Approval-Seeking/Recognition-Seeking Schema

We all may occasionally enjoy recognition and approval from people around us for the things we do. However, individuals who have developed an Approval and Recognition-Seeking Schema,  may experience an excessive compulsion or need to receive approval from others that can influence their decisions on what they pursue and how they interact with people.

Importantly, when this approval is given, it can make their day seem fantastic, whereas if it is even slightly withdrawn, things can come crashing down emotionally. This can leave one's sense of self-esteem on very wobbly legs and highly dependent on the opinions and agendas of other people. 

The actual need behind this schema is to feel confident in our core sense of self and worthy or lovable as who we are, independent from the opinions of others.

 

Reactions from the Approval & Recognition-Seeking Schema

There are three ways in which people often react when this schema is activated.

✽   Surrender

Surrendering, or giving in to the schema, involves hoping and working for others' approval by trying to impress them. This can be pretty tiring.

✽   Avoidance

Avoidance involves avoiding people who are in roles with functions that include giving permission or approval. Such individuals are often unseen in the workplace. People get confused about what kinds of jobs they are responsible for.

✽   Overcompensation

Overcompensation involves being purposefully offensive or incompliant in order to gain the disapproval of those they want the approval of.

 

Causes of the Approval & Recognition-Seeking Schema

As children, approval seekers were not encouraged to develop their ideas, opinions, likes, dislikes or paths through life, and so they lack an accurate, stable sense of self. For instance: 

  • There was a lot of importance placed on 'keeping up appearances' and what other people thought.
  • Parents were very controlling around their children's hobbies and interests and what path in school they should take
  • Love and attention were only given when children 'pleased' their parents in some way.

 

Effects of the Approval & Recognition-Seeking Schema

With this schema, one of the main problems is losing a true sense of self and identity. One spends so much time and energy trying to work out what will make other people like us that they ignore their own actual needs, feelings and desires.

This can be exhausting as individuals end up constantly ruminating over things we have said or done in case they might have inadvertently hurt someone. Individuals can end up like a chameleon - constantly changing who they are depending on who they are with. 

This schema also causes hypersensitivity to rejection, which significantly impacts relationships and emotional states. For example, sometimes individuals will see a disagreement or difference of opinion as 'rejection' and lash out at people or get extremely upset and emotional. 

This schema also prevents people from feeling fulfilled in their lives as most choices are not made with their own needs and desires in mind. Individuals can end up in careers they do not like, shallow and superficial relationships, and taking up hobbies purely because they 'are cool' and look good to others.

 

Treatment for the Approval & Recognition-Seeking Schema

Schema Therapy

Schema Therapy probes more deeply into early life experiences. In addition, it utilises experimental, cognitive, behavioural and interpersonal (object relations) techniques, which promotes higher levels of emotions in sessions and is somewhat longer-term. 

In Schema Therapy, therapists help clients to understand how they get things done.

Clients learn to differentiate between situations where it is necessary to ask for permission or approval and when it is possible to work on their own. In this way, individuals feel more capable of what they do, especially in work or study environments.

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