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” (Oprah.com) 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.