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Approval-Seeking Schema

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Individuals who experience conflicting relationships may develop one or more of these three schemas: self-sacrifice, subjugation or approval-seeking.

We all may occasionally enjoy recognition and approval from people around us for the things we do. If you have developed an approval-seeking schema, you may experience an excessive compulsion or need to receive approval from others that can influence your decisions on what you pursue and how you interact with people. Importantly, when this approval is given, it can make your day seem fantastic, whereas if it is even slightly withdrawn, things can come crashing down around you emotionally. This can leave our sense of self-esteem on very wobbly legs and highly dependent on the opinions and agendas of other people.

When activated, this schema may understandably trigger our moods to swing depending on what others say about us, or try to build high achievements in areas that are important to us in an attempt to gain approval. As a result, we may experience frustrations and anxiety, or a sense of being inauthentic to our true selves. We may also become highly sensitive to any form of criticism or rejection. It can result in confused identities or feelings of emptiness. This schema is particularly problematic as approval is dependent from many factors beyond our control, yet it dictates how we feel about ourselves. The true need behind this schema is to feel confident in our core sense of self and worthy or lovable as who we are, independent from the opinions of others.

Here are some questions to think about if you are considering whether the approval-seeking schema resonates with you:

Do you experience rapid changes in negative and positive emotions depending on what someone has said about you?

Do you find yourself striving for particular goals depending on how they are viewed by others?

Do you change your behaviours depending on who you are with?

Do you pay particular attention to fitting in well with the group you are with?

Does lack of praise make you feel less worthwhile as a person?

Do you get anxious if you do not receive recognition that you had anticipated?

Do you feel less important if you have not received attention in a social or work setting?

Do you find yourself frequently recounting positive stories about yourself to show your positive qualities to the people around you?

Do you worry excessively about whether people around you like you?

If you generally answer no to most these questions, you are unlikely to have developed the approval-seeking schema. If you think the approval-seeking schema applies to you, start observing how it manifests in your daily life. Recognition is key to changing patterns that stop you from achieving your goals.

To find out more about your own personal schemas, book a consultation with psychologist Dr. Esslin Terrighena, please contact (852) 2521 4668 or

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