I didn’t think it was an issue.
Sure, I wanted people to like me; doesn’t everyone? I wanted people to think I was smart, pretty and accomplished. I worked hard to please all of the people, all of the time.
I wanted everyone to approve of me, but no matter how hard I tried, I could never get everyone’s approval in every area of life. One person might be impressed by my career progress, while another was unimpressed by how many hours I put in. Someone might compliment me on my outfit, but there was always that girl who looked better than me. I spent years chasing down the impossible, addicted to the approval of others—and completely unaware of it.
When the Lord opened my eyes to this problem, I began a journey away from approval addiction. Here are my confessions: three things I learned through my attachment to approval, and how to stop people-pleasing with your life.
1. Human approval is never guaranteed.
We seek approval because we want to fill that empty place in our hearts: that need for value, purpose and worth. But approval creates a vacuum in that space, sucking our time, energy and joy as we strive for the approval of those around us. It is a fruitless chase. Human approval is never guaranteed; opinions change, friendships falter and we will fail at some point in our lives. Our worth cannot depend on the disappointment or approval of others. If it does, we will never find peace or rest.
I know this to be true. The more I chased human approval, the less satisfied I was with my life. I had no peace. I couldn’t rest. There was always something more to be done or achieved. “Maybe this time my boss will notice me,” I’d tell myself. “Maybe this time the cool girl will want to be my friend.” But even if my boss noticed or I joined the “in crowd,” there was always another group I wasn’t in. There was always someone else who didn’t approve.
Stop chasing human approval. Seek the approval of God. His is the only love that is guaranteed.
2. Your worth is not determined by popular vote.
If we think our worth will increase the more people approve of us, we deceive ourselves. Our worth is intrinsic, created within us at the moment of conception. We don’t have worth because of what we do, or it could be lost. We have worth because we are created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27) and, through Jesus, are His messengers to this world:
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
When we embrace our intrinsic value and mobilize it for the glory of God, we stop caring what other people think. Love, rather than approval, motivates our actions. It’s no longer about us but about them.
Approval addiction is at its core self-focus, and is only overcome as we embrace our God-given identity and purpose in this world.
3. God’s approval is the only one of eternal significance.
It feels good to be approved by others, and there is nothing wrong with accepting this approval! But we need to stop defining ourselves by what others think and instead seek the approval of God. Only God’s approval matters in the end. Only God’s opinion leads us into a life of holiness and purpose.
God has outlined His requirements for approval in His Word. By reading and implementing what He says, we are guaranteed His approval:
For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. (Romans 14:18)
In seeking God’s approval, we are aligned with His will and mission for mankind. This in turn makes us a light of love to our communities. While some people still won’t accept you, you will no longer live under the burden of approval addiction. God’s approval brings freedom, breaking the bonds of pleasing people so you can serve them with a whole heart.