THE BLOG
12/17/2014 01:02 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2015

Don't Be Addicted to the Approval of Others This Holiday Season

The holidays are one of the most stressful times of the year, but not for the reasons you may think. Many people get caught up and overwhelmed in the decorating, the cooking, the in-laws taking over the house and more. But believe it or not, there's another less talked about reason the holidays have you feeling out of control: you.

Have you ever heard the saying, "The only person getting in your way is you?" It's especially true for people who are constantly worrying about what others are thinking about them. If that happens to be you, this time of year can be a nightmare. You're likely consumed with self-doubt and constant worry what a family member, friend or even a total stranger is thinking -- and most of the time it's all in your head and the other person isn't thinking these things at all.

Psychologists call it approval addiction, or being addicted to the approval of others. It's one of the most debilitating addictions because it interferes with absolutely everything we do. It's conformity at all costs.

The typical thoughts that go through the mind of someone suffering from approval addiction:

- What if people don't like me?
- What if they disagree with me?
- What if others think my idea is stupid?
- What if my house isn't decorated to their standards?
- What if they find my guest bedroom mattress uncomfortable?
- What if they think my cooking stinks?
- What if they don't like my hair?
- What if I wear nice clothes and drive a nice car and everyone thinks I'm greedy and self-centered?

The good news: Overcoming approval addiction is easier than you realize, and once you do, you're free of the psychological chains that bind you from ever experiencing world-class success, happiness and most importantly the freedom to live life on your own terms.

More importantly, if you can let go of your approval addiction even just slightly during the holidays, you can enjoy this time of year so much more.

The first pattern of this negative thinking is what we call "what if" thinking. Instead of what if, rephrase the thoughts to "so what if?" So what if they don't like me? So what if they disagree with me? So what if they think my idea is stupid? So what if they don't like my cooking or my home? And so on. While this might seem a bit awkward at first, remember that breaking a bad habit that's been engrained into your memory probably since childhood is going to take some getting used to. The more you work on it the more natural it will become and the more believable it will sound.

You probably have some idea how much approval addiction impacts you, but here's a simple way to test it. On a scale of one to seven, with seven being the highest, how high is your need to be approved and validated by other people? Next, ask your spouse or best friend to rate you on the same scale, and then compare answers. Answer as honestly as possible and not on how you'd like to be, but how you really are.

If you scored a high number, it's important to realize how serious this is. Approval addiction will interfere with everything from your professional career to your personal life. And during the holidays, a time when you should be relaxed and enjoying the company of others, approval addiction will make you feel stressed, tired, overwhelmed and grumpy.

Consider making a New Year's resolution for 2015 that you will work on overcoming having to need the approval of others. In the meantime, start by making small changes and doing things to please yourself. Remember, if you try your best at something and you're pleased with the results, it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks. Once you start living by that philosophy, the holidays and everything else in life is much more enjoyable.

Remember, you are responsible to your employees, customers, business associates, friends and families, to be honest, sincere, and to act with integrity. But you are not responsible for their attitudes towards you. Hopefully they like you. It's more pleasant that way, but if not, it's not your problem.