I'm an addict.
I have a "drug" of choice that's my fill-me-up when I'm empty and my pick-me-up when I'm down. It soothes my fears and calms the free-for-all that wages war within me. When I'm discouraged, a simple dose anesthetizes my feelings and supplants a euphoria my mind and body crave with abandonment.
I have an addiction.
I'm consistently seeking my next fix. My dependency on this "drug" drives me to talk, dress, and act in such a way that guarantees I'll get what I so desperately need.
My drug of choice . . . My addiction is:
I'm addicted to approval.
I guess you could call me an an approval-addict.
At least that's what he called me as he stared across the room at me one Friday morning. I'd been seeing him for months and with his words he'd been the instrument of God performing a much needed surgery on my soul. While it felt as if this surgeon had forgotten to administer anesthesia prior to his first cut, I came to understand that honest introspection can be as painful as a wound inflicted upon the surface.
"I know what you are," He offered, after a rather painful discussion of my past. "You're an approval-addict. You've lived your entire life seeking the approval of every single person you meet."
I have to admit my initial response was an expletive, formed and perfectly delivered in my head. I wanted to defend myself and shout to the top of my voice "You are wrong, this is just my amiable and effervescent personality . . . everybody likes me . . . just ask them?"
But as I looked back at him, I knew deep down he had just pulled the camouflage off this impeccably concealed truth, and by doing so, I was now forced to discover why I'd hidden it there in the first place.
Before I could offer anything up, he continued.
"Do you see how this all makes sense?" He asked with genuine understanding. But I didn't see any meaning in this at all, and he knew it. Knowingly, he began to explain the significance of my approval-addiction and why this made perfect sense to him.
Looking back, I now comprehend the truth found in his words.
When I was a child, a wound deeply pierced my soul. In that instant I determined, subconsciously, that I would never let anyone come close to hurting me again. My need to protect myself was so powerful that it propelled me to perform. I know this may not make a lot of sense, but I've discovered the subconscious mind is sometimes impossible to decipher. In performing, I somehow wanted to ensure everyone who witnessed my performance would smile and applaud, and whisper to their neighbor as they looked my direction, "Don't you just love them? They are so real (or talented or well-spoken or intelligent or gracious or gifted or whatevercharacteristicIneededtoengender). I want to be their friend."
Consequently, I developed techniques to make certain this conclusion was achieved.
Chiefly, I became an incredible actor. My ability to transform myself into whatever the person in front of me needed, was second to none. As a result, my skills of observation were exceptional. I was able to quickly determine what would cause a person to like me, and then I would act out those things when with them. In every encounter, conversation, social situation, or intimate setting, I was "on stage," performing, so I could make certain everyone "enjoyed the show." In this way, I believed I could manage how people perceived me. After all, if they liked me, then they would surely never hurt me.
The longer I played this game, the more intense my need for the approval of others became. By living in this manner, I never even realized the extent of my dependency.
Until . . . He looked across the room and called me an "approval-addict."
Today, while I'd love to admit that my need for approval has lost it's hold over me, I'm not quite there. At times it raises its ugly head and smiles approvingly at me, nodding with raised eyebrows, as if signifying it knows me better than I know myself.
Even now as I write these words, I can hear the all to familiar whisper to once again play the part, as it anxiously skulks below the surface. It's there. I know it.
But this time . . . things are different.
I have named and accepted my addiction, and now I'm free to receive the healing that's mine. But it takes time and lots of patience to root out the lingering effects my addiction leaves behind. It also requires stillness. It's in this undisturbed calm that my soul is finally free to receive His Words, like healing balm tenderly applied to my injury.
I suppose one could still say I'm an Approval-Addict. But this time things are different. Because the more I listen to Him, the less I need the approval of others, and the more I'm dependent on His Approval.