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Are you addicted to recognition and what can you do about it?

The desire for recognition prevents recognition, a trainer of mine once said. The constant search for recognition is akin to a certain addiction to pleasure, which can be more difficult for people than you might imagine. Who doesn’t want to be recognized for who they are, regardless of status, appearance and performance? And neurobiologists confirm that recognition releases the neurotransmitter dopamine and the opiate oxytocin in the middle area of the brain, which have a euphoric effect like drugs. Precisely in the area of the human brain that also makes people dependent on drugs supplied from outside.

And this is the crux of the matter. Even if social recognition is important for us, the difference lies in being independent of something. Wanting to be recognized and accepted is different from a pronounced “addiction to pleasure”. This is not without danger and can lead to severe emotional exhaustion if recognition is not forthcoming despite endless effort. However, there is a fine line between a normal need and a pathological desire for praise, which can turn into a compulsion.

Some people seem to be addicted to recognition to an almost excessive degree and vie for what appears to be benevolent attention in many contexts of life. The reason for this is an excessive fear of rejection, which in turn dynamically determines the thoughts and actions of these people. They go to great lengths to be liked by everyone, always. But is this fear of rejection justified, meaningful and insurmountable?

“To please the crowd is to displease the wise.” Plutarch

Many stagger between the most diverse expectations of other people, sometimes strangers, partners, friends and institutions like a drunk from curb to curb. They change opinions, change their “plumage” every hour if they have to, just to be popular, recognized and praised. They verbally and non-verbally inflate their status like a capercaillie in courtship.

These people are looking for a constant kick similar to a junkie who needs to maintain the level for a “good state”. This can be a damn exhausting life and is not exactly happy because it disregards one’s own identity. Also because their constant search for feelings of happiness and self-esteem is on the outside. This is a form of dependency that not everyone “affected” perceives so easily.

“Nothing makes us more cowardly and unscrupulous than the desire to be loved by everyone.” Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

One of the most “prominent” German poets and thinkers, Goethe, approached the subject a long time ago: “One can be very happy if one does not demand the approval of others”. Today, it is only in our minds that not conforming to everything is a big problem. Group conformity is a protective mechanism, but it is ancient and no longer necessary. Many dependencies in order to be able to fulfill elementary basic needs at all have increasingly disappeared in our culture over the last few centuries.

In the past, in the distant past, approval and recognition as an individual in “the group” was essential in order to survive. What many interpret as rejection is just a feeling that they could cope with. For some people, however, it is a threat and an irrational fear. The sabre-toothed tiger is extinct, the “neighboring horde” has long since ceased to be warlike, and there is enough food and drink for everyone. In this respect, even for autonomous individualists, survival is assured today.

“Recognition is a plant that grows mainly on graves.” Robert Lembke

This is reinforced by the fact that everyone has to deal with their own childhood and certain upbringing experiences later on – “you are dear my child and I love you as I imagine and expect you to be”. Love and praise versus the fulfillment of (pre)expectations. Many succeed in breaking away from this subconscious deal, for others it becomes deeply ingrained and leads to an endless search for approval.

The simplest technique to free myself from “inauthenticity” and addiction to pleasure when I recognize it as such: first learn to say NO to everything that does not correspond to me in any way. Whether it concerns ways of thinking, traditions, the behavior of others, customs and traditions. But how can you systematically approach the problem and find a solution? Awareness is the first step. Of course, you first need to gain clarity about who you really are, where you want to go and where you currently stand. You should become aware of your own identity! First of all, it makes sense to write down the “problem areas” that you want to change individually on a sheet of paper, stand in the middle and systematically work on them one by one according to priority.

„Du selbst zu sein, in einer Welt, die dich ständig anders haben will, ist die größte Errungenschaft.“ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The question of whether my behavior is actually really helpful in the respective contexts, or whether it hurts me deeply as a result, is probably indispensable. If it hurts because it borders on self-abandonment, change is necessary. If conformity hurts me, in the belief that this is the only way to receive approval and attention from groups or individuals, new questions need to be asked. How do I know that? -Is one such question. We simply believe things too often, which then only correspond to our truth but not THE truth. We believe that we will no longer be liked if we say NO and have to conform at almost any cost.

For example: If I think I have to get drunk with a friend all the time because I think he always expects it, I should question my beliefs with him. Do I have to be drunk in your presence? Maybe he likes me completely sober and I can take his “beer-induced chatter” in good humor, then everything is fine. If not, because he won’t accept my NO, I should look for another boyfriend, as drastic as it may be. If I get drunk with him anyway knowing this in order to get approval, it’s like paying a prostitute for true love. That is self-deception and addictive behavior. By the way, asking people close to me who are very important to me about my applause-inducing behavior and asking them to be honest is also helpful in order to think about changing it.

The attempt to be “everybody’s darling” will fail

Wanting to please everyone prevents this clear NO, which is so important for your own personality, because it means standing by yourself. And those who can stand by themselves do a lot for their self-esteem. You can practise this, starting with small examples. Later, when it comes to bigger things, you need to see exactly who is really interested in the person, without constantly attaching conditions to the connection. The learning task is to recognize the value of your own opinion and to stand up for it, even at the risk of being unpopular. Learning to set boundaries and installing new habits of saying YES-NO step by step means taking care of yourself.

Looking at the other side of the coin, who immediately chases friends, acquaintances and partners to hell when they hear a NO? Hardly anyone. So courage is required to learn to endure, not to have to be everybody’s darling all the time. As an independent adult, it is no longer necessary to want constant and constant approval, as it was as a dependent child. Even if conformity and altruism are highly regarded in our society, more self-love and healthy egoism are much more conducive to one’s own identity than smooth-ironed, self-sacrifice. soulboxer🥊🙏❤️