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Approval Seeking

Approval Seeking

If you identify with five or more of these statements – there is a strong likelihood that you have this schema.


I worry a lot about what people think of me.

Many of my decisions have been based on what other people will think.
In social situations, I get anxious that people are judging me or don’t like me.
I tend to change how I act and talk depending on who I am with.
I don’t feel like I have a strong sense of identity.

Lots of praise and attention from others makes me feel worthwhile.

I want everyone to like me.
Having money and status is really important to me.
My self esteem is very dependent on what other people think of me.
I tend to dwell on what I have said or done, worrying that I might have offended someone.
The Approval Seeking Schema is driven by a deep need to be liked and recognised.

It’s actually very healthy and normal to want to be liked – it is one of our essential survival needs. Back when we lived in tribes – our only protection was in the safety of the group so if we weren’t ‘approved’ of we would have probably been thrown out and left on our own to perish.

Approval seeking only becomes a problem when it causes us emotional problems or gets in the way of achieving personal fulfillment.

How It Can Affect Our Lives

With this schema, one of the main problems is the loss of a true sense of self and identity.

We spend so much time and energy trying to work out what will make other people like us that we totally ignore our own true needs, feelings and desires.

We have a strong people pleasing streak – the thought of someone rejecting us or not liking us is just too much to bear so we spend a lot of time trying to work out what other people want from us that will make them like us.

This can be exhausting as we end up constantly ruminating over things we’ve said or done in case we might have inadvertently hurt someone.

We can end up like a chameleon – always changing who we are depending on who we are with.

Appearances are really important to us , so we can become quite obsessed by our bodies, our hair, our clothes, and our material possessions.

Some of my clients who have this schema say that they can never really relax when they are with others as they are constantly worrying that they might say something that will upset others, come across as stupid or sound boring.

This can cause a lot of social anxiety Emotionally we can end up struggling with low self esteem, feelings of emptiness, loneliness, confusion and eventually depression.

Because we don’t really know who we are, we can’t really connect with others on a deep intimate level and our need for real connection is rarely met.

This schema also causes a hyper-sensitivity to rejection – which has a huge impact on relationships and on our own emotional state. Sometimes we will see a disagreement or difference of opinion as ‘rejection’ and lash out at people or get extremely upset and emotional.

We also don’t really feel fulfilled in our lives as the majority of choices are not made with our own needs and desires in mind.
We can end up in careers we don’t like, relationships that are shallow and superficial, and taking up hobbies purely because they ‘are cool’ and look good to others.


Approval seeking schema develops in families where:

There was a lot of importance placed on ‘keeping up appearances’ and on what other people thought.
Parents were very controlling around what hobbies and interests their children had and what path in school they should take.
Where love and attention was only given when children ‘pleased’ their parents in some way.
Basically, as children, approval seekers were not encouraged to develop their own ideas, opinions, likes, dislikes or path through life and so they don’t develop a true, stable sense of self.