Approval Addiction Part 1

As a freshman in high school I read a book by John Ortberg called The Life You’ve Always Wanted. In it he talks about the approval addiction. I knew then that I would always be battling that addiction. I have always wanted to please others – especially those that I dearly love. I want to help and not be a burden. I want to do everything that I possibly can to keep them from being disappointed. With that comes lots of anxiety and an unhealthy desire to be needed and appreciated. I am a helper and a perfectionist. I am a two on the Enneagram with a strong one wing.

ennea type 2

The Enneagram is a beautiful personality test that goes beyond answering the question “Who am I?” and explains the motivation and fear behind why we do what we do. While most personality tests that I have taken are static, this one is very movable and allows space for the way we change in times of stress and security. To take a test click here. BUT please be aware that it often takes months to figure out your exact type. The test just gives you an idea of where to start reading and learning about your type. Message me if you want more details.

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I think we all have something in our lives like Paul when he profoundly exclaims in Romans  7: 15, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” The Enneagram and Brene Brown’s book that I talked about last post have given me the language to explain why I do the thing that I hate but often do anyway. It has given me the words to express and identify how and why and when I get most anxious. It has given me understanding of my husband and other relationships beyond what I could have imagined. Finding words in the midst of shame brings freedom. Shame and fear live in silence and secrets. There is so much freedom in having words and language for feelings that I have always had and never understood! I have had the best conversations because of the Enneagram over the last couple months! My goal is that maybe I can help someone else find their own voice along the way.

Even if you are not a two or a one on the Enneagram, you probably know someone that exhibits these characteristics. Females, especially women in the church, often mistype as a two. We are told our whole lives to support, help, and take care of others. That is the role we often play in the church and at home. This role is a vital one and beautiful. But I often want more. I can talk about women’s role in the church another time in another post, but for now, what I urge you to do as you read these thoughts is to picture your Enneagram two friend, wife, daughter, brother, etc. Step into our shoes for a minute to understand just how we see the world. The beauty of the Enneagram for me has been to both find language for why I do the things that I do, but also to find compassion for how others (especially those close to me) view the world. 

With that in mind, I want to walk through some “two” thoughts that I have had over the last month or so. There are a lot so I’ll post some this week and post the rest next week. If this resonates with you or sounds like a loved one that you have, please come back and read the rest next week!

Thought #1: When people that I love share their pain, I often hear that I have failed. If they are anything but happy, it must mean that I did something or failed to do something that could have made their life better. I failed to take care of them. I feel shame. I have failed at keeping them happy. Or I get angry and think they have failed me, why aren’t they stronger? There is rarely a middle ground. Learning this about myself has allowed me to listen to my loved ones in pain without feeling defensive or angry. 

Thought #2: My Enneagram thought of the day (click this link to get daily enneagram emails) talked about making guilt provoking comments towards people. I do that. I set unsaid expectations for them and drop little comments to make them feel bad if they don’t fulfill my secret wishes. But I do it all in the name of making them better and can’t fathom doing something with poor motives because that would mean that I’m not caring for them and thereby unlovable. I truly believe that if I am a burden and not taking care of my loved ones then they couldn’t possibly love me back in return. I am learning to verbalize these expectations. I need to love without strings attached. Just because I would know to do something for someone to best take care of them, does not mean that I should expect them to do that in return. That isn’t fair, and it isn’t real love.

Thought #3: I’m not very good at the in between. I have 2 options: to be perfect or to be the worst failure ever. I either think I have great intentions and do everything for the right reason and have an inaccurate sense of self-importance, OR I think I have failed and hate myself and think I am unworthy of love. There is no in between. Speaking truth that I am neither perfect nor a failure and yet loved has been life giving. 

Thought #4: I slept great last night. I woke up to find out that Derek slept terrible. I immediately felt shame for having slept while Derek didn’t and wished that I had slept poorly in his place. This is not normal. It’s ok that I slept better than he did. I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t need to be defensive about my good nights sleep either.

Thought #4: In health, I move towards a 4. I am able to be more self aware and in touch with my full range of emotions. I’m not afraid to admit when I am sad and angry and maybe don’t have the best intentions. I am ok when others are disappointed in me or when I don’t have to be the one to fix their problems.

Thought #5: When someone is upset with me or hurt I feel a deep desire to fix it and make it better. Even if I didn’t do anything wrong, I want to make it better. I feel like if they don’t see me as helpful, then I cannot be loved. Sometimes this plays out poorly because I force my “help” on people that don’t want or need it.

Thought #6: Twos are the only number that never go to the thinking triad. We don’t go their in stress or security. It’s all feelings and some anger. So, I can only process outside myself so talking or writing are the only ways that I can actually figure out my feelings and thoughts – hence the creation of this blog.

Thought #7: It’s hard when people ask what do I feel or what do I need because I often don’t know. I feel everyone else’s feelings and know everyone else’s needs, but verbalizing my own often seems impossible.

Thought #8: I often can not fathom that something I did could hurt someone else. Because if that’s true, then I am a failure, and I would not be capable of being wanted or loved. The truth is that I do hurt others sometimes. I am not perfect. Grace is real.  

Thought #9: A girl I was going to tutor decided to drop her class. She is a perfect stranger. I have never even met her. I really want to call her and convince her to not drop the class. Not because I want to tutor her although I do, but mostly I don’t want her to miss out on the wonderfulness of statistics because she is scared or doesn’t have all the info. I want to help her!! But she did not ask for my opinion. She does not know me. She does not need me to fight for her or to save her. But I am fighting my urge to fix this “problem.” I have to re-learn how to say “No”, especially no to things that aren’t even asked of me, in every new season of life.

Thought #10: I know it’s crazy that I often have so many emotions that aren’t even mine, and it’s silly that my friends and family have to ask me, a mature adult, what do you want, what are you feeling, and what do you need? It makes me even more thankful for the people in my life that patiently understand and help me process my true feelings and needs. 

Learning about the Enneagram has helped me start to navigate through these feelings and emotions and scenarios. In the words of Suzanne Stabile, I tend to “over-prepare, over-react, over-think, over-feel, and over-respond.” The Enneagram has given me self-awareness and language to try and see the root of my anxiety. I am just starting to touch the surface of allowing myself time to be confused and to discover my true self.  I am allowing myself time to just sit with these thoughts and let them be. I need time to find grace and to know that I don’t have to take care of everyone or always have it figured out. If you are an Enneagram two, rest today knowing that you are not alone and that you are loved beyond what you do.

And if you are a woman (or man) that feels forced into these two feelings and emotions because you are told that your goal in life is to support and that your feelings and emotions are not important – I hope that you also hear that you are worthy, you are valued, you are loved for YOU. Not for your service and support but because of your uniqueness and simply because you are a daughter of the King. 

And to those of you with loved ones that are twos, tell them today that they are appreciated, loved, and needed not just because of what they do for you or how they take care of you, but simply because of who they are. 

One thought on “Approval Addiction Part 1

  1. Eliza says:

    Wow! This is really informative and useful.
    I love how you numbered your thoughts…
    I too struggle with black and white thinking.
    Though I’ve a strong 2 side, it isn’t what I’d number myself. Though have to go take that test you linked and see what they’d say 🙂
    Love and light!

    Like

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