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Approval from Others: Good or Bad?

approval from othersAll else being equal, of course approval from others is good.

Why wouldn’t it be?

Someone else likes, respects or approves of you or something you did. Wonderful! That’s legit. You deserve to feel good about that. You have pleased or exceeded the expectations of another person. That’s a win. Feel great about it.

You can even take things a step further and allow validation from others to enhance your self-esteem. After all, self-esteem has some origin in feedback from other people, since day one. No issues there.

What about letting go of ‘what others think?’

It’s common to get advice that suggests you should stop caring what others think. Don’t shackle yourself to other people’s opinion and set yourself free from the approval trap.

What about this? Well, this is where everything becomes really counter-intuitive!

The approval trap works like this:

1. You begin under the assumption that people are going to reject you.

2. You fear and resist and try to avoid that rejection.

3. You wish you didn’t care what others thought of you.

4. Other people confirm, that, yes, you should definitely stop caring what others think.

5. However, your desire to let go of others is not enough to eliminate your fear.

6. You’re stuck! You have thoughts and feelings you cannot control and a goal you’ll never reach.

It’s harsh. It’s frustrating and it is common.

Before we figure out to escape the trap, let’s look at how things should go, ideally.

1. You begin with the understanding that people may reject you. They may also appreciate you. And they may also not give you much thought at all – in other words, they are neutral.

2. As you share your thoughts, feelings and opinions, you get feedback from others.

3. When people appreciate you, it feels good. When people reject you, it hurts (and you’ll feel it, process it and let the hurt go). When people are neutral toward you, you remain neutral toward them.

4. Then, you can build relationships with those who appreciate you. And it will be genuinely felt.

It’s simple, in theory, right?

jealouspersonThe problem with this theory is that most of us who are concerned with this issue cannot pull it off. The beginning assumption or fear of rejection is too strong.

We end up spending our energy grappling with the anxiety, withholding our thoughts and feelings and trying to escape the trap.

The healthy method mentioned above requires an openness to appreciation, rejection or neutrality – an openness to whatever you get. This is an ideal that seems a far stretch from our emotional reality.

Still, letting go of the rejection assumption is possible, if you can get your mind around the real issue. And the issue is not that you care too much about what others think. It’s that you’ve bought the rejection before anyone even had a chance to offer it.  The hard issue for some of us to accept is that there is a drive toward rejection somewhere within us.

In other words, it’s as if we were programmed to seek it out. We unconsciously scan for evidence of it, while consciously fearing the results. We anticipate rejection in a wholesale fashion.

If you really stop and think about it, a part of us is really committed to a paradigm that includes guaranteed rejection! Until this part of you is healed, then the approval trap is a reality in your world.

Wouldn’t it be nice to approach other people from a completely different place?

Then, you’ve got to begin where you are and accept that some sort of strange attachment to rejection is operating outside of your awareness.

Negative psychological attachments create ongoing self-sabotage. We get in our own way by starting with such strong negative assumptions.

To move toward an emotionally healthier way of being and escape the approval trap, begin at the root of the problem: self-sabotage. To learn how psychological attachments create ongoing self-sabotage and how to end the cycle, watch this free and enlightening video.

Approval from Others: Good or Bad?

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2015). Approval from Others: Good or Bad?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Aug 2015
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