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The Need for Approval


Explanations > Needs > The Need for Approval

Need | Example | Related to | Discussion |  So what?




We all need to be approved by others, for them to evaluate us positively and consider us good and worthwhile.

For some people, this is a very strong need and they are constantly seeking approval from others. Whenever they do anything, their first thought is to show others and tacitly seek approval.


A person in a job asks their manager if the work they have done is OK.

A person in an abusive relationship constantly watches their partner for signs of disapproval.

A child wants to show their parent what they have done in school.

Related to




The need for approval often starts as a child, where parents guide us and show approval for 'correct' actions (and disapproval for incorrect ones). We may carry this into adulthood, especially when we are in relationships (at home or work) where there are superior others who direct our actions. This is not all bad for us as it automatically puts them in a superior position where they are in charge and so have responsibility for what we do. This means we can boost our sense of control in absolving ourselves from personal responsibility and hence the shame and threat of failure.

There is a sequence of acknowledgement (recognizing the person), approval (evaluating the person) and acceptance before a person is admitted to a group and so achieve the need for belonging. With further approval they gain respect, esteem and consequent status, in which they gain power and consequent control.

For many of us, this is a normal part of social activity and approval from others gives us an identity boost as we are recognized as being worthwhile.

The seeking of approval, or the concern about evaluation from others, can be seen in avoidant, dependent and perfectionist obsessive-compulsive personality disorders. When we obsess to the point that it takes over our lives about anything, then a normal life is lost.

So what?

Show approval of other people. Praise them. Say that you like what they are doing and why they are doing it. Ensure the praise is genuine. False praise may work temporarily but it can also have a hazardous backlash if people think you are being condescending or trying to control them.

When they have accepted your praise (often noticeable by smiles and other signs of pleasure), they will be more likely to comply with requests or otherwise be ready to repay you in some way.

See also

Personality Disorders, Praise, Conditioning


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