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What Drives Our Need for Praise? Is it Healthy or Unhealthy

One of the most difficult personal battles to overcome is accepting that we do not need others praise or feedback to feel good about ourselves. At times this obstacle becomes overwhelmingly difficult when we seek the approval of individuals who are close to us. These people include family members, longtime friends and significant others.

The basic question that people ask is:

“Why do I need to have a certain person’s approval or positive feedback in order to feel good about myself?”

Consider a typical situation that you may have experienced. More than likely you have a parent. As the child you feel that you need their praise or positive words in order to feel good about yourself or the action that you have completed. Let’s say that you received a job promotion and told your parent(s) about it. Your parents provided you with a neutral response. The response you would have wanted was very different than that which you received. As a result, you feel down, sad and even depressed over the incident.

Yet, the incident was supposed to a positive one. You technically received a job promotion and you should have gained some sort of positive praise. As the child, you more than likely, feel that your parents should “take on the role” of providing you with positive praise or approval. Yet, they did not and you feel down.

So, the basic question is:

“Why do I need to have a certain person’s approval or positive feedback in order to feel good about myself?”

Approval or praise inclines us to feel:

  • Better about ourselves
  • Elevated self-esteem
  • Elevated self-confidence
  • Loved and connected
  • Valued

The reason is truly complex and intertwined with a history of experiences. As a therapist, I love to create simplicity around my work. In doing that, the reason is due to the association and the “unrealistic” expectation between you and that certain person.

In the example above, the association is between a parent and a child. If you truly consider what the stereotypical relationship between a parent and child should be. You more than likely think of a strong bond, a powerful relationship, and a meaningful relationship. Again, a stereotypical relationship. In addition, there is the “unrealistic” expectation that is created. Although the child should over time come to know and understand their parent. Their often remains a gap in understanding and accepting who the person is inside and out.

Before moving any further, I want to provide what I like to call a text book example. The example below, is very similar to the one above. Simply another viewpoint so that you can gain further understanding into why we seek approval.

I’m sure that many of you understand that there are different types of parents. For instance, there are parents who praise their kids when the child performs well in areas of their life. On the other hand, there are parents who only insert their input only when the child performs negatively. A simple example would be a parent that barks at their child when the child receives a “C” on the report card. However, this same parent over the past school year never praised the child over receiving A’s and B’s consistently.

Okay, so you get the basic point.

Now let’s return to the question:

“Why do I need to have a certain person’s approval or positive feedback in order to feel good about myself?”

Your next question more than likely is:

  • “What can I do about this?”


  • “How do I address this?”

In order to address this area of your life, you need to revisit the examples above and truly reflect on:

  • The association between you and that “certain person”.
  • Accepting the “certain person”.

Let’s work together through a therapeutic exercise.

Step 1:

I want you to reflect on the relationship that you are holding dearly.

Step 2:

Identify how you feel about the situation. During this step, you are searching for feelings that are as a result of the relationship and what took place.

Step 3:

Reflect back on the character of the person. Consider the type of person they are. Their morals and ethics. Think back to examples that took place between the two of you.

Step 4:

Reflect back on the situation in which you wanted approval or praise from. As you reflect back on it, work to give yourself approval. For instance, if you received a promotion at work. Identify all of the positive reasons why you received the promotion.

Step 5:

Create a realistic association between you and the person. During the realistic association, I want you to truly consider what the person would more than likely say or do. For instance, if you know that your parent only corrects you when you do something wrong. Accept it. I understand that it stinks and it is simply not fair or healthy in a relationship. Yet, this is about you and remember, you can only work on yourself.

Step 6:

At this point you should be able to accept the person for who they are while providing yourself with the praise and positive notions. In addition, your acceptance of the person should strengthen the relationship in respect to further understanding them.


Seeking praise from others is natural. It is something that we are pretty much trained to do from an early age. As we enter school, we are taught to display positive behaviors in order to receive a golden star or positive report card. As we build connections in life, their tends to be this system that we internally create. The system inclines us to feel more connected and associated with the person. When we do not receive positive praise, it can often create damage.

I hope that today’s reading brought you insight and awareness.


cover image by unsplash ashley bean