9 signs your self-esteem is dependent on the approval of others

Would you say that you seek love?

Do you only feel fulfilled after someone comments on your appearance, or after your partner texts you to tell you they love you?

Chances are if this is hitting close to home, your self-esteem might well be a little overly-reliant on external validation.

This dependency might feel confusing and unsettling to those who draw their self-worth from within. But, it’s important to understand that everyone’s self-esteem is built differently.

Let’s delve into this topic and highlight 9 signs indicating that your self-esteem is dependent on other people’s approval.

1) Constantly hunting validation 

Ever noticed yourself needing a thumbs up (or even a nod – I’m begging!) from others before feeling good about absolutely any of your actions or decisions?

Well, this could be a clear first sign of reliance upon external validation.

People whose self-esteem depends on the approval of others often find themselves in a cycle of constantly seeking validation. They might feel a sense of unease or incompleteness without receiving positive feedback from those around them.

Whether it’s asking for opinions about an outfit, requiring affirmation for work tasks, or needing constant reassurance in relationships, this constant validation-seeking can be exhausting.

We all have our unique emotional needs and ways of dealing with them, so this is nothing to feel ashamed about.

However, recognizing this pattern is the first step towards understanding and potentially modifying this aspect of your self-esteem so that you don’t need someone else’s green light before living your own life.

2) Overthinking even the slightest negative comment

For those with self-esteem tied to others’ approval, any form of criticism can feel like a direct hit to their self-worth.

It’s not just about feeling upset or disappointed; it becomes an internal narrative that they’re not good enough.

One tiny comment about speaking too quietly, or finishing something late, or a joke-gone-amiss can leave you awake and reeling for nights on end.

If you tend to overthink negative feedback and let it affect your self-worth, you’re not alone. Recognizing this tendency is a crucial step towards building a healthier self-esteem.

3) Paralyzing fear of mistakes

Feeling so terrified by rejection or the possibility of something going wrong can indicate a dependence upon the outside world, and the validation it brings with it.

People who fear making mistakes often worry excessively about disappointing others or being judged. They may hold back from trying new things or taking risks, for fear of not doing them perfectly.

Rather than seeing mistakes as a natural part of learning and growth, they view them as personal failures or flaws.

This fear can severely limit personal development and experiences, making it difficult to step out of comfort zones or seize new opportunities.

If you find yourself constantly worrying about messing up and how others will perceive you, it’s crucial to realize that everyone makes mistakes – they’re a part of life and a vital part of personal growth.

4) Social media crazed

In today’s digital age, many of us are deeply connected to social media. Some earn all their financial income from it or have met their life partners on it, or use it to stay connected to their best friends.

However, for those whose self-esteem depends on others’ approval, social media platforms can become a virtual stage for validation, upon which they perform like a paid money.

Excessive time spent on social media, tracking likes, shares, and comments, can be an indication of this dependency. It’s common to equate the number of likes or followers with personal value.

Did you know that researchers have found a link between high levels of Facebook activity and the need for social validation? It’s a global phenomenon, affecting millions of users worldwide.

If you find yourself obsessively checking social media for ‘virtual applause’, it might be time to reassess how these platforms affect your self-esteem and consider setting some boundaries for healthier usage.

5) Self-love struggles 

This one is a little more difficult to face, but it’s important to address. Struggling with self-love can be a strong indicator that your self-esteem relies heavily on the approval of others.

Those with this dependency often find it hard to celebrate their own accomplishments without external validation, and they may have difficulty recognizing their own worth.

They tend to focus on pleasing others and meeting their expectations rather than nurturing their own self-love and appreciation.

If you find yourself constantly looking outside for affirmation, remember that it’s okay to take a step back and focus on loving yourself first. You are worthy and valuable, not because of what others think of you, but because of who you are.

Remember, self-esteem comes from within. And you have every right to love and appreciate yourself, just the way you are.

6) Difficulty with saying ‘no’

Do you find it hard to assert your boundaries and say ‘no’ to others?

This might indicate that your self-esteem is tied to their approval.

People who struggle with this often prioritize the needs and desires of others above their own, fearing that saying ‘no’ could lead to rejection or disappointment.

They may overcommit or stretch themselves thin, trying to please everyone around them at the expense of their own well-being.

If you find yourself constantly accommodating others and neglecting your own needs, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to say ‘no’. Establishing boundaries is a healthy practice and a crucial aspect of self-care. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

7) Overly apologetic

Do you find yourself constantly saying ‘Sorry’, even when it’s not necessary?

This one’s a big sign that you’re willing to bend over backwards to please, and even bear the burden of other people’s actions to try appease them.

People who are overly apologetic often fear that their actions or words might upset others, and therefore, they apologize to maintain harmony and avoid potential conflict.

This stems from the desire to keep everyone around them happy and comfortable, even if it means taking the blame for things they’re not responsible for.

If you notice this habit in yourself, remember that while saying sorry when needed is a sign of empathy and respect, unnecessary apologies can diminish your self-confidence.

Stand firm in your beliefs and actions, and remember that it’s okay to express your thoughts without always having to apologize.

8) High levels of anxiety

Anxiety can often be a companion to those whose self-esteem depends on the approval of others.

The constant worry about not meeting others’ expectations, the fear of rejection, or the dread of making mistakes can all add up to some pretty impressively high levels of anxiety.

All of this can manifest in various ways, such as difficulty sleeping, restlessness, or even panic attacks.

If you’re experiencing high levels of anxiety because of your need for others’ approval, it may be a good idea to seek professional help.

It’s unfortunate, but the more anxious you get, the less you sleep, the more anxious you get, the more panicky you feel. A little like an endless cycle you often need a helping hand to clamber out of.

There are many strategies and therapies available that can help manage these feelings and improve self-esteem, recognizing and acknowledging the need to change being the brave first step needed to tackle these.

9) Difficulty accepting compliments

You might double-tap and reply to all the Instagram comments telling you that you look great, but in person, you run a mile if anyone even starts to utter a compliment out loud.

This is a common trait among people whose self-esteem depends on others’ approval. They tend to undervalue their accomplishments and have difficulty accepting compliments graciously.

A simple compliment can make them feel uncomfortable or undeserving, make them blush and stammer, and tell you “No, you must be lying, I look awful today!”

The journey to accepting compliments is a challenging one for many.

But with time, you can also learn to accept them for what they are – an acknowledgement of your efforts, achievements, and everything people appreciate about you.

Sound familiar?

In conclusion, the reliance on external validation, while a common aspect of varying self-esteem structures, demands acknowledgment and understanding.

If you resonate with any of the 9 signs discussed above, it’s essential to recognize that self-worth is multifaceted, and everyone’s journey towards building a robust self-esteem is unique. Your struggles don’t isolate you quite as much as you might think.

However, embracing self-love, setting boundaries, and navigating through anxiety are crucial steps toward detaching from the approval of others – which I promise you, you don’t need to survive.

Remember, the path to a healthier self-esteem is a gradual one; marked by self-discovery and acceptance. Take it slow and enjoy the journey.

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