Anxiety and the Need to Be Liked

But I want everyone to like me. Or, at least, I don't want anyone mad at me.

I hear this a lot as an anxiety specialist. Unsurprisingly, people with anxiety in general tend to have social anxiety as well. And that need to be liked, that shaping of your behaviors and reactions to try and cultivate a positive response from another, is seen across the lifespan.

Some of this is healthy, such as matching tone or engaging in receptive communication, and some of this is unhealthy, like when we feel that we need approval in order to get on with our day. 

Why needing approval co-exists with anxiety:

Constant approval-seeking often co-occurs with anxiety disorders. Often, people who have anxiety experience fears around judgment or negative perceptions of others. They may negatively shape their behaviors in order to elicit more positive feedback, but even if they receive the feedback they desire, it doesn't really change the fact that they're still experiencing anxiety. Eventually, constant positive feedback is needed to cause that same relief. It's a classic dose-response effect.

How to deal with anxiety and the need to be liked:

One way to manage this need for approval is to train your brain to engage in positive approval of yourself. Notice negative self-talk you engage in, and flip it to a more positive view. Instead of "I'm terrible at this," try, "This is really challenging." Be compassionate with yourself. This compassion can help support you turn more inward, instead of constantly and consistently looking for outside approval. 

Thoughts and emotions:

Also, it's important to recognize the impact your thoughts can have on your emotions. Instead of telling yourself, "I'm terrible at this assignment. My boss must hate me," recognize that your brain is engaging in a negative story. It isn't necessarily true. Take the time to see if there could be other facts that shift your perception - and help decrease your need to receive positive praise from your boss.  

Curious to hear a few more tips? Is this striking a chord? Reach out to Kelsey at compassionatecounselingstl@gmail.com and schedule your free 15 minute phone consult. Kelsey works with kids and teens from age 4 through college, and specializes in anxiety and stress management. She can also help talk through if you need to meet with a counselor, social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. She works with kids, teens, and college students in St. Louis, Webster Groves, Brentwood, Town and Country, Creve Couer, and surrounding areas.