Seeking disapproval, instead of seeking approval? Well, it may help you to become more self-directed. The founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Dr. Albert Ellis, regularly encouraged his patients to make their own choices, assert their rights, and attack their shame, so as to become more self-directed. In the process, he taught them that they could survive and thrive in the face of another person's disapproval, even if they wanted approval very badly.
Most would agree that it is probably normal to occasionally ask your friends and family for their opinions, and to consider their opinions when you make a big decision. However, when it gets out of hand, you'll see that you're attempting to tailor your decisions to please your friends and family; at that point, you might lose your inner sense of what’s right for you, what some call your inner compass, or what REBT calls self-direction.
Over time, losing sight of your inner compass may mean that you're likely to opt for choices based more upon what would be pleasing to someone else, instead of you. Doing this repeatedly can lead you to convince yourself that you need to please others--the impetus for neediness and codependency: Needy? 5 Tips To Stop Codependent People Pleasing!)
So, how can you learn to reconnect with your inner compass and develop greater self-direction, so that you are not so easily swayed by the whims of others? By building up to your autonomy, and eventually even seeking disapproval (depending upon your situation), you'll be well on your way!
Here are 5 tips to get you started!
1. Practice self-assertion regularly. Whenever possible, practice asserting yourself. If you would like to go to a specific restaurant or movie, express your preference. You might realize that you do not disappoint others as often as you might predict; and that even if you occasionally disappoint someone else, it isn't the end of the world! In addition, you might even learn that your opinion is useful to others, and this will help you ease into greater comfort with self-assertion.
2. Check in with yourself before making decisions. If you're feeling confused about a decision, slow down. Take a few deep breaths and ask yourself, "What do I want more? Am I making this choice to please someone else, or because it is what is really best for my long-term wellbeing?" If the answer isn't apparent to you, consider delaying your response until you gain greater clarity.
3. Share your point of view. People who chronically people-please often hide their opinions. In an attempt to blend in like a chameleon, they hide their true colors, and may even forget what they are! If you're in that boat, practice sharing your point of view with others. Simple statements of your preferences to others such as, "I really enjoy ___," or, "I find ___ challenging," will teach you that it is okay to speak your mind and reveal your perspective with others. Usually people feel closer to those who self-disclose, and eventually, you can expand this practice. For example, instead of just stating your perspective, you can start to have short conversations with others.
4. Help someone else to break free from their approval-seeking stance. Sometimes as you tutor someone else, you find answers in yourself that were there all along. Not only will helping another support them, but it may also help you to reconnect with your natural inclination toward self-direction.
5. Learn to tolerate, then welcome, and maybe even seek the disapproval of others! Train yourself to be more self-directed by facing your fear of disapproval. One way is to start with tolerating slight social disapproval, instead of obsessing over gaining social praise. As you progress and fear disapproval less, practice welcming it as an opportunity to free yourself from the approval-addiction mindset! Focus on the advantages of disapproval, and occasionally even challenge yourself to seek these: healthy debate, teaching someone something that you know, practicing self-expression, learning to assert yourself, and broadening your point of view through even exchanges.
Developing your self-direction through repeated practice will help you to feel more socially relaxed and help you to re-discover your inner compass.
For more encouragement on becoming self-directed, you might care to subscribe to Insourcing, and to read The Power of Inner Guidance: Seven Steps to Tune In and Turn On, by Dr. Pam Garcy.