Posted by: JennyRain | December 3, 2006

AfterEve 4: Approval Addiction 101

All my decisions are made in an attempt to make everyone happy and my life is becoming a mess!

Repeat after me. Hi, my name is [insert name here] and I am an approval addict.

Do you get a high when others praise you? Does your emotional temperature bottom out when criticism blows into town? Does your heart do the flutter-dance when you have truly spoken your mind and the only response from those around you are blank stares? If so, you may be suffering from approval addiction…

For years I defined myself by what others told me I was. The answer to “who am I” became whatever the closest person defined me as. Should that definition include another’s dysfunction, I wore it. Another’s shame, I adopted it. Someone else’s expectations, I lived up to them. My identity was wrapped up in externals, both seen and unseen, touchable and unreachable. If they changed, I changed. If they morphed, I morphed. I was the great chameleon, becoming all things to all people, to their delight, and at my detriment.

Though successful for a modicum of time, this great masking of my personality, my desires, my needs, and my wants always needed an act two, an intermission, or an ending to the theatre of my existence. And as I exited the stage and rested in the wings, I removed my mask and for an instant, returned to myself. But in that place of authenticity, I did not know who I was. It was during scene changes that I felt the greatest sense of despair and crisis, because I had lost my audience. I did not know who I was without an audience telling me what to be. My masks were never far from reach.

Living only to please

I spent twenty-nine years suffering from approval addiction. What finally began slaying and slicing each layer of this addiction off of me was a good, hard look at what my addiction had cost me. I had spent so long pleasing other people that I did not know who I was anymore. I was in a bad relationship, suffering a mediocre job, enduring a lousy spiritual life, and feeling isolated and alone because I did not feel that anyone knew the “real” me.

I finally woke up one day as I was cleaning the ever-deteriorating wood on my front steps. The harder I scrubbed, the more the wood resisted my scrubbing, until I finally screamed in frustration “I did not even want to own a house anyway! I would rather live in an apartment!”

And it hit me.

My life was about completing the checklist. I went to the “right” college. Got great grades. Joined the “right” sorority. Picked the right major and got into the “right” job. Got married before thirty. Purchased my first home. I did everything that I was supposed to do – according to the checklist of expectations – and had landed my life in a mess. And as I watched the crumbling pieces of my front porch disintigrate into wood chips, the splinters reached out and stuck me. I had no idea who I was.

Who am I?

The most devastating cost that you will pay as an approval addict is loss of identity. You spend your life living behind the masks that others place on you and you wear them for so long that you lose touch with yourself.

I did not know what I wanted, or what I liked. What music was my favorite? What were my goals?

What was my favorite food? I smacked headlong into the question “Who am I?” and did not have an answer.

The cost you pay as an approval addict is the cost of self. And this is a cost not worth paying.

Celebrating Self

There is a beauty in your uniqueness. God has created you to be unique and God does not create junk. He values your individuality. Celebrate who you are, and if that is different than everyone around you, that is ok. By the grace of God, you are who you are… and if He is not worried that you are a complex, complicated, unique creature, then why should you be?

Learn to celebrate and accept who you are. If you have not yet learned who you are, spend some time getting to know YOU. Keep a journal of likes and dislikes for six months.

The world needs to see the authentic you.


1 Corinthians 15:5 But by the grace of God I am what I am…

All writing on this blog copyrighted by author 12.2.2006 (c)

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Responses

  1. Jenny – this such a God thing that I read this this morning about approval addiction. I am spending time today with a friend who totally struggles with this – to an extreme and destructive degree. I’m going to read this with her, to let her know that’s she’s not alone and that Jesus will set her free. thank you! mel


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