When you crave the approval of others: the approval seeking recognition schema

Do you find yourself always wanting to make a good impression on others? Do you try to do what you think others will think is cool or will be appreciated by other people? Maybe you spend a lot of time making sure you do the latest hobbies, focusing on your social standing, making sure you wear the right kind of clothes  and taken holidays that you know others will admire. Do you focus a lot on what other people think of your status and how likeable you are?  

One of the patterns that forms as a result of unmet childhood needs is called the approval seeking schema. If you have this schema you spend a lot of time seeking approval not because you want glory or to be the best, but  because you want to receive the approval and appreciation of others. You  feel you need to prove you are loveable and interesting, because you don’t believe you are loveable or likeable for who you are.

If you have this schema you may appear to have a very shiny life. You  may indeed succeed in getting the approval of others. But the major downside to this pattern is that you won’t feel you are truly loveable and worthy of attention for who you are, because you will attribute people liking you to all these behaviours you engage in to get the approval, rather than attributing it to who you are as a person. The vulnerable part of you continues to feel a lot of pain. In fact the sense of who you are can get further and further away, if you are doing a whole heap of things you don’t truly like because you want other people to like or approve of you. You may even feel empty or fake and it is likely your inner critic will continue to label you not good enough.

The other downside of this pattern is it can be exhausting and expensive to maintain and it all at comes at the cost of your true self. Time, money and energy levels going down the drain and all the while you feel no closer to being liked and loved for who you are or even finding out what that is.

If you’re caught in the trap of the approval seeking pattern, it’s possible to change. You can to stop this treadmill of a life and build one in which you feel acceptable and loveable for who you are, not what you do or how you appear on the outside.

Therapy can help you understand what unmet need drives this pattern for you, the pros and cons of this pattern and the situations it gets triggered in. But also, it can help you learn some different ways of getting your needs met instead of using unhelpful coping modes. By building your healthy adult mode and reducing or banishing your inner critic, therapy can allow you to discover what you really like and how you want to spend your money and time. 

You will need to experiment with what you like but also learn to tolerate potential disapproval. And ultimately give up the addiction of approval seeking for a more satisfying life that is about meeting your needs and interest, not just seeking the approval of others.


  • Nadene van der Linden

    Nadene van der Linden is a Clinical Psychologist, Accredited EMDR Consultant and Therapist and Advanced Certified Schema Therapist. Nadene has a special interest in trauma and uses active therapy approaches including schema therapy, EMDR, and chairwork therapy techniques. Nadene is a Board Approved Supervisor and supervises and mentors psychologists and other mental health therapists. Nadene offers online training for therapists at nadenevanderlinden.com

    http://schematherapycollective.com support@nadenevanderlinden.com van der Linden Nadene