The Creativity Cure

A do-it-yourself prescription for happiness

On the Wish to be Treasured and the Hunger for Praise

How to conjure and create the appreciation you seek

Oh, how we beam when we are told the paper is an A, the poem is publishable, the song made me weep or the house is beautiful. It is so tempting to alter a natural course in order to be liked. Is clamoring for positive feedback healthy? Can you, should you detach and just keep doing what makes sense to you? If your inclinations do not sync with the surround, would you feel better conforming or separating? This applies to everything from what you post, to how you decorate, to what you wear, to how you raise your kids.

While there are practical reasons to please or impress, too much compliance can deflate joy and create anxiety. Pursuing a positive response can cut you off from your essential core. If you contort inner leanings for the sake of being liked, your vibrancy might fade. You might be consumed with scanning, competing and comparing your self to hotter others. A spontaneous act becomes drudgery. Passions are swept aside in favor of acceptance. External forces can start to control the way you view yourself. This can be insidiously destabilizing. By altering your inner path to get a pat on the back, you risk trading deep lasting satisfaction – a sustaining process – for a fleeting pseudo-hug.

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The wish to be liked is such a powerful, primitive urge that can be almost impossible to resist. Even if you are pretty good at reading the room, the responses of others can be inconsistent and unpredictable. They may be wrong or right in their interpretation of your output. They may understand your communication or they may not. If what you offer leaves others cold, take a mental note. Alter for the better or stay your course if it feels right, but either way, the information serves.

Above all, wonder if your need for praise is taking a stab at your sense of wellness.

Psychologist William James said that the “deepest principal of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Being appreciated (according to Webster’s dictionary) involves being valued, respected, acknowledged, understood, esteemed, cherished, prized and even loved. This would suggest that in order to satisfy this deepest principal of human nature, true connections, which we cover in our book The Creativity Cure, are key. Fleeting praise or fine reviews from strangers and friends are fun but may not fully satisfy the appreciation need.

 

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In short, the pursuit of praise is human, exciting and even useful. But if a lack of positive feedback makes you anxious, sad or lost, stop and take stock. Maybe you can live without it.

Really.

Strong relationships, purposeful work and situations where you can truly be known just might provide the appreciation you seek.

Carrie Barron, M.D., is a psychiatrist and co-author of The Creativity Cure: A Do-It Yourself Prescription for Happiness, which she wrote with her husband, Alton Barron.

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