The Approval Trap

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Posted July 19, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

Are you a people pleaser? Are you a pushover? Do you tell little white lies to make people feel better? Do you ever mask the true gravity of a situation to avoid dealing with the consequences? If so, then you might be in an “approval trap.”

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant who writes for the Huffington Post and recently published the article “Soul-Talk: Are You Self-Actualizing or Just Self-Conceptualizing.” And while his definitions can get lengthy, and his explanations of actualizing and conceptualizing might be more than you want to explore, the most important concepts in his article are about the “approval trap.”

We all get caught in an approval trap. We want the approval of our bosses at work, our friends and significant others in our personal lives, and for many of us, even our parents. Bishop contends that when we live in this approval trap place, when we are people pleasers or pushovers, its really just a reflection of us living less authentically than we should. 

So how can you change it? How can you move out of the approval trap? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Ask yourself whether or not the person whose approval you’re seeking really matters. Recently, I met with a nutritionist who I thought could help me with marathon training. I didn’t know her, I didn’t have a family or strong friend connection to her. And I knew within 5 minutes of meeting her that I didn’t want her to be involved in my training. Yet I still went though an hour long session, let her write me a meal plan, paid her, and agreed to a second meeting. Why? Because I was in the approval trap. Later, I explained the situation respectfully and declined a second meeting, which felt much more authentic. Her opinion and her approval didn’t really matter. I sought it because I was used to doing it.
  • Will your decision truly affect a relationship, or are you pretending it will. When we seek approval from our parents, friends and loved ones it’s because somewhere deep inside we’re afraid if they don’t approve, they’ll change our relationships negatively. We’re avoiding conflict, we’re avoiding confrontation, and we’re avoiding being the bad guy. But the truth of the matter is, our relationships are probably strong enough to handle a disapproval situation. Count on that, and instead turn your approval inward by….
  • Make your approval the only approval that matters. Close your eyes, and listen to your true desires. What would you approve of? Because that’s all that matters.

Read the rest of Russell Bishop’s article by clicking here. He’s right when he says this:

So, the next time you find yourself challenged by other’s opinions, ask if you are being challenged because you are trying to live a false or generalized concept of who you wish you were. It could be that you are being challenged to stand in the integrity of who you truly are. If you do stand in the depth and integrity of your soul, you may find that their opinions matter less and less, while paradoxically you may gain even more respect and approval for your courage.


About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is the author of "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works" and a career expert who believes in order to be empowered in your career, you must be surrounded with resources and a network that both supports and challenges you. Marcy began her own networking journey as a professional fundraiser in the nonprofit industry, honed those skills as a fundraising consultant, and in 2012 networked her way to nearly 1 million readers as the CEO of the professional development website Career Girl Network.

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