As humans we have a basic primal need to feel accepted. Whenever we receive praise this need feels met. We are also conditioned from an early age to adapt our behaviour in order to receive positive praise; for example, being told as a toddler 'good girl/boy' rather than 'No! that's naughty'. In many schools this is reinforced by reward systems such as stickers and awards for good work. As children we quickly learn to associate praise with being or doing good. When someone 'likes' our status or photo on Facebook it has the same effect as someone praising us, and we tend to feel good as a result.
Praise seeking often stems from confusion during childhood that praise = love. We have a basic primal need to receive love. When a child receives healthy, unconditional love, e.g. knows that he or she is loved regardless of whether his/her behaviour is good or bad, the child tends to grow up emotionally well balanced and receptive of praise, but not dependent on it. If, however someone had a conditional experience of love as a child, for example being told 'I will only love you if you do or behave in a certain way', lacked feeling loved as a child, or confused praise with love, then a child can become dependent on praise in order to feel loved. This can lead to an addiction in seeking out praise, not just online but in other areas of life too. Applications like Facebook make it quick and easy to get a praise fix and lead to compulsive behavior for praise seekers.
When a child lacks the experience of love and/or positive praise he or she will often purposefully misbehave in order to get attention. The attention he or she receives for misbehaving can then become a substitute for unconditional love and praise. If as an adult someone is insecure about their self-worth, value or lovability they will actively seek out opportunities to receive praise. Attention seeking personalities are more prone to developing a Facebook addiction in order to get the praise fix they crave and are often willing to push social boundaries with what they say and do online in order to get attention, whether good or bad. If a celebrity has underlying insecurities or longings for love and acceptance this becomes exposed when they compulsively engage in online activity because their attention seeking is laid bare for all to see.
Relying on attention from others to fuel our self-esteem actually erodes our sense of self-worth and confidence over time. When we look outside ourselves for approval we disempower ourselves and find it increasingly difficult to measure our own self-worth. However, just because applications like Facebook fuel self-worth insecurities does not mean that we have lost the ability to rebuild our self-confidence. Measuring your own self-worth starts with being willing to love and accept yourself a little more today than yesterday.
If we intentionally post something online in order to receive 'likes' or approval from others and the feedback we receive is not as expected, this can gradually erode our self-esteem. This can be overcome by posting only comments or photos that come from a desire to share or express ourselves, rather than to gain approval.
If you identify with one or more of the following then you may be too reliant on praise:
- Get a thrill from positive attention, but feel nervous or anxious afterwards
- Feel upset when someone else gets more attention than you do
- Say nice things to someone's face, but then gossip about them behind their back
- Often feel lonely and would rather be with someone you don't like than be by yourself
- Find it difficult to cope with criticism
- Only feel good when other people are praising you, even when it is for things you haven't done
- Long to be in the limelight or to be famous
Follow my top tips to turn this around and begin to feel good about your own accomplishments without having to rely on others for praise.
Top Feel Good Tips
1) Find things to love about yourself. Make a list and read it to yourself everyday. If you find this difficult start by noticing things you are grateful for like being able to hear, walk or see - e.g. "I love that I can walk".
2) Make a conscious effort to become aware of when you feel the urge to seek attention from others and choose to do something self-nurturing instead, like taking a bath, exercising, painting a picture, going for a walk or watching a feel good film.
3) Set yourself goals to do, be, enjoy or create things in your life that you have always secretly wanted for the pleasure they will bring you, rather than as a means of gaining approval from someone else. By following your true passions you can connect with a sense of unconditional love from within yourself and find it easier to let go of looking for it elsewhere.