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Like Me or Like Me Not: New Book Provides Practical Tools to Overcome Approval Addiction

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

Thumbs up or thumbs down.  It is a sad commentary that in this technological age of social media our feelings of self worth are sometimes limited to someone clicking a graphical icon.  But for so many, this simple action can make all the difference between feeling approved or rejected. 

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

In her new book, Like Me or Not: Overcoming Approval Addiction, author Dawn Owens, a self-admitted recovering approval addict, explores all the different ways that craving approval can negatively impact our lives.  Through practical Biblical application and strategies, Owens provides a narrative to help sufferers overcome this addiction.

I recently sat down with Owens to discuss why so many people crave the need for approval, the tell-tale signs of being addicted to the affirmation of others, and some sound principles straight from the Bible to help deliver people from these negative thoughts.

What was the catalyst for writing Like Me or Not?

There were several different reasons for writing it. One of them is I realized my own addiction to approval and how it was affecting my life, my ministry, my marriage, and my relationships. I had to recognize that there were other people struggling as well. I thought that it would be helpful if I had some tangible ways to help somebody else to overcome it. When I first started pitching the book, which was seven years ago, I recognized at the time that I didn’t have all of it (the book). I had the great idea, but I hadn’t walked through all of it to be able to write chapter after chapter. So, fast-forward seven years. I have now invested the last seven years of my life in a ministry to the poor in a community that I didn’t live in. I was a woman in a conservative town, and had to overcome a lot of people saying “you can’t, you won’t, nobody’s ever going to be interested or support that.” I had to learn how to overcome my own issues surrounding approval addiction. Then about a year ago, the Lord started tugging on my heart again and saying, “Hey, it’s time for you to write this book.” At that point in time, I thought, “Relational ministry to the poor, approval addiction. Okay, Lord, how do these two things come together?” The reality is they do, because in our own emotional poverty and our own relational poverty with others, we can end up harming our relationships and breaking them off because we don’t understand our own neediness.

Why do so many people crave the need for approval?

I think God created us that way. We hear Him saying in Exodus, “I want them to know I am who I am. I am God.” So in Himself, He has the desire for us to pursue Him and have that need for approval as well. So it’s innate in us, but we get it mixed up. We seek that approval from man instead of seeking it from Him.

What are some tell-tale signs that a person is addicted to approval? Are there certain things to look for?

Yes, definitely. I’ve covered a couple in my book, so you can find some there, and I also have a quiz on my website where you can go through about 15 questions. Some of them include: Is it hard for you to say no when you want to say yes? Are you often thinking about what other people think of you? Do you worry about other people’s opinions when you’re trying to make a decision? Can you make a decision on your own? Those are just a few.

Social media has certainly changed the way people look at the need for approval.  Are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat ruining people’s outlook on life?

I’m going to be honest and say yes. Because most of the time, we are seeing people’s highlight reels.  We are only seeing the good that’s happening. On the flip side of that, I also don’t think that people need to be sharing all of their stuff on social media either. However, I wouldn’t say that we need to go to the other extreme either. It’s just that I don’t think (social media) is reality. There’s an official diagnosis for this called “Facebook depression.” There’s more wrong going on because of social media than what is actually going right.

What are some of the ways that craving approval can negatively impact our lives?

There are a lot of different ways. It can affect every relationship that you are in. If you are creating approval out of your friendships, it means all your focus is on you.  In other words, “What can I get out of this friendship? How are they going to affirm me, love me, encourage me, support me?” Therefore, you’re not considering what a person needs in that. In a marriage it can be one of the things that destroy it, because if we’re so me focused and not thinking about how do I serve somebody else. That’s where a lot of marriages end up failing. I write about this in my book, how the Lord revealed to me how my anger issues were really stemming from the expectations I was placing on my husband and how he wasn’t meeting them.  This equated to love for me. I think that in work relationships, it can be destructive, because then we think that our opinion is always the right one, and we’re not interested in listening to other people, and therefore, we’re not really acting as a team player. It’s really “I’m out for myself and you guys can fend for yourselves.” With our relationship with God, we’re trying to earn it, earn our way there, and, therefore, really damaging our witness to other people, because they think that it’s a performance-based religion but it’s also defaming our Creator who created us in His image. It’s also defaming our Savior because He died on the cross so that we wouldn’t have to do it.

What are some good Biblical strategies to overcome approval addiction?

In my book, I talk about how there’s an approval cycle that we can get into and how a negative, either a thought in our own mind or something from someone else, can kind of find its way into our thought process. When we have a good Biblical understanding of truth, we can combat those negative thoughts immediately as they’re starting to happen to us. Unfortunately, for most of us, we end up in a spin cycle where we feel guilt and shame. From a Biblical standpoint, that could help us to continue to have good relationships with the Lord as we’re trying to walk through the struggle of understanding what other people are feeling around us, but you have to have the Biblical understanding first of who you are, who God created you to be, who God is so that you can understand who you are. So it’s really important for you to have that in a practical way.

What is the importance of community in overcoming approval addiction?

Community can be valuable, because we all need accountability, and any time you’re walking through an addiction, you need somebody else to help you through. Community can be extremely valuable as you do a small group together or you have one on one interaction with someone. The book actually provides you with a leader guide that you can walk through. It’s good to know that other people are struggling just the same way that you are but are willing to do the hard work with you of calling you out on it. As approval addicts, the other thing we can do is say, “No, no, no. You’re fine. Oh, you didn’t do that,” and we end up enabling each other instead of actually holding each other accountable. So it’s got to be a healthy community that’s based around you in order to actually walk in recovery to it.

After people have read Like Me or Not, as an author what is the one thing you would like your readers to get out of the experience?  What is your greatest hope for the book?

I was just at the Morgan County Detention Center in Alabama. We were just finishing up the book and one of the women’s mother passed away. They had a very contemptuous relationship, and she said, “I feel free now, because I no longer feel like I have to live up to her expectations. I wish I would have been able to do that better when she was alive, because I would have taken her off the hook as well.  I would have realized that she loved me in her own way, but more importantly God loves me. I didn’t have to seek her for all of that need.” And I thought, you have four walls surrounding you that you can’t get out. You are in jail, but you are walking in more freedom today than you ever will in your life. So that’s really what I want people to walk away with, that they are known and loved, that they don’t have to strive for God’s approval, because they already have it. Like Me or Not, is really that idea. I’m okay if you like me, or not.

To purchase Like Me or Not ...

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