2. Practice self-compassion.
As mental health professionals, one of the first principles we learn is to meet our clients where they are. This same principle should be applied to ourselves. Self-compassion, or self-love, involves accepting where you are in your life, and who you are—flaws and all. “Instead of being harsh with ourselves, it is very important to give ourselves the love, constancy, and security that we didn’t receive growing up,” says Delboy. “Through self-compassion, we can understand that even if people don’t like us, that is not a reflection of our value as a human being.”
An inextricable part of developing self-compassion is caring for one’s self. Kennedy describes self-care as the antidote to an excessive need for approval. “It is speaking up when wronged, acknowledging accomplishments to self, as well as tolerating the discomfort of being dismissed or criticized. It’s accepting that you aren’t for everyone, and that is okay.”
Part of self-care is putting ourselves before another—not in a selfish way, but in the way a mother must put the oxygen mask on herself first to be able to help her child. Without our own oxygen, we are no good to anyone else.
Through self-care, we cultivate self-esteem. Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D., Lt. Colonel (USAR, Ret.), author of The Self-Esteem Workbook, Ten Simple Solutions for Building Self-Esteem and The Resilience Workbook, defines self-esteem as a realistic, appreciative opinion of oneself, and having inner security that is not shaken by adversity, including the fluctuating opinions of others. “The journey toward developing healthy self-esteem,” he says, “starts with the recognition that people are born with unconditional human worth that is independent of the way people treat us.”
3. Build a positive support network.
Who we choose to surround ourselves with can greatly impact our well-being and influence our sense of selves. This is especially true for those who struggle with low self-worth. “Since the need to be liked oftentimes stems from failures in our early relationships, it is important to develop healthy and reparative relationships,” says Delboy.
“These take time and require us to take the risk of opening up and being vulnerable. We might be afraid that by opening up we might be giving people more reasons not to like us.” Even if that risk is fair, he says, the reward is a nurturing relationship that can change us from within.
Martinez agrees and points out the importance of being with people who are supportive of us for who we are, not what we can do, have done, or who we know. This, she says, helps us start detangling our self-worth from external outcomes such as winning the approval of others.
4. Take a break from social media.
“An intense need to be liked typically links to someone feeling that the locus of control lies outside of them—that they need others approval to be acceptable.” Says Kennedy. ”This is reinforced daily as Facebook members give thumbs up, hearts, and smiling faces.”
As studies are showing us, each time we receive a “like” or other pseudo response of approval on social media, we experience a spike in dopamine. This causes us to keep chasing the next “high”, much like an addiction.
Just as we manufacture the illusion of perfection on our social media pages, we may find ourselves doing the same in the real world. Once we start conforming and contorting ourselves in the quest for approval, according to Kennedy we begin to question whether others will like us if they knew who we really were.