Summary: Have you ever found yourself trying to get people’s approval? I’m sure we have all been in this position but sometimes we can go a little overboard with it-even be obsessed with it. Let’s see why this is a problem and what we can do to overcome it.
Have you ever found yourself trying to get people’s approval? I’m sure we have all been in this position but sometimes we can go a little overboard with it-even be obsessed with it. For some of us, we’re not just trying to please one or two people but everyone-we’re ‘people pleasers’. Let’s see why this is a problem and what we can do to overcome it.
1) The chameleon syndrome. A chameleon is a reptile that can change colors to adapt to their surroundings. This came to be used as a term to describe someone who changes who they are depending on who they’re around. This would be a characteristic of someone who is always looking for approval.
So what’s the problem with that? I lose my sense of identity. We want so badly to have other people’s approval that we compromise who we are in the process. I don’t really hold any solid convictions about anything. Your opinion becomes my opinion. I find myself agreeing with everyone about everything. I may start out disagreeing with you about something but I’m afraid to say it. And in my desire to please you my mind will change about it and I’ll change my opinion solely by my desire to please you.
But what happens when I am trying to please everyone and I meet people who hold the opposite opinion about something? I will then agree with you. Eventually, because I’m trying to please everyone and I’m trying to be agreeable with everyone I will remove myself from having any solid opinions about practically everything. My opinions vary depending on who I’m around.
This can happen not only with opinions but with my character and looks as well. In relationships and friendships I try to adapt to fit with your style. Even my personality is nebulous because I become who you want me to be. I look how you want me to look; I talk how you want me to talk. In doing so I lose the sense of who I really am. I lose my identity because my identity is wrapped up in how you want me to be. This might sound a little extreme but I’m sure we have all done things like this on some level; we all suffer from the chameleon syndrome to some degree.
2) Why are we like that?
• We think we have to be people-pleasers. We’re taught to not be selfish; we’re taught to do for others before doing for ourselves. So we think it’s noble and sacrificial to please others. Not that it’s necessarily wrong to try to please people. We are supposed to be focused on serving others-when it’s done to please Jesus.
Therein lies the problem-it’s noble and Christ like when I’m doing it for him but when I am focused on being a people pleaser I am actually focused on pleasing myself. I am looking for approval; I am looking to make myself feel better. I hate feeling inadequate so I will do anything to make you accept me.
So, ultimately it’s not really about you at all-it’s about me. But even if my focus is on you it can still be wrong because it’s not right to do everything people want me to do. It’s not healthy for me or the other person. It creates dependency-I become an enabler. I’m not helping you-I’m hurting you.
• Getting approval makes us feel good. We can look to be validated in so many things. Our looks, our physique, our intelligence, our abilities; you name it. Social media-we determine our likeability based on how many Facebook friends we have. And if you de-friend me it’s devastating because I translate it to mean I’m not friend material (even though the person who de-friended me is someone I haven’t seen in 20 years).
Why is it that I could have 20 people say they like me but one person says they don’t and it sends me spiraling out of control? We are people who are not accustomed to having our worth validated. That’s one of the reasons it feels so good when we get it. Therefore getting approval from others, especially by those we love and respect, can actually be like a drug-we get feelings of elation when we’re validated in something.
Perhaps we grew up without any encouragement or expressions of acknowledgment when we did a good job. It's so easy for people to focus and highlight what they see wrong in someone. We may have grown up having our faults highlighted and our accomplishments minimized if acknowledged at all. But we continued to spend our time trying to get our parents to tell us we did a good job-perhaps to no avail.
So we go through life trying to prove ourselves to others; trying to impress people-trying so desperately to get someone to acknowledge our accomplishments. So when someone does it’s a high for us. And when that high goes away we are found ‘jonesing’ for the next high. So we desperately look for that validation again so we can feel good again.