May 02

“Approval Junkie” In Recovery: Faith Salie

I’m skeptical of people who say they don’t care. For most of us, approval feels good, even if we wish we could transcend our hunger for it. A “good job” from your boss, an engagement ring, a Father’s Day card, a pat on the back from your therapist. Faith Salie, CBS News, author of Approval Junkie

Comedian and TV/radio host Faith Salie has a new book of personal and humorous essays, Approval Junkie: Adventures in Caring Too Much. Notably, her memoir is receiving much approval, and even though Salie’s now “in recovery” this kind of appreciation isn’t unwanted.

Although I don’t know if she’s yet read the book, Martha Beck is one who would no doubt offer Salie approval. It’s her article on “The Halo Effect” ( that has me convinced: “We approval whores are people who will do anything to get affirmation and acceptance from others. We’re similar to crack whores, only more dysfunctional. At least drug-addicted prostitutes know they’re not being virtuous when they sell themselves to get high. Approval whores like me, on the other hand, tend to think that we’re being good (saintly! angelic!) when we let others have their way with us in exchange for a hit of praise. The people in our lives are likely to reinforce our sickness, because we’ll do pretty much anything to please them, and what’s not to love about that?”

From Salie’s publisher, a summary of highlights from Approval Junkie:

In ‘Miss Aphrodite,’ she recounts her strategy for winning the high school beauty pageant. (‘Not to brag or anything, but no one stood a chance against my emaciated, spastic resolve.’) ‘What I Wore to My Divorce’ describes Salie’s struggle to pick the perfect outfit to wear to the courthouse to divorce her ‘wasband.’ (‘I envisioned a look that said, ‘Yo, THIS is what you’ll be missing…even though you’ve introduced your new girlfriend to our mutual friends, and she’s a decade younger than I am and is also a fit model.’) In ‘Ovary Achiever,’ she shares tips on how to ace your egg retrieval. (‘Thank your fertility doctor when she announces you have ‘amazing ovaries.’ Try to be humble about it [‘Oh,these old things?’].’) And in ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me About Batman’s Nipples’ she reveals the secrets behind Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! (‘I study for this show like Tracy Flick on Adderall’).

Therapy is also a topic. According to #11 on her Reading Group Questions, “Faith explores her relationship to anger in ‘Shrink Rapt’.”

Listen to the following audio excerpt, in which Salie warns she’s not in fact prescribing a self-help or 12-step program for you to stop wanting approval but can offer you 12 steps to GET approval:

On the other hand, Salie also has some tips for approval-seeking recovery, as offered to Nora Krug, Washington Post:

• Do not stay married to someone who asks you to consider having an exorcism.

• Divorce your scale.

• Say “no” sometimes.

• Recognize that seeking approbation discriminately — from people you respect and admire — will propel you.

• Recognize that your own approval matters most — and it may be the hardest to win.

Mar 11

Stop People-Pleasing: A Slew of Tips

People-pleasing is not as positive as it sounds to some. The idea is to stop people-pleasing, at least if it’s your priority in life.

What is a people-pleaser? “A people-pleaser is a person who puts others needs ahead of their own. This type of person is highly attuned to others and often seen as agreeable, helpful, and kind, but people-pleasers can also have trouble advocating for themselves, which can lead to a harmful pattern of self-sacrifice or self-neglect” (

In 2000 psychologist Harriet B. Braiker put a spotlight on the dangers of a certain addiction not commonly addressed as such. Her book The Disease To Please: Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome included a list of “The Ten Commandments of People-Pleasing” (which of course are actually what not to do):

  1. I should always do what others want, expect, or need from me.
  2. I should take care of everyone around me whether they ask for help or not.
  3. I should always listen to everyone’s problems and try my best to solve them.
  4. I should always be nice and never hurt anyone’s feelings.
  5. I should always put other people first, before me.
  6. I should never say “no” to anyone who needs or requests something of me.
  7. I should never disappoint anyone of let others down in any way.
  8. I should always be happy and upbeat and never show any negative feelings to others.
  9. I should always try to please other people and make them happy.
  10. I should try never to burden others with my own needs or problems.

Social psychologist Susan Newman‘s The Book of No (2005) is also about this approval-seeking syndrome and ways to stop it.

Margaret Tartakovsky’s article on this topic lists 21 ways you can stop people-pleasing. These include such actions as stalling for time before you say yes or no to a request, setting a time limit on your commitments, use a mantra to help curb your impulses to help, refrain from offering excuses and apologies, take baby steps, recognize the rewards of saying no, keep track of your changes, and “realize that you can’t be everything to everyone.”

But let’s not end there. Dr. Susan Biali has more advice, per a relatively recent Psychology Today post. Her seven tips on how to stop people-pleasing include cultivating awareness of your patterns, knowing the difference between goodwill and pleasing, understanding the roots of your behavior, recognizing the bad feelings that come with your actions, not viewing people-pleasing as the opposite of being selfish, paying attention to your posture, and getting professional help.