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4 Ways Your Approval-Seeking Behaviors Sabotage Your Success

Alex Pursglove Speak Up Women quote

Approval-seeking behaviors pose a pervasive challenge that can impede your journey toward your highest levels of success and fulfillment. These challenges are prevalent in today’s culture. In fact, more than half of Americans, per a recent YouGov.com survey, acknowledge people-pleasing tendencies. Notably, women are 56% more likely than men to identify with such behaviors. Additionally, 64% of women admit to prioritizing others’ needs at the expense of their own.

Through both personal experience and years of working with women entrepreneurs, I consistently observe a reluctance to assert our voices, stand for our truth, and advocate for ourselves. Culture, societal norms, religious programming, and upbringing often condition us to believe that we should pursue universal likability, seek validation from others to feel good about ourselves, and avoid rocking the boat.

This conditioning creates approval-seeking behaviors that can sabotage your success. These behaviors always come back to relying on others to accept and validate you, often manifesting as saying “yes” when you truly wish to decline; getting everyone else’s opinion before you make decisions or seeking reassurance after the fact; feeling anxious about others’ responses to you; and taking disagreements or judgements about you personally. They can also include changing your beliefs and behaviors based on who you are with or behaving in ways that are contrary to what you actually think, feel, or desire. The list goes on.

4 Limitations of Approval-Seeking

Now, how do these approval seeking behaviors sabotage you, and what can you do about it?

  • Accept that not everyone will like you because striving to please everyone results in resonating with no one.

Every highly successful individual attracts haters. While this fact might be logically clear, taking disagreements or judgments personally often leads to hiding your true self or diluting your message, making it harder to stand out from the crowd and connect with aligned people.

In my initial experiences with a private mentor in 2020, she promptly identified the need for more specificity in my target audience and my messaging. I was trying to appease everyone, which led to being undistinguished from the herd and bringing in misaligned clients. This also caused headaches and doubts about my coaching abilities.

Once I precisely defined my ideal client, I decided to create a public masterclass tailored to them. Overcoming my fears, I approached the class’s marketing as a “love letter” to my ideal client. I envisioned a woman I wanted to address, crafting all content in service to her — aiming for her to feel seen and understood to the core. Not everyone would agree or like my message, but it would speak profoundly to her.

This focused approach not only garnered significant interest from my target audience, but also led to the successful launch of a lucrative group program for years.

Self-reflection and evaluating your service to others when you speak up are valid practices. But it’s crucial to distinguish this from stifling your voice to avoid displeasing others. Finding and expressing your voice will naturally attract those aligned with you, fostering connections with those you can best serve.

  • Recognize that your external world reflects your inner state and thus, people-pleasing will keep you from playing bigger.

When you habitually say “yes” to please others, the subconscious message you send yourself is that who you really are and what you want does not matter. What you desire only gets to matter if other people say it does.

Reaching your highest success and fulfillment doesn’t involve conforming to others’ expectations. True fulfillment comes when you speak and live from your deepest truth, and thus, avoiding the dimming of your light. Discovering your truth requires breaking free from the limiting belief systems that you acquire throughout your life.

Aligning with your purpose, passions, and potential comes when you individuate from the worldview of your upbringing and uncover your own authentic beliefs and passions, thus embracing your true self.

A client’s story illustrates this beautifully. I once worked with a bright, bold, and beautiful woman with immense emotions and ideas. Growing up, she believed her strong emotions would push people away. Expressing herself emphatically led to feelings of rejection, prompting her to spend years toning down her personality. This self-suppression resulted in depression and hiding her true self to avoid offending others.

In her entrepreneurial journey, these approval-seeking behaviors hindered her from passionately sharing her message with her ideal clients. Constant self-doubt and second-guessing of her ideas held her back. However, upon releasing this limiting belief system and shedding approval-seeking, she began to amplify her voice. She was able to  bring her authentic message into the world with conviction.

Granting herself the approval she had always craved, she started playing so much bigger and bringing more of her true desires to life. Today, she joyfully teaches young girls how to embrace their emotions and love their true selves. Her story exemplifies the transformative power of releasing the need for approval and boldly shining your light for others.

  • Success that fulfills you requires aligning your life with your true desires. Seeking validation from others blocks you from getting clarity in what you truly desire.

Your true desires — the desires that make you feel good and that you are called to do to elevate those around you — live inside of you. Trusted advisors and friends can offer guidance, but these desires are intrinsic. Relying on reassurance from others is like trying to get stronger by letting someone else lift the weights for you.

Connect deeply with yourself to tap into your true desires. Understand your fears, patterns, limiting beliefs, and true beliefs.  Know what makes you feel good and what you enjoy. Consider what bothers you and what aligns with you. 

Then, practice radical self-acceptance by removing self-judgment and the need for external validation. Doubting? Encourage and reassure yourself. Allow yourself to feel all your emotions, and if imposter syndrome arises, speak up for yourself. Have your own back. Take a stand for you the way that you would a friend or child.

Knowing and accepting yourself leads to deeper trust in your intuition, allowing true desires to be seen with more clarity. When you listen to yourself and trust in your true desires, your intuition brings forth creative ideas to bring those desires to life.

  • Seeking others’ input for decisions stifles your greatest asset — your intuition. Trust in this powerful guide because it’s your pathway to expansion.

This innate power that your body holds within you, your intuition, always knows what you need. Tuning into what feels good in your body — gut intuition — provides a powerful internal compass for decision-making. It is always guiding you toward more solutions, opportunities, creativity, and expansion. Prioritizing others’ approval over accessing your deep desires limits the opportunities to step into your higher self and bigger vision.

Years ago, while working with mentors on marketing strategies, their ideas didn’t resonate with me at the time. I tapped into my heart and what truly excited me, leading to envisioning live events. Trusting my intuition, I developed Lunch & Learn workshops for women entrepreneurs in my hometown, attracting wonderful new clients and elevating my revenue. My mentors’ strategies were solid, and I integrated some of them down the line. But first, I followed my intuition because it understands my gifts and passions better than anyone.

This is why in my own work I always guide women with a blend of business strategies while also learning how to tap into their true desires and inner guidance. Your intuition is your most powerful guide — value it, which values your true self.

How Crushing Approval-Seeking Behaviors Empowers You

The bottom line is that while approval-seeking behaviors may create more comfort on the journey, they hinder success and fulfillment at the highest level. Embracing the reality that you can give yourself the approval you need allows for more authentic connections, breaking free from limiting beliefs, and aligning us with our true selves and deepest desires.

Tapping into your true desires, practicing radical self-acceptance, and trusting your intuition provide the pathway to both authentic self-expression and greater outcomes. If you have struggled with approval seeking behaviors, know that you are not alone. It takes many of us time and intentionality to learn to speak up for ourselves and own our worth from the inside out. Yet when you are willing to courageously embrace discomfort, disrupt these patterns, and boldly embrace your uniqueness, your light will shine more radiantly and powerfully for others.

Learn more about Alex Pursglove and her journey at the Speak Up Women Conference.

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