One day when I was in high school, all the girls were called to the auditorium, while the boys stayed in class. A male speaker told us about boy-girl relationships. The purpose was to learn how to say "no" to boys, and thus prevent pregnancy and keep our reputations intact. This was over 30 years ago, but I can still hear the speaker telling us that boys think about their girlfriends only once in a while – in between cars, sports, future plans, and friends. Girls, he explained, sit around and think about their boyfriends all day long. Even at the time, I thought it ironic that a man was telling us what we felt and thought.

Whatever the origin, women do seem to be much more centered on other people, focusing on their needs and wishes and seeking their approval. This serves us well in the home, where children are helpless and need the selfless attention of an adult. However, such preoccupation with the needs and desires of others often stands in the way of our business success, as well as our healthy self-concept. If we don't keep our view of the approval of others in the proper perspective, two things can happen. We can become ineffective and unproductive, as a result of trying too hard to please everyone. We can also become addicted to approval, even allowing others to give approval as the only reward for our efforts.

Melia and Lyttle describe how some women's overriding need for approval and the corresponding fear of disapproval differ from men's need for respect or admiration. Approval implies permission. We think we must have the approval, the permission of others simply to operate. We start at the bottom and seek approval by following the rules. Meanwhile, others are hired and promoted based on their ability to create more effective, new guidelines rather than to follow the old rules.


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