Affirmation Addicts

Affirmation Addicts

Posted by in Communication, Self-Leadership

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.

I’d love to hear your comments and feel free to use the links below to share this article with others
Paul Andrew is Founder of The Leadership Coach™
He is a Keynote Speaker and Management Consultant based in New York

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24 Responses to “Affirmation Addicts”

  1. Gage jung

    25. Aug, 2011

    Such a relevant discussion in a social media lusting culture. I love the bit on how a “validation whore” my term, can dacrifice GREAT leadership on the account of being a people pleaser. People Pleasers & Great Leadership are two completely opposing characters.

    Great insight & much needed for the next generation of leaders. If we screw up leadership, we screw up the world!

    Love ya bro,

  2. rodney.c.arthur

    24. Aug, 2011

    Thanks for sharing that with me. For a long time I realised that it is affirmation I have been looking for in my life. What I did not realise was that I was not comfortable in my own skin and I am in my 40’s. How do I overcome this and the desire to be liked, notice, and feeling good in my skin. Its an awful feeling, constantly seeking out others and situations to be liked and to be affrimed, help please!

  3. Penny Hunter

    24. Aug, 2011

    This is an epidemic. In my 30s when I spoke to women I would hold up a sign that said Will Work 4 Approval. This addiction is an unkind companion – never satiated. You also continually question the motives of those who affirm you – negating the value of a genuine compliment.

    Freedom for me has come from telling myself the truth about what I’m good at. Things I have genuinely mastered. Unique strengths I have that add value. Then, asking trusted friends to confirm that I’m seeing this accurately — not asking for affirmation, just for validation of my perception of myself.

    Great topic, Paul. And, you are right – it is tiresome to work with people who constantly need to be affirmed.

  4. Gail

    24. Aug, 2011

    Maybe if we were more generous in giving out compliments and praise to those around us, including leaders, then people wouldn’t develop this graving that can progress to an addiction.

    We all need positive feedback from those we respect. I think if we gave as much praise as we desire the world would be a better place.

    I do agree with your thoughts Paul – there is definitely a tense balance between pleasing people and leading them well.

  5. Paul Andrew

    24. Aug, 2011

    I think you’re right Gail. We can all be more generous in compliments and praise and it makes a big difference.

    Then it’s really down to the individual to be healthy in themselves and not allowing prolonged neediness. Even in the best environments we can develop dysfunctions(speaking as someone who has!!) ha. Paul

  6. Paul Andrew

    24. Aug, 2011

    Wow great insights Penny. I felt like I wanted to get into some solutions in this post but was getting long… you’ve brought some beautiful answers to the table.

    Appreciate you

  7. Paul Andrew

    24. Aug, 2011

    Interesting thought Gage on connecting the people pleaser and social media – if ever there was a tool for amplifying that need, social media is one

  8. Paul Andrew

    24. Aug, 2011

    Thanks for a really honest comment Rodney. I respect that a lot!

    I think Penny’s comments below contain some real insights for starters. For me, a big breakthrough was to stop paying attention to the ‘crowd’ and listen instead to a few ‘trusted advisors’ in my life. The crowd is fickle, but true friends can help me see who I am sometimes.

    I also think coaching or counseling can help (I’ve had both at different times) because more often than not if I don’t feel good about myself on a deep level, something has happened or I’ve believed something along the way in life that has got into me deeply. I’ve had counselors, life coaches and pastors all help me in moments when I needed to get free of some junk.

    Be encouraged though – just realising this at all is a big deal… so many people never do… then the journey can begin.


  9. Rajan

    25. Aug, 2011

    Hey Paul,

    As usual another timely gem of an insight. I must admit you just mirrored my egos – needing to be wanted, needing to be seen as a valuable, needing to be praised, needing approval… always in a state of need just to mask my inadequacies, lack of self confidence, etc. Recently I questioned why I do this to myself? As a leader, I started to compromise what I truly stand for – don’t rock the boat, challenging team members will change, please the boss, etc., and on a downward spiral losing sight of my authentic self. I started to question my own deep convictions. Only way to overcome this is to iron belief in yourself and truly stand for it. Thanks Paul.

  10. Paul Andrew

    25. Aug, 2011

    Thanks Rajan – I think the ability to KNOW who you are and BE who you are lay in the foundations of the solid leader.

  11. Christian Oey

    25. Aug, 2011

    Great thought mate. It’s funny, I was just talking to someone the other day about this; I think in today’s society, social media support and feeds affirmation addicts. Social media is, i think, the number one affirmation tool. We are concerned with how many followers we have on twitter, how many people subscribe to our blogs, how many people Like our fb page or how many fb friends we have. How many retweets we get, how many shares we get on our blog posts. Social media is one of those things where you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. What to do, what to do…?….

  12. matt mcclanahan

    26. Aug, 2011

    Nice article, I need to be careful and not slip down this slope, if I haven’t already!

  13. Paul Andrew

    27. Aug, 2011

    I agree Christian. It is a tool we’d have a tough time without – but it amplifies the weaknesses in our life

  14. Paul Andrew

    27. Aug, 2011

    Thanks Matt. It is slippery!

  15. rodney.c.arthur

    29. Aug, 2011

    Thanks for taking the time to reply.I appreciate it. Do you coach? The next time I travel to NYC I definitely will pay your church a visit.

  16. rodney.c.arthur

    29. Aug, 2011

    I have to agree with you that I notice that pastors seem to need this affirmation…..a shout of Amen or preach brother.That too is tiring as I am not that type of person that like to shout out in services. The other thing I wanted to mention was that affirmation must be genuine. If it is not, it will burn you out, and others will see that it is very legalistic and not authentic.

  17. Paul Andrew

    29. Aug, 2011

    I don’t coach one-on-one anymore – just speaking & training. You’d be very welcome to visit Liberty Church anytime

  18. William Powell

    30. Aug, 2011

    If I leave a comment, will you give me some good affirmation? Totally kidding my mate. Love this post Paul!

  19. Raychel

    30. Aug, 2011


    As a young college student starting her second year in the city this article was very challenging and insightful. I am an affirmation addict (recently admitted to that). I didn’t notice how suffocating this addiction was until I had become totally dissatisfied with myself and any affirmation at all. Thanks for sharing with Rodney about ways to break the addiction.

  20. Paul Andrew

    31. Aug, 2011

    Thanks for being so honest Raychel, and I think suffocating is a good word for it. Sadly it’s suffocating for those around us too. Go well on the journey – it’s worth it to get free

  21. Paul Andrew

    31. Aug, 2011

    Hey thanks for reposting this on

  22. Coleen Mantha

    12. Sep, 2011

    In my earlier company i was surrounded by these types of ‘Affirmation Addicts’ I think you are absolutely right, these are certainly the chaps who lack confidence and they can not say ‘NO’

  23. Favour

    31. May, 2012

    This is my first time here and I am really blessed by this piece. I’m still digesting it and the comments in line with my attitude and experience.

    God bless you all.

  24. DianeLinds

    25. Nov, 2016

    Paul — I am for the first time ever realizing i am an affirmation addict. It literally paralyzes me and corrupts good relationships. I feel stuck feeling that I need to hear positive re-enforcement and kind words from my partner but than realize why am I so dependant to hearing them? I agree with the writer that social media makes this addiction worse. What I would like to know is “how do I help myself?”
    I need and want to feel the rewards and confidence myself and not “need” to hear it from my partner. I would like to get to a place where if my partner wants to compliment me or share loving words I accept them and they make me feel good but not NEED to constant hear them or have reassurance. This affirmation addiction as you do call it, is debilitating to me and I know it negatively affects me. Help!!!!!