The Price of Getting Nods

By Mirabelle Koh

Nothing beats the feeling of receiving praise for lending your friend a helping hand – or so I thought. But when you have to juggle schooling, a part-time career and maybe some extra co-curricular activities while being that first friend that all your buds turn to for help, exhaustion will eventually get the better of you.

Take some time to go through the things you have done for the past two weeks. Is your hectic lifestyle taking a toll on your life? And when you did really feel good about yourself? Did it come from pleasing your superior or getting compliments from your friends?

More often than not, we base our self-esteem on the expectations others have of us, and how we meet them. Guilty as charged, I too, find myself unhealthily attached to other’s approval of me. I would always try my best to please others or get positive feedback for the effort, and that has caused me to be over-reliant on approval from others.

It’s natural to like receiving praises. However, when you start to determine your self-worth based on others, it could turn you into a self-doubting wreck. The underlying fear of rejection may push you to over-exert yourself as you try to meet everyone else’s needs for the sake of their approval.

Interestingly though, it seems like my circle of friends who are chronic approval-seekers are often high-achievers themselves. As perfectionists, it’s never “good enough”, until maybe someone comes along to openly offer them praises for their hard work.

Maybe my intense need for approval stems from my own childhood and family experiences. I only felt like a “good kid” when my parents praised me for getting that A grade in my examinations, or for helping them with house chores. It gradually gave me the idea that acceptance is conditional upon doing the right thing and by pleasing those whom I love.

This snowballed to my part-time career when I suffered from praise withdrawals from not getting any feedback at all. The mental debate started. “Could I really accomplish this? Maybe there’s someone better suited for the role.” I was full of self-doubt.

I have come to realise that I thrive on positive feedback, but not all environments and settings could do just that. If you’re working in a big company with a lot of employees, you can’t possibly expect to receive constant praises from your boss. But I have also come to terms with the fact that I wanted to regain control and feel confident about my own capabilities.

If you’re constantly on a lookout for praise fuel, or if you find yourself dependent on feedback from others, you may be an approval junkie yourself. It’s crucial to start identifying what triggers the self-doubt or approval-seeking behaviour. And that ultimately starts with recognising that it is an issue that needs to be tackled.

It didn’t come by easy for me, but I spent sleepless nights on redoing design projects because of my nagging insecurities and self-doubt, and it only stopped when I am acknowledged by others for the work I have done. It took a toll on me mentally and physically, and I knew I needed to start changing my own self-talk.

Similarly for all other approval junkies out there, it’s important to give yourself recognition and practise detachment when you need to. It’s not always about pleasing someone else, and you don’t always have to care about what others think.

It’s human nature to want to gain approval from those around us, but don’t fall into an obsession for it. These are all mind games, and as long as you play your cards right, you will be bigger than your self-doubt and thrive when your praise fuel is running low.



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