Over breakfast recently I was discussing the journey of leadership with a new friend when he described himself as a “Recovering Affirmation Addict”. Just quietly, so am I.
Reflecting on my own past as a world-class people pleaser, it was clear to both of us that we had not become truly effective as leaders until we had broken that self-sabotaging mindset.
Of course receiving affirmation should be a perfectly normal and positive thing. We all need some encouragement from time to time. A healthy team should point out people’s successes and remind them of their value as an individual.
But when a person allows insecurity or a feeling of inadequacy to rob them of their sense of confidence and personal worth, then an Affirmation Addict can be born who craves encouragement to fill the void in their life.
Affirmation Addicts want a good thing for the wrong reason. And sadly, like all addictions, it brings dependance, then debilitation and even destruction if it continues to grow.
Affirmation Addicts receive less from their affirmation
Ironically the more emotionally needy you are, the less impact each encouragement tends to have. You need more encouragement, more times, with more adjectives, from more important people, in more public settings. The dosage gets higher and higher to give you the feeling you used to get from a simple compliment.
Affirmation Addicts get tainted encouragement.
Once those around you see the addiction in action, they begin to watch what they say. People mince their words, tell you what you want to hear, or embellish what they really mean. Their words get tainted by the complications that come with trying to navigate your brokenness.
Affirmation Addicts find their leadership gets compromised.
It’s hard to make the tough decisions when you need everyone to like you. All too often doing the right thing as a leader has nothing in common with doing what is popular. So the Affirmation Addict is torn in their leadership between ensuring the long-term success of those they lead and trying to meet their own short-term craving for praise.
Affirmation Addiction is like reversing your polarity.
Far from being attractive, the addiction reverses your magnetism and repels the very things you hope to attract. It’s as though there is an invisible energy field around you pushing people away.
So, take it from a leader who got clean a while back. You can be free… you can comfortable in your own skin… and you can make your relationship uncomplicated again… by breaking the addiction.
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Paul Andrew is Founder of The Leadership Coach™
He is a Keynote Speaker and Management Consultant based in New York