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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I'm a Praise Junkie, and I Hate It

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I'm going to vent a little bit of my crazy here. And not just because I need to write to process the crazy, but also because it seems like when I vent my crazy, others come up alongside me in that crazy, and I think knowing we're not alone in our crazy makes all of us feel better.

See, I'm a praise junkie. I pretty much live for a compliment, bask in the glory of attention, and float on air when someone leaves me a sweet comment here on the blog. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I'm addicted to being liked, both in the actual sense of the word and as meted out in social media clicks. By addicted, I mean that I've gotten a little praise here and there and liked it so much that now, if I'm not mainlining a steady stream of love and admiration from the people around me or on the blog or Facebook, I quickly spiral down into a deep emotional chasm of "I'm useless and no one likes me and woe is, woe is, woe is me" from which only an even bigger new hit of adoration can lift me.   (I hate how this addiction makes me a slave to my social and on-line life, when I'd really rather have those parts of my life serve me.)

They say words of affirmation are some people's love language? For me, words of affirmation are the oxygen in my blood.

Worse yet?  To me, silence indicates disapproval. No compliments on my outfit? I'm a fashion flop. No comments on the blog? My writing is useless drivel. No cheering over dinner? I need cooking lessons. No Likes on my status update on Facebook? It's not that people are busy or distracted or focused on their own lives, it's that everybody hates me. And oh, heavens.  When I watch others (even people I myself love and admire very much) revel in a (usually deserving) shower of praise or kudos, even though I don't desire to take their spotlight away, I hate how the glow on them makes me feel as if I've slipped into the shadows.  (I hate how this addiction sets me into completely unwanted competition with people I'd so much rather just like and respect and enjoy.)

I've been this way all of my life; it's a chicken/egg quandary for me. Did I feel like my older sister was my parents' favorite daughter because I already had this breed of crazy in me, or did the craziness result from never feeling like I could measure up to her amazingness in Mom and Dad's eyes? (Dad, Mom, I'm not pointing fingers, just wondering aloud.) It's hard to know for certain which came first, but I do know it's so ingrained that I go totally overboard always trying give both of my children perfectly equal amounts of my love, attention and praise. I even notice occasionally that my own insecurities and need for approval and acceptance lead me to make questionable parenting decisions in order for them to never feel the sting of being left out or second best to anyone.  (I hate how this addiction takes my eyes off the real, individual needs and hearts of my children as I am stuck looking at and translating their lives through the lens of my own brokenness.)

Do I know intellectually that my deep craving for human affirmation isn't healthy and stems from age-old insecurities I should shore up immediately? Oh, sure. I'm in touch with how learning to derive value from within myself and from God would transform me into a much happier, more productive Mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister, you-name-it. It's almost ridiculous the amount of time I've spent reading and studying and praying for God to fix this part of me, and yet as deeply I know it in my head, the understanding of my own intrinsic value never seems to make it down my brainstem into my heart. I will preach to you all day long how vital you are, how special and amazing God made you, and then I will turn aside to myself and just as vehemently spit the venom of ineptitude and worthlessness into my own face. And if the world agrees in complicit silence (which it will), my own venom echoes and echoes on and on, into that quiet void.  (I hate how this addiction silences the lips of my Creator, while inclining my head to His enemy, all the better to hear his lies.)

And so I am always looking for a way to drum up some attention, to garner praise, to make myself matter, to be the favorite and in that way to drown out the voices in my own head who want me give up on myself with louder external voices who say I'm worthwhile. But it's tiring, this always striving, always performing, always seeking, always hanging tightly on other people's opinions of me, and it indicates a faithlessness that compounds my despair with guilt and disappointment. Compound crazy. Crazy to the second power. That's where I am right now.

And for once I'm not going to wrap a post up with the pretty bow of resolution. God knows I'd prefer to, and just think, I'd get more praise and glory if I could. But I truly don't have an answer to this life-long riddle.  I will tell you this, though.  In times past when I've come face to face with this truth about myself, I've just stepped up and tried harder to make other people give me what I think I need. This time, I know for sure that's not ever going to the answer.  I see so many people who are absolutely showered with praise and glory and attention from all sides, year after year, and inside they feel just as small and insignificant as I do.

