I first heard the term “approval junkie” in my favorite movie, Guy Ritchie’s Revolver. There was something poignant and very unsettling about the following assumption of the lead character, Jake Green:
“There is something about yourself that you don’t know. Something that you will deny even exists, until it’s too late to do anything about it. It’s the only reason you get up in the morning. The only reason you suffer the shitty boss, the blood, the sweat and the tears. This is because you want people to know how good, attractive, generous, funny, wild and clever you really are. Fear or revere me, but please, think I’m special. We share an addiction. We’re approval junkies. We’re all in it for the slap on the back and the gold watch. The hip-hip-hoo-fuckin’ rah. Look at the clever boy with the badge, polishing his trophy. Shine on you crazy diamond, because we’re just monkeys wrapped in suits, begging for the approval of others.”
This concept hit me like a ton of bricks. In an instant my mind was flooded with visions of countless things I do in exchange for external approval from my fellow humans. I knew I wasn’t previously aware of the intentions behind my behavior; it was completely subconscious. But I was dumbfounded nonetheless.
In my own defense, it’s not exactly my fault that I scavenge for external acclaim like a druggie foraging for her next hit. We’ve all been programmed since birth to fit in, to conform, and to not rock the boat. Offending one person might mean offending the whole, and in the not too distant past that could have meant death. Like it or not we’re evolving from a tribal mindset, where approval once equaled survival.
The inherent danger with being a modern day approval junkie is the tendency to stray from the wisdom of your intuition in order to appease the needs of others. It pains me to think of just how many Picassos or Van Gogh’s are shuffling around out there, choking on neckties because their mommy or daddy brainwashed them to believe they needed a well paid, respectable job. I know from experience that turning away from the path of your heart only leads to a life of darkness, despair, and depression.
One of my favorite quotes is, “the soul would rather fail at it’s own life, than succeed at someone else’s”. Are you living your own life? Or are you selling your soul in exchange for a nod from the cool kids or a smile from your parents? What did you do for a hit of external approval today? It’s a question worth asking.