McGee, Robert S.(2003). The Search for Significance. Nashville, Tennessee: W Publishing Group. (p.53-62).
Approval addiction produces unhealthy relationships as well as loneliness. Approval addicts succumb to peer pressure seeking acceptance through common interests with others we are trying to connect with. We may find it hard to love others and accept love, because we don’t “open up and reveal our inner thoughts and motives” for fear we will be rejected (p.54). This leads to “superficial” relationships or “isolation” which both result in loneliness (p.54). Our culture has ineffectively countered this problem by copying “the customs, dress, ideas, and behavioral patterns of a particular group, allowing the consensus of the group to determine what is correct for us” (p.55).
Chasing the approval of others in this manner stems from the false belief, “I must be approved by certain others to feel good about myself” (p.55). This is reinforced by people who withhold their “approval and acceptance” unless we do what pleases them. When we believe this lie we pursue others for something only God can give us. It also “causes us to fear rejection, conforming virtually all of our attitudes and actions to the expectations of others” (p.55). Fear of rejection allows us to be controlled by others as we try to stay in their good graces. Rejection capitalizes on another’s need for acceptance until it alters his behavior to fulfill our desires, thus manipulating and controlling him.
The fear of rejection can produce a variety of problems for us. Anger is generally our reaction to rejection. It is painful when people do not hold positive opinions of us, and our response to that pain is anger. “If we don’t resolve our anger through honesty and forgiveness, we can become deeply hostile and resentful (p.60).” Fear of rejection can also lead to being easily manipulated. We may not stop at anything to make others happy. Codependency is another result. This is when we continually save someone from the consequences of her bad behavior. Another common reaction is avoidance of people, through either isolation or shallow relationships. We may have many friends, but they don’t really know us which leads to loneliness. Some approval addicts become very controlling. We don’t allow people to “be themselves and make their own decisions” if we don’t approve (p.61). Controlling behavior is driven by insecurity, and not being in control is an intolerable risk.
Depression is another problem caused by fear of rejection. It results from grief or unresolved anger. “When anger is not handled properly, the body and mind respond to its intense pressure, and the emotions and sense of purpose become dulled (p. 61).” Often approval addicts replay hurtful messages over and over in our head, even when we are no longer with the person who insulted us. Replaying these messages repeatedly inflicts pain upon us. Another problem is hypersensitivity to the opinions of others. We can be consumed with speculation about what others think of us. Frequently we “project” our own disapproving thoughts about ourselves onto others, causing us to feel rejected by others which may not even be the case (p.62). The final problem that can arise from fear of rejection is hyposensitivity. We can deny our emotions and ignore other’s feelings because we are so afraid of experiencing pain.
A plethora of pain and dysfunction is caused by deriving our self-worth from the opinions of people rather than God’s opinion of us. Fear of rejection leads to superficial and unhealthy relationships which results in rejection and reinforces that fear. We cannot experience the freedom Christ died for us to have and be enslaved to pleasing others.
The following is a summary of the chapter, “Approval Addiction”, from Robert S. McGee’s book The Search for Significance. McGee claims we become addicted to the approval of others when we base our self-worth on the way we think others see us, and suffer many negative results. Approval addiction leads to unhealthy relationships and loneliness. It stems from the false belief, “I must be approved by certain others to feel good about myself” (p.55). Adhering to this belief causes us to fear rejection, which allows us to be controlled by others.