I have to find a way to understand and own my value from the inside out, not the other way around.  Full-stop.  Because this busy, also-crazy world isn't interested in devoting itself to making me feel good about myself. I have to do that.

And I want you to know that if you're a praise-junkie too, waiting for affirmation and spitting venom at yourself in the silence, you are not alone (so completely not alone), you are NOT all those terrible things you believe about yourself in the quiet void, and you ARE worthy of learning to love and value who you are, no matter what the world says or doesn't say.


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38 comments:

  1. I could've written these exact words. Except I couldn't-- but you were able to nail it! Thank you & I'm totally with you!

    Also, my favorite part is that there's a "Like the FriedOkra Facebook page" at the end of the post-- which I'm going to promptly do! Because I want you to know how much you are liked! ;)

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    1. Thanks Brandi. Soooo nice to connect with you on Facebook. Glad (?) we're not alone in this.

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  2. I'm right there with you - and from talking to others, I can say we're not alone. Now - in all honesty and not because you wrote this, I can say that in my eyes, you always look great, have it all together and are a great Mom. On top of that you are a talented writer. :) So there!

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    1. WOW, Mari. Thanks my dear. Looks can be deceiving but I'm glad I'm keepin' up appearances. You're doing pretty well in my book, too, friend. <3

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  3. Like oxygen for me, too. Thanks for putting this out there...

    PS - I think you're an INCREDIBLE woman! Come visit me, mkay?!

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  4. I hear you. I know this feeling. I love you. And thank you! xxx

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  5. Yes, it's O2 here. I admire you for posting this, it's one of those truths we don't want to admit and you put it out there so lovely. Adore you, babe. <3

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  6. MEGAN. I am very much alongside you. Thank you for your bravery in writing and sharing. Your words are salve to my wounds.

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    1. Thanks, Allison for all of your love and support and for sharing this post with others. I think you know how tough it is to be vulnerable like this, but also that the connection it opens up with others with similar feelings is soooo worthwhile. Thanks for walking alongside me on this one! xo

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  7. Raise both hands here too! I wish I weren't addicted, but I am. I want to hear my work doesn't suck, and there is a reason to this writing mania. And it is nice to know I'm not alone.

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    1. WRITING MANIA! YES! Perfect. And nope. Not alone. This is me, holding your hand and patting your hair. Writer angst maketh us all crazy, love.

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  8. We are the same kind of crazy. But you already knew that. Love you!

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  9. Oh my...you know, yours was the very first blog I ever left a comment on. That's because I felt I could relate to you. I am always so scared, worried that people won't like what I have to say. I read your blog everyday, even though I rarely comment. I can't even express in words how much I can relate to this post...and I thank you! I have spent a lifetime people pleasing...it's not a good thing. But...it's always so nice to know that you're not alone. :)
    p.s. I am 58 years old, and my fav shoes are Converse All Stars! You go girl!!!

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    1. Isn't it good to know we're not alone? Maybe there's hope after all! Always, always speak up here. I have always loved what you have to say. Woot for Chuck Taylors! xo

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    2. Thank you Megan. xo

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  10. Boy, is this ever familiar! I used to call myself an Approval Addict. Almost every single regret of my life has its origins in my worry about what people will think/say/do in response. (Imagine my surprise when I found a Joyce Meyer book with that exact title....haha. And yes, I read it, and yes, it was fan-freaking-tastic. I'm no hater.)

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    1. I secretly love Joyce Meyer. I'ma see if I can find that book. Beth Moore wrote one about this topic as well (I mean self-esteem) and I've written about that. Maybe I should go re-read that post. Wheeeee for forgetting everything you think you're learning. SADZ.

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  11. Oh yes... your paragraph about the lack of complements on outfit/hairstyle, the comments on the blog, facebook likes/comments. Definitely me.

