Are you an approval junkie?

What Donna can teach you about whose approval matters

Did you chase gold stars when you were a kid? Do you dress to impress? Are you available 24/7 to keep your boss happy? If you said yes to any of these things, you’re not alone! I’ve done all these things at times.

There is nothing wrong with having high standards, doing a great job and wanting to get recognized for your efforts. It’s human nature to want to feel appreciated and valued by others. But when you develop a pattern of pleasing and rely on others to validate you, the price can be high.

I coached a client recently (we’ll call her Donna) who had been working for a demanding and highly critical boss for several years. In order to please him, she regularly worked long hours, took on other people’s work and sacrificed her weekends (and sometimes, even her holidays). He rarely thanked her and though her work made a lot of money for the company, she never got a raise. Yet she continued to work herself to the point of exhaustion.

A few weeks ago, he told her the company was moving in a different direction and her position was being eliminated. No thank you for her many contributions to the company or congratulations on a job well done. Instead, she got a request to spearhead a massive transition effort on a short timeline before she left so the work could be easily re-assigned to others.

At this point, weeks of not sleeping, missing meals and extreme stress had Donna on the verge of a physical collapse. She knew protecting her physical (and emotional) health was her top priority and wanted to give her notice. But she kept hesitating. Why? She didn’t want to disappoint anyone. She was worried about what other people would say. And deep down, she was still hoping for him to finally express his appreciation.

As we talked things through, Donna had a major ah-ha.

Depending on someone else for her sense of worth, fulfillment and happiness had created the exact opposite effect. It undermined her personal power. Eroded her confidence. And caused her to feel angry and resentful.

Through our coaching, she created an exit plan on her terms. She outlined the work she would do and named her last day. Was the boss disappointed and annoyed when she shared it with him? You bet he was! Did he ever give her that thank you she worked so hard for? No, he didn’t.

But Donna got something much more important: a renewed sense of self-respect.

She feels empowered because she took charge of her life, made the decision that served her best and took action. Her confidence has soared, her stress level has dropped and she is ready to find a new job (and a better boss).

Donna reminded me of this truth.

When you live your life to please other people, you’ll never be happy. The approval you’re seeking from them is what you need to find within yourself.

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