Approval Seeking Schema

“I’m tying myself in knots. Diana is killing me!” A personal assistant, Paige, had recently started to work under Diana, who was aloof and seemed indifferent to efforts to impress her. Paige’s well-honed people pleasing skills just didn’t seem to work with Diana. “I feel like I’m running on adrenaline from the moment I walk into work”.

Getting along with other people is an important skill for children to learn. As children develop the ability to cooperate and collaborate, they soon realise that getting the admiration and approval of others gives both pleasure and power. For kids who grew up in strongly reputation-focussed families, or whose parents showed them love and attention when they pleased them, this desire for approval can be especially strong. These people can grow up to have an Approval Seeking Schema – their self-esteem is bound tightly to their ability to gain others approval. This can take different forms:

Mr Popularity: Mr (or Ms) Popularity is eternally driven by the fear of losing friends and reputation. Often acts different with different people (a chameleon) in order to be the sort of person they think that others want.

Mr Smithers: Named after the famous Simpsons sycophant, the Mr Smithers is anxious about receiving validation and worth from the authority figures in their life such as bosses and teachers.

Mr Status Seeker: Obsessed with gathering all the accoutrements of wealth and power, often due to a Vulnerability Schema.

The Dark Side of Being So-Dang-Lovable

Most of us have an element of one or more of these approval seeking types within us. We also know many people who are like these stereotypes. It is easy to be critical toward approval seekers, they can seem vain and narcissistic. However, these behaviours are driven by a deep anxiety about being judged or disliked or being not good enough. If the mask comes off and the person appears flawed, then panic can begin to arise. People with this schema can act extremely defensive when exposed to criticism.

Paige gained insight into the fact that Diana reminded her of her difficult-to-please mother. She began asking herself at work “what is the right thing to do” rather than trying to guess what Diana wanted. Paradoxically this approach seemed to actually be the thing that impressed Diana most. Paige then became more in touch with her own preferences and opinions and let go a little of living according to the approval of others. 

Speak Your Mind


Suite C5
102-106 Boyce Rd
Maroubra Junction, NSW 2035
(02) 8958 2585

Have Questions?
Send a Message!

By submitting this form via this web portal, you acknowledge and accept the risks of communicating your health information via this unencrypted email and electronic messaging and wish to continue despite those risks. By clicking "Yes, I want to submit this form" you agree to hold Brighter Vision harmless for unauthorized use, disclosure, or access of your protected health information sent via this electronic means.