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  12. Wow! Now I feel compelled to comment after pretty much lurking for oh-so-long. I truly enjoy your blog and read it faithfully. You are a fantastic writer and a beautiful person both inside and out. Remember: You are smart. You are kind. You are important.

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    1. Thank you and thank you so much for de-lurking. I LOVE that you picked this post to comment. I hope you do so more often, Jeanie. <3

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  13. You've written my biography, so I don't have to.

    You are a person that I compare myself to pretty much any time I visit your blog, and guess who wins? Not me... ;)

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    1. LOL. I wish I knew who you were so I could point out ways that you actually win!

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  14. I don't relate as much to the needing-others'-approval part of this post -- but boy, can I relate to the self-contempt part of it. (For me, instead of needing approval, it looked like perfectionism & needing to do things well all the time. Ha -- I just said that like it's completely in my past . . . and sometimes it actually is.)

    I also don't have a neat way to wrap all of this up, but a good question to ask might be: what would it look like to feel free of this? Sometimes if I can get a picture of freedom, it helps me leave behind the things I need to leave behind . . .
    Nancy

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    1. Oh I love the picture of what it would look like if I left it behind. EVERYONE in my life would benefit, most of all me. It would look like freedom, you know? FREEDOM. I gotta get some of that. Thanks for sharing here, friend.

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  15. Yep, this is me. I totally get it. Let's be crazy together, hmmm?

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  16. Totally can identify myself with everything you said. It's a terrible problem! I have tried for years to get over needing the approval of others and only needing the approval of God, but it is an every day struggle. Yesterday, I was at lunch with a couple of friends, when they both said some very positive things to me about me. I am always surprised! Maybe we should just start assuming that people think we are wonderful all the time!

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    1. Let's do, Fran. I think YOU are wonderful, so we're off to a great start!

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  17. I so admire your honesty here, Megan. I feel like you just wrote my heart.

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  18. My comment to you turned into a blog post. Brevity is not my strong point.

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    1. Here's the post Missy wrote in response. Some very good, healing thoughts to be had here: http://itsalmostnaptime.blogspot.com/2012/09/zingers-for-neurotic.html

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  19. I have had to delete my comment and restart it several times now. Ugh. performance anxiety ;)

    So I'll just say... when we arrive on eternity's shore we (all of us prideful, selfish, insecure women) can huddle in a group, gaze upon the (as yet) unknowable perfection of our Lord... and whisper among ourselves "and I... got hung up on... ::points to self:: THIS???"

    Won't it be grand, then, when he welcomes us to *finally* be folded into that place in his arms, safe at last.

    In solidarity, Ariena

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    1. That does sound nice! I love the "and I got hung up on THIS" thing. I have miles to go before I can get to the point where all of this looks as ludicrous as it probably is, but when you put it that way, YES. ::fistbump:: Solidarity, indeed.

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  20. I'm so proud of you for writing this. Blog dangerously, yes?

    The only thing that has really worked for me, to break my approval addiction, is to immerse myself in who Jesus says I am. When I really believe that, I care much less about what others think about me. I am stronger, braver, free.

    The struggle is to stay there.

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  21. Oh my. My eyes have recently been opened to this very thing, every word really, in my life. I feel stuck. Like you, I know the answer in my head, but getting there in my heart, in day to day living, is so hard. Thank you for putting my heart into words and helping me continue to process the ugliness of sin so that healing and freedom can reign!

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  22. So many good points here, and I so appreciate this sharing from your heart!

    This is precisely why I took a break from Facebook and the like. I kept feeling the Holy Spirit whisper to me, "Choose that which is better." Because certainly there is much good to be had from social media... encouraging folks, staying in touch, helping others... but, there is also so much to be lost. I realized that just as Jesus lovingly told Martha, "Martha. Martha. You are worried about many things, but only one thing matters," He was also speaking that to me. And right now I need to clear away some of the distraction, even good distraction, for that which is better.

    Hard stuff, but glory stuff... the stuff I'm finding that true freedom and peace is made of.

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Thoughts?