As humans, we have this crazy drive to connect with one another. We’re wired to want to be included everywhere. There was a time when being connected and being a part of a society meant survival. Survival wherein rejection by the society meant a literal life threat. Even today, we expect the consequences of rejection to be as extreme, so we develop a fear of being rejected. This fear leads into us seeking the approval and validation of others – this is especially true - but not limited to - the workplace.
It is important to realise, however, that constant validation and approval seeking is bound to hinder our professional as well as personal growth. Constantly trying to please your boss, your managers, your clients, your colleagues is more often than not likely to lead to a shift in focus from the actual task at hand to divert your energies and time towards making sure everyone is happy.
It’s important to realise when the act of being an efficient, productive and agreeable team player has gone too far and entered a dangerous territory.
Understand and evaluate where this need for approval roots from.
It’s plausible that your need for approval today comes from growing up with a strong authoritarian figure – be it a parent or a teacher – where deviation from what you’re being told came with dire consequences. Growing up in such an environment can make approval seeking almost a necessity. Another possible reason for this could be the feeling of being left out from peer circles in school or during your higher education. The first crucial step in moving away from your dependence on seeking approval is to get to the root of what triggered it in the first place.
Become friends with rejection
Reflect back to when you didn’t deliver on time or disappointed someone. Could be your superior who asked you to re-do a task because it didn’t meet his or her expectations or you failed to deliver your project timely. Think about how you recovered from it and what your learning was? More often than not, you would have been able to turn the situation favourably and you are likely to have grown – personally and professionally. When you break it down, disapproval is a form of feedback—information you can use to improve and make your next performance even stronger. It also helps to also re-frame rejection as something positive. It means you’re moving forward and pushing limits, rather than just staying in your comfort zone.
Embrace the growth journey
When you’re present to what’s going on around you and have a mindset of growth and learning, you will find yourself freeing from your need for approval. Look around you, you won’t see growth in those who get bogged down by disapproval and feedback from others, but you are likely to find it in those individuals who find a lesson in their mistakes and don’t wait around for an approval. It’s easy to blame your lack of growth on your circumstances but take on the challenge to grow despite what seems to be holding you back.
Focus on the job and not the end result
If you are one to worry about approval, it is likely that your thinking becomes limited to reaching the outcome at the earliest using methods most pleasing to those concerned rather than evaluating possible alternatives to get the job done in the most productive way possible. Don’t attach yourself so strongly to the end result that you lose sight of the process.
Don’t just be “Yes Boss” kind of person, work on the task at hand, learn from your mistakes, seek help where it seems necessary and you will find yourself growing and learning and not getting stuck in your need for approval.