Symptoms of Approval Addiction: Lack of Self-Awareness

Approval Addiction is a growing problem in our society that refers to individuals who place a high level of importance on the acceptance or respect of others.  In most cases this results in their doing anything a friend, co-worker, or loved one wants as long as they are given acceptance in return.  One of the reasons why this addiction has grown is because it has many different forms.

For every person who cannot stand up to their boss because it could result in rejection there is a business man who takes great joy in controlling his staff and finds his confidence in their submissive obedience.  Whatever style their addiction takes, all approval junkies have the same core problem; trying to cover up an embarrassing weakness or humiliating experience when that weakness was revealed.

This is why a big part of becoming a recovering approval addict comes from self awareness, or an understanding why people have to love us.  This usually leads to reliving some of those humiliating memories or even remembering an experience that made us approval junkies.  Finding that emotion or experience allows you to deal with the real problem instead of just seeking the acceptance of others.

Last weekend our Church went on a yearly beach weekend which was a great time of fellowship and fun.  On Saturday I went down to enjoy the ocean and ended up throwing a frisbee with a group of friends, which was fun at first but soon became frustrating.  While my friends had little trouble with the frisbee I struggled catching it altogether and my throws were usually way off.  Usually something like this doesn’t bother me since we were just having a fund day at the beach, but as my throws continued to either too far or too short an emotion of shame began to well up inside of me.

Dejectedly I walked over to a nearby beach towel and sat down feeling worthless.  Thats the normal response to those humiliating experiences or shame filled emotions but then in the midst of my self-pity a thought came to my mind, “why am I doing this?”  My friends were having a hard time catching or throwing the frisbee (particularly when the wind was strong) but it didn’t seem to bother them.

The more I thought about where that emotion came from my mind was brought to a number of experiences in the past where I attempted to play a sport but failed.  One memory in particular struck me as we drove back from the beach;  the day I made my first basketball shot during recess.  I had never been a good athlete and honestly didn’t try to play sports because of it but one afternoon some of my friends drug me out on the basketball court and demanded I keep trying until one of the shots went in.  When it finally did they celebrated like crazy and proclaimed it official John Wilburn day, I cried.  While that memory was a happy one it was also humiliating since it emphasized my lack of athleticism.  And from then one whenever I struggled at a sport of any kind that feeling of shame overcame me (even if it was frisbee on the beach).

Dealing with the core experiences is a painful one but an important step because it allows me to understand where that emotion comes from.  The shame isn’t a result of my being a worthless person who can’t play sports, its my mind sub-consciously remembering how humiliating it was to be bad at sports as a child.  And going deeper it was embarrassment that friends would call it John Wilburn day and I would cry just because a basketball shot went in.  Those humiliating experiences can be dealt with in a way that honors God, but not until after we have uncover them as the reason why we must be loved.

Because of Who He is,

John Wilburn

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John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

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