Pleasing Others: The Pursuit of Approval

Pleasing Others: The Pursuit of Approval

Working on self-esteem, changing as much as possible and accepting what we cannot change at a given moment are the solid pillars for healthy social independence.

Pleasing Others: The Pursuit of Approval

Last update: 18 November 2019

Many people are desperate to please others. They need the approval of others, without which they are unable to make decisions, choose without doubting and feel confident in their choices.

The problem is that this need gradually destroys one's self-esteem, in addition to the fact that trying to please others at all costs is exhausting and depressing.

"From an evolutionary point of view, pleasing others is the equivalent of being accepted by the herd and this is linked to greater probabilities of protection and, therefore, of survival", adds Doctor Laura Bottegoni, psychologist and psychotherapist from Bologna.

On the other hand, the need to please others is considered an irrational expectation, because it implies a perfectionist and unattainable goal: it is impossible to please everyone.

For this reason, the obsessive search for the approval of others generates in most cases a feeling of helplessness. In fact, people who live in this way are forced to change their way of being drastically depending on the context. This attitude generates a tension that often manifests itself in anxiety attacks.

Striving to please others leads to rejection

Albert Ellis, father of the ABC model, believed that much of our suffering depends on our interpretation of reality, rather than reality itself. Many irrational thoughts we adopt, therefore, only generate pain. Questioning and eliminating these thoughts is the road to sanity which, consequently, results in a better sensory life.

Interestingly, when we try to please others, the only thing we get in most cases is rejection. This refusal hurts us particularly and clashes with our personal conviction that "if I am what others want, they will accept me". This dissonance between belief, action and response we receive is what causes pain and suffering.

Yet, instead of tracing our attitude and trying to simply be ourselves, the typical reaction is to try to adapt even more to what we think are the characteristics to please others. This is how the pursuit of approval begins to be an exhausting race.

Maybe at first a servile person who always gives us reason may like us, but in the long run this pleasant feeling fades for turn into a waste. An artificial, fake person, incapable of any comparison is not interesting. This phenomenon is particularly evident in some relationships: at first they all look like roses, but over time the resentment begins to grow.

Think about how difficult it is to really know a person who does not show himself for who he is. We don't know who he is, he doesn't have a voice of his own, he tries to represent what he believes are the expectations of others.

"I don't know the key to success, but I know the key to failure is to try to please everyone."

-Woody Allen-

The hidden side of seeking approval

Pleasing others is a tiring attitude, which is why it often turns into a double-edged sword. People who live by seeking the approval of others can maintain this lifestyle for some time. But when the energies begin to drop, they find themselves overwhelmed by a feeling of malaise from which they cannot escape, because they do not have the tools and the necessary points of reference to rebuild their self-esteem. At this point, the person can react aggressively.

We all reach a limit to our simulation capability. However complacent we may be with others, pressure will appear sooner or later. The feeling of no longer being able to represent a role that does not belong to us becomes unbearable. This is how even the most intense relationships can cool down in no time.

People who worry excessively about the opinion of others often live life in terms of "all or nothing". They are unable to turn their attention to different goals, so when they get tired of something, they move directly to another, forgetting the previous one. They go from being best friends to acting like strangers.

"Nobody likes wanting to please everyone."


This course of action is highly harmful. Many people use it to manipulate, others because they simply don't know how to relate in a healthy way and they have such low self-esteem that they think anyone would run away if they knew their true personalities.

Working on self-esteem, changing as much as possible and accepting what we cannot change at a given moment are the solid pillars for healthy social independence. An independence that means autonomy, a fundamental protective factor against emotional dependence.

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