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I always think of the concept of kindness as so admirable. And it is.

I just want to raise a caution flag about the excessive use of kindness — if you have the wrong motivation. It all has to do with your intentions.

Here’s a key point. If it’s genuine kindness, that rises to a higher level. You may be the primary caregiver for a family member, for example, and it’s a job you’ve taken on knowing you will need to be giving out a great deal of energy — and you’ve accepted that.

Excessive kindness can get toxic, though, if you’re engaging in this habit to get the approval of others — and losing yourself in the process.

We all want people to like us. When you give up yourself, though, to morph into other peoples’ expectations, that’s when you enter the danger zone. You may have done it so much that you live your life on autopilot.

Take a look at this checklist and see if any of these resonate with you:

Do you worry too much about what other people think?

Before you make a decision, do you run multiple scenarios through your head to gauge how others will react?

Is your happiness dependent on others liking you?

Ding, ding, ding. If so, you may be among countless others who live this way.

Five signs that you’re a people pleaser

You agree, even when you don’t. We all pick our battles; sometimes it’s not worth going to the wall. If this is a habit, though, you may not realize that this behavior of rolling over on your principles can chip away at your own integrity.

You apologize, even when it’s not your fault. You’ll do anything to avoid conflict, even taking a hit for something you didn’t cause. This can lead to not trusting yourself.

You can’t say “no.” You don’t want anyone to think you don’t care, so you rarely say no. However, this can backfire. Since you’re not setting any boundaries, you can be taken advantage of by others, leading to frustration and exhaustion.

You worry about rejection and have a strong need for others to like you. When this becomes your driving force, you can end up being an empty shell. You change your words and actions so much — in order to get others to like you — that you start to question who you really are.

Approval addiction

When you think of addictions, you likely think of alcohol, drugs, nicotine, gambling, etc. There’s one addiction that’s much more widespread, though.

Dr. Margaret Paul, a psychotherapist and author of multiple books, including “Do I Have to Give up Me to Be Loved by You?” says, “In my experience as a counselor for 40 years, I’ve found that approval addiction is far more prevalent than any other substance or process addictions. We live in an approval-addicted society.”

Those suffering from approval addiction often live their lives on autopilot — not consciously aware they’re giving their power away.

If this sounds familiar, you may want to acknowledge you have issues in this area. Because an addiction is something that controls your behavior, it’s no wonder you act in certain ways.

Until you can accept and approve of yourself, though, no amount of approval from others will keep you secure. Dr. Paul does extensive remote training in this area with her program, Inner Bonding (www.innerbonding.com). I’m familiar with this program, and I’m aware of some wonderful results from participants.

Feeding or starving the addiction

As long as you make others your source of self-worth, you won’t find the love, peace and joy you seek. How can you start to deal with this, though?

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Baby steps can help you make changes in longstanding patterns. Since we teach people how to treat us, retraining needs to take place.

Every time you break the pattern, the pain you feel will lessen. While it takes a lot of repetition for a new pattern to form, this will be time well spent.

Emotional toolbox

Here are a few connector statements that can help you stand your ground, yet set the stage in a tactful way that doesn’t trigger defense mechanisms.

They can be “go to” statements if you feel the urge to resort to excessive kindness instead of standing up for yourself.

Have you thought about it from this angle?

I realize there are challenges with (fill in the blank).

Let’s take a look at some other options.

This may not be the right time.

It makes sense to run this by the rest of the family first.

An inside job

External validation will keep you satisfied for a while, and then the craving comes back. Just like any addict, you need that next “fix.”

The only way out of this downward spiral is to fortify yourself from within. Look at adding some new rituals into your life.

Turn off external sources like social media for short periods of time. You need to build up your self-confidence and self-reliance, and this will only come with consistent practice to go internally for validation, rather than giving in to the addiction and seeking validation externally.

Wear a covered rubber band on your wrist, and snap it every time you feel yourself pulled toward the need for external validation. Each time you have a victory, you’re getting stronger.

Some excellent books on this topic, in addition to those by Dr. Margaret Paul, include Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant, Loveability by Dr. Robert Holden and Call of the Soul by Aila Accad.

These resources can help you fortify your internal emotional strength. With repetitive practice, you’ll be able to stand up to your external approval addiction.

Now, for some parting thoughts from well-known philosophers:

“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace within ourselves.”

— The Dalai Lama

“Care too much about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner.”

— Lao Tzu

©2021 Linda Arnold Live Life Fully, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor and founder of a multistate marketing company. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org For information on her books, go to lindaarnold.org or Amazon.com.

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