the established and conventional.
Why would you want such a relationship and acceptance?
Methods that can help you work on your excessive need for acceptance from others
Ask yourself what you want to do, not what others want you to do. And ask yourself, occasionally: Am I doing this or am I not doing it because I want to? Or am I again unconsciously trying to please others?
Fight for what you really want, take risks, commit to it, and don’t try to avoid mistakes at all costs. There is no need for mindless persistence: but, explain to yourself that if people ridicule and criticize you for possible failure, maybe they have a problem. As long as you learn from your mistakes, what difference does it make what they think?
Focus on giving rather than receiving love. Try to understand how a progressive and vigorous life is not passive acceptance but action, engagement, and openness to others. Just as you make an effort to learn a foreign language, go to work every day, and practice yoga, you can make yourself love others. If you act in this way, your excessive need for love will most likely diminish.
Finally, don’t confuse acceptance by others with your self-worth. Since it is very important for a person to have an experience of his own inner value as a human being, it is best to consider that you possess this value thanks to your essence, your existence, your aliveness, and not because of what you do to acquire it. And even less that you are worth it because you are well-received by others.
The journey to letting go of the need for others’ acceptance is a long process, and it doesn’t happen overnight. However, it is important to know that with work and effort, it is possible to overcome all irrational beliefs, including this one.
I hope that this text has helped you and that the above tips will be useful to you in the future!
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