Tag Archives: critical parent

Seeking approval:
“Why doesn’t my father appreciate me and all that I have accomplished?”

"Bicicletas para Alquilar" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Bicicletas para Alquilar” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

In the presence of close family members we often revert back to the way we were when we were children. We may still crave approval that we feel we never received. Siblings may easily trigger us.

The trouble with seeking approval is threefold:

1. The approval we seek may be sought from someone who is incapable of giving it.

2. The more we yearn for that outside approval, the less likely we are to receive it. Often people who are reluctant to give approval are negatively triggered by those who yearn for it.

3. By the time we are adults, the disapproval we sense has become internalized. Therefore, we have to generate the approval we seek within ourselves rather than seeking it from others.

Even if your father finally sees the light and says, “You are amazing! I am so proud of you,” you will probably not feel that magical feeling of self-worth you’ve desired for so long. By the time you’re an adult, the feeling of inadequacy stems from your own inner voice—that internal voice that has been with you so long.

Transforming the internal voice

It is up to you to transform the voice in your head. This may be as difficult as transforming your real father. However, it’s a relief to know that we actually have considerable control over our own thinking.

We can develop new habits of thinking and thereby create that sought-after approval or desired peace of mind. You need to catch yourself every time you have a negative thought and replace it with a positive one.

For instance, when you hear an inner voice saying, “You’ll probably botch the interview,” replace it with, “I will prepare for this interview as well as I can.”

When you say to yourself, “I’m the dumbest person here,” with “Nobody here is perfect; I’ll just do my best.”

Replace the thought, “I’m never good enough for him and he won’t appreciate me,” with a more positive thought: “Too bad for him that he isn’t able to show his appreciation, but I know I did a good job.”

After fifty or a hundred thought replacements, each successive one becomes easier. After a few hundred or thousand replacements, the habit of negative thinking will have changed. It sounds like a lot of effort, but we have many thoughts a day, and it’s better to start changing our thinking now than continue with negative thinking.

Constructive thinking, which is encouraging, useful, and pleasant, will become more automatic, and you will no longer crave or need approval from the outside. Ironically, when people stop craving approval from others, their confidence grows, which makes it more likely that they will gain approval from those closest to them.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Feeling Shame: ‘I’m not worthy to be loved.’”

Read “Rebuilding your Life: ‘How do I silence their abusive voices in my head, stop being hard on myself and start living?’”

Lying: “I am a coward and I am dishonest. I have been hiding my true feelings from my boyfriend. I wanted my doubts, fears and insecurities to disappear. I felt no love from my overbearing father who just liked to tell me what to do.”

"Power of Pink" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Power of Pink” by Mimi Stuart ©

Learning to lie

Often children of overbearing, controlling or critical parents learn to hide their true feelings and intentions. They put on an obedient mask, keep secrets and tell lies. They hide their real feelings as a survival technique to avoid being bullied, rejected, or verbally and physically abused. This defense mechanism serves a child to survive a difficult environment.

When children must focus on putting on an obedient mask to hide their vulnerabilities and anger toward their parents, they often lose touch with their own feelings and needs. Moreover, feelings represent a real threat to the child because if they are exposed they may trigger a dangerous reaction from the parent. The child subconsciously thinks something as follows:

“If I show my anger, fear, disgust, sadness, or need for love, affection, or acceptance, my parent will reject me or yell at me. So those feelings are bad. I must repress them.”

Hence, such feelings go underground and become tainted with excessive anxiety. An ongoing sense of anxiety grows within them as they grow into adulthood, particularly when it comes to close relationships.


Later, as an adult, it is difficult to talk about feelings, let alone understand the nuances of them because they are stigmatized with extreme anxiety. Hiding feelings has become a habit ingrained in the neural pathways of the brain. Repressing feelings has become second nature. Lying to avoid revealing any “dangerous” feelings has become second nature as well. Such deception is rarely intentional and not meant to hurt others.

These defense mechanisms developed as a child no longer serve an adult well. In fact hiding feelings and lying will destroy most relationships.

Time to change

Now is the time to start paying attention to your feelings and desires and expressing them when appropriate. As your ability to understand your own feelings improves and becomes more nuanced, you will gain the following benefits:

• You will take responsibility for your feelings and needs, rather than blaming others and making them responsible for your fulfillment,
• You will feel greater peace because you will lose excessive anxiety,
• You will become more self-aware and less confused,
• You will become more empowered,
• You will become more empathetic of others,
• You will communicate better with others and enjoy better relationships.

When you learn to identify your feelings and vulnerabilities and understand them, you’ll be able to express them appropriately in an empowered way. Confrontations, which are based on miscommunication and blame, will be mitigated. As you become more conscious of your feelings and the meaning they convey, the anxiety you experience around them will gradually disappear and you will learn to accept yourself.

You have demonstrated that you are not a “coward” by putting this question out there. The first step to dealing with your “dishonesty” is to acknowledge it and to understand why that worked for you a child. The next step is to avoid reacting as usual with hiding or lying. Instead clarify or write down the ambivalent feelings and desires you have and then try to express them if appropriate.

You might get the book or CDs “Nonviolent Communication” by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. In them you will find effective ways of expressing your feelings and needs, as well as lists of numerous distinct feelings and needs, which will help you develop self-awareness and an appreciation of other people’s feelings.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen



Read “Lying: ‘I get so mad that my family lies to me all the time.’”

Read “Manipulation: ‘I value honesty and can’t stand dealing with manipulative people.’”

Read “Keys to Improving Relationships”