One trait that many disregulated eaters have in common is the desire for the approval of others. Sadly, not receiving this hoped-for approval can provoke disappointment, frustration, rage—and a whopper of a binge. While practicing strategies to disconnect internal distress from unwanted eating, it’s also essential to let go of approval-seeking thoughts and behavior. Here’s what you can do.
You’ve read it in books and heard from scores of experts: Self-approval is more important than other-approval, and the only approval you’ll ever need is from yourself. Yet you go on making others’ opinions matter more than they should and continue to fear that people in general or particular individuals will be unhappy with you if you assert your needs. When you’re desperate for your father, mother, lover, partner, friend, colleague, boss or spouse to like—or love—you, you forget that you’re fully grown and can function perfectly well without them being favorably disposed toward you.
The truth is, you erroneously think you need their approval. What you’re reacting to when you obsess about and insist upon getting someone’s approval is how terrified you felt as a child without receiving it. You did need to please Mom and Dad when you were in their care. Disapproval might have meant punishment, shaming, or neglect. Your physical and emotional life—your very survival itself!—was dependent on them loving and valuing you. When you slip into “I must have his/her approval” mode now, what you’re tapping into is your childhood neediness, not your current, adult reality.
Especially if you’re still seeking praise or recognition from Mom or Dad, it’s time to stop (I mean now, dead in your tracks, this minute!) and ask yourself what will happen if you don’t get it other than your feeling badly? Are you really afraid of their disapproval now or are you remembering how you felt when you were a child? Back then was a truly scary, overwhelming time. Moreover, if Mom or Dad couldn’t give you what you wanted as a child, it’s quite unlikely (unless they’ve spent the intervening years mellowing out on their own or in therapy) that they will be able to provide it in the present.
Think about all the things you can do for yourself as an adult that you depended on your parents for as a child. Consider the growth of your brain, your greater understanding of the world, and expanded self-care capacities. Let go of believing you need others’ approval. You are an adult now and can fend for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally. Do yourself the honor of believing it and act accordingly.