Confession: I Used to Be an Addict

Discussing addictions isn’t always easy, but it’s important.

At the heart of it, addiction is a disease of the body and the mind. Many of the addictions that exist today aren’t easy to spot just by looking at a person, which makes them alarming. What’s even scarier? Some addicts are totally unaware that they’re addicted.

I’m a former addict.

No, not of drugs, or alcohol, but of acceptance.

It may sound trivial, but I assure you it’s not. I believe that the addiction of acceptance is one of the most dangerous addictions that exists today. Why? Because it’s a subtle one. It’s less obvious than some addictions out there. It’s been normalized and sometimes even recognized and reinforced.    

I used to be addicted to the euphoria of acceptance. A big part of my achievements in life—especially the first 19 years of my life—had to do with the unyielding desire to be accepted.

It’s a tough addiction to spot and it’s even harder to admit because so many people admire the qualities of an acceptance addict. To other people—and the addict—it may be hard to understand how an addiction that propels you to excel, achieve and succeed can be a bad thing.

What is an acceptance addict?

An acceptance addict is driven by the approval of others. They seek validation and positive feedback from others through their accomplishments. The acceptance addict may take on tasks and roles that aren’t true to their own desires, simply because they want to please others.

An acceptance addict wants to be seen. They want to be recognized for their achievements. Know anybody like that?

I’m a classic achiever. I graduated from high school with a 4.2 GPA, I graduated from college with a nearly perfect GPA and I made my first million at 25 years old. I built a 2-billion-dollar company in my early 30’s. Why did I do these things? It wasn’t because I’d rather stay in studying while others were surfing and going to parties. I did everything I thought I was “supposed to” do because I wanted to be accepted by the people around me. I wanted to prove my doubters wrong. I wanted to prove that I was enough. I wanted to follow the script of success we’re all taught.

Acceptance is an essential need.

We all crave validation. It’s completely human to long for acceptance; in fact, it’s one of eight basic needs. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, these are the eight needs that all humans have:

#1 – Biological and physiological

Air, water, shelter, sleep, sex and food.

#2 – Safety

Health, property, resources, employment, stability, order, law and freedom from fear.

#3 – Love and belonging

Intimacy, connection, acceptance, trust. Receiving and giving affection and love. Being part of a group and affiliating (family, friends, work).

#4 – Esteem

Self esteem – Independence, dignity and achievement

Respect from others – The desire of respect from others, being held in high regard, status and prestige.

#5 – Cognitive

Knowledge, understanding and exploration, need for meaning

#6 – Aesthetic

Balance, appreciation and search for beauty

#7 – Self- Actualization

Seeking personal growth, seeking peak experiences, realizing potential and self-fulfillment

#8 – Transcendence

Motivation that extends beyond the personal self (experiences with nature, service to others, sexual experiences, religious faith, pursuit of science)

Our need to be accepted ranks pretty high on our list of needs. It’s not abnormal to yearn for acceptance. A lot of good can come from chasing acceptance! If your actions are aligned with your results and you’re focused on the value that you’re providing while heading in a direction that you want to go, then being an achiever can add great depth to your life!

But, here’s where things get scary…

Most achievers aren’t headed down a path they want to be on. They’re chasing a fix. They’re not in control of their own lives. Their actions are heavily based on the feedback they chase that will validate them. They’re doing things to seek the approval of others, often to the detriment of their own happiness and fulfillment.

Achievers haven’t realized that there were very strategic systems put into place at the start of the Industrial Revolution to keep people “punctual, docile and sober.”  In my Ted Talk I discuss how we’ve been taught to do away with innovation, independence and creativity. Modern schools and school disciplinary systems were created to teach people how to be great factory workers!

We’ve been conditioned our whole lives to fall in place, be agreeable, please others and do as we’re told! Not only do we need to be accepted…we’ve been trained to become addicted to the belief that acceptance means showing up, doing more, and finding contentment in mind-numbing expectations.

We’re in an acceptance epidemic, and acceptance addiction is a silent killer. If you think there’s a finish line, well, there isn’t. If you’re an acceptance addict you’ll always need more and more validation. Is this epidemic weighing you down?

Make the shift from ACCEPTANCE to DESIRE.

– #BlakeMallen

How do you shift from acceptance to a burning desire?

Follow this quick roadmap:

  • The shift to desire has to come from within.
  • Realize that the opinion of others has nothing to do with your opinion of yourself.
  • Focus on internal motivation rather than external.
  • Align your purpose and mission to what you’re deeply invested and interested in.
  • Put your unique talents and gifts towards service to others.

Once you start focusing on your natural gifts and talents and coordinating them with your purpose, you will find your burning desire! You’ll no longer be addicted to external validations and you’ll seek approval and drive from within.

When you’re living a life on your terms, something incredible happens: You’ll still get the applause, you’ll be admired and people will respect you because they can see you are living out your own personal desire!

Drop the addiction. Shift the Script.

I want to hear from you! Are you an acceptance addict? Or, have you already made the shift from acceptance addiction to a desire? Let me know in the comments…

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