Whether we realize it or not, seeking the approval of others completely infiltrates our lives as high school students.
We desire to be recognized for our AP or IB classes and find our identity in ACT scores.
We strive to excel in varsity sports, student council and the arts.
We understand that people judge us by who our friends are and what groups we associate with.
So why do we care so much?
Because our peers are an audience willing to listen or watch us. We crave recognition from others, but want them to see us in a particular light. This isn’t necessarily all negative; friendly criticism can lead to growth.
Correction from your soccer coach regarding your passing skills or feedback from your English teacher on sentence structure are necessary critiques. The negativity lies in paying too much care to what peers have to say rather than informed adults.
Without this validation from others, high school students would have less anxiety about others’ approval and gain a better sense of self-acceptance.
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There are quite a few instances where we desire affirmation from others.
We’re addicted to social networking sites such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that enhance our need for approval.
I’m guilty of this myself. It’s hard not to get a little boost of self-esteem when someone retweets your witty 140 characters or likes your Sierra-filtered photo of freshly baked goods.
In addition, even if we’re having the time of our lives, we feel the need to constantly check out what other people are doing elsewhere. The constant comparison of your activity versus others’ can be draining.
When it comes to academic pressure, we get nervous when others ask us about colleges we’re considering applying to. We fear judgement from those who classify some schools as lesser institutions of education.
God forbid we don’t spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a degree just to have the recognition of graduating from a highly selective university.
It’s the same mentality as asking your Chemistry lab partner, “What’d you get on the test?” By competing against other students, we are really competing against our own school-related insecurities.
Lastly, we tend to make choices that fit with the status quo and that aren’t necessarily positive.
The cliche “Would you jump off a cliff if your friend did?”, question we sometimes shrug our shoulders at is actually pretty applicable when we think about receiving validation from our peers.
There aren’t a whole lot of cliffs in Kansas, but there are quite a few other poor decisions for us to make for the sake of others’ approval.
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So is there a way around this?
No, there’s no click-your-heels-three-times remedy to let go of the need for approval.
While I am in no way demeriting the passion and work people put into certain activities of recognition but that I sometimes disagree with the motivation behind them.
That being said, I think there are ways we can begin correcting our recognition-seeking mentality.
The first step is evaluating the motivations behind your actions. If you notice that you seek validation from others for your choices, remind yourself that your decisions are yours alone.
Evaluate the tasks you perform or activities you partake in, and decide which are driven by your true happiness and which are driven by people-pleasing.
Lastly, realize that your identity does not solely lie in how others perceive you.
You will always be your worst critic, but you also have to be your biggest fan.