Why is Social Approval important for motivation?

August 19, 2023

Social approval is a fundamental aspect of human psychology that plays a crucial role in motivating individuals. As social beings, we have an intrinsic desire to be accepted and valued by others. This desire for social approval can significantly impact our motivation levels, as the opinions and recognition of those around us can either fuel our drive or diminish it. Understanding the importance of social approval in fostering motivation is key to unlocking our potential and achieving our goals. In this discussion, we will explore the various ways in which social approval influences our motivation and the implications it has on our personal and professional lives.

The Power of Social Approval

Social approval, the recognition and acceptance received from others, plays a significant role in motivating individuals. As social beings, humans have an innate desire to belong and be accepted by their peers. The approval and validation we receive from others can greatly impact our motivation levels, influencing our actions, behaviors, and overall sense of self-worth. In this article, we will delve into the reasons why social approval is important for motivation and explore how it can drive individuals to achieve their goals.

The Need for Belonging

One of the fundamental human needs is the need for belonging. We crave connection and acceptance from others, as it fulfills our desire for social interaction and support. When we receive social approval, it signals that we are accepted and valued by our social circle, reinforcing our sense of belonging. This validation creates a positive emotional state, boosting our motivation to maintain and strengthen these social bonds.

External Validation and Self-Worth

Social approval serves as external validation of our abilities, achievements, and efforts. When others recognize and acknowledge our accomplishments, it enhances our self-esteem and self-worth. This validation validates our efforts, making us feel competent and capable. As a result, we are motivated to continue working hard and striving for success, seeking further validation from others.

Social Comparison and Motivation

Humans have a natural tendency to compare themselves to others, whether consciously or unconsciously. Social approval acts as a benchmark for this comparison process. When we see others receiving approval for their actions or achievements, it motivates us to strive for similar recognition. The desire to be on par with our peers or surpass them can ignite our motivation, pushing us to work harder and achieve our goals.

The Influence of Social Norms

Social norms, the unwritten rules and expectations within a society or group, heavily impact our behavior and motivation. When we receive social approval, it indicates that our actions align with the accepted norms and values of our social circle. This conformity to social norms not only helps us fit in but also reinforces our motivation to continue behaving in ways that are socially approved. Conversely, the fear of social disapproval can act as a deterrent, diminishing our motivation to engage in behaviors that deviate from the norms.

Feedback and Encouragement

Social approval provides valuable feedback and encouragement, which are essential for maintaining motivation. Constructive feedback from others helps us identify areas of improvement and provides guidance to enhance our performance. Furthermore, words of encouragement and support from our peers can boost our confidence and belief in our abilities, fueling our motivation to persist in the face of challenges.

Social approval holds significant importance for motivation. The need for belonging, external validation, social comparison, adherence to social norms, and the provision of feedback all contribute to the motivational power of social approval. As social beings, our desire for acceptance and recognition drives us to seek social approval, which in turn fuels our motivation to achieve our goals and strive for success. Understanding the impact of social approval can help us harness its potential to enhance our motivation and overall well-being.

The Influence of Social Approval on Intrinsic Motivation

While social approval is often associated with extrinsic motivation, it can also have a profound impact on intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation refers to engaging in activities because they are inherently enjoyable and satisfying, rather than for external rewards or recognition. Interestingly, social approval can enhance intrinsic motivation by creating a positive social environment that fosters feelings of competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

Creating a Sense of Competence

Social approval can contribute to our sense of competence by validating our skills, knowledge, and accomplishments. When others recognize and appreciate our abilities, it boosts our confidence and belief in ourselves. This validation not only enhances our intrinsic motivation to engage in activities we excel at but also encourages us to explore new challenges and develop new skills. The positive feedback and recognition from others serve as a source of motivation, inspiring us to continue growing and excelling in our pursuits.

Fostering Autonomy and Self-Determination

Social approval can also promote autonomy and self-determination, which are crucial elements of intrinsic motivation. When we receive social approval, it signifies that our choices and actions are respected and valued by others. This validation of our autonomy and self-determination reinforces our intrinsic motivation to pursue activities that align with our personal interests and values. It empowers us to make choices that are meaningful and fulfilling, rather than solely driven by external expectations or rewards.

Cultivating a Sense of Relatedness

Humans are social creatures, and our sense of relatedness plays a vital role in our motivation. Social approval fosters a sense of connectedness and belonging, creating a supportive social environment where individuals feel understood and accepted. When we receive social approval, it strengthens our social bonds and deepens our connections with others. This sense of relatedness enhances our intrinsic motivation by providing a sense of purpose and meaning to our actions. The knowledge that our efforts are recognized and appreciated by those we care about can be a powerful motivator to continue engaging in activities that bring us joy and fulfillment.

The Dark Side of Social Approval

While social approval can be a powerful motivator, it is essential to recognize its potential drawbacks and limitations. Relying too heavily on external validation can lead to a reliance on others’ opinions and judgments. This can result in a loss of intrinsic motivation, as individuals become more focused on seeking approval rather than engaging in activities they genuinely enjoy.

Additionally, the pursuit of social approval can lead to a fear of failure or rejection. The desire to please others and avoid disapproval may deter individuals from taking risks or pursuing their passions. This fear of judgment can stifle creativity and innovation, hindering personal growth and self-actualization.

It is crucial to strike a balance between seeking social approval and maintaining intrinsic motivation. While social approval can provide valuable feedback and support, it is important not to lose sight of our own intrinsic desires and passions. Embracing a healthy level of self-confidence and self-acceptance allows us to navigate the influence of social approval without compromising our authenticity and individuality.

Social approval plays a crucial role in motivating individuals. The need for belonging, external validation, social comparison, adherence to social norms, and the provision of feedback all contribute to its motivational power. However, it is important to strike a balance between seeking external validation and maintaining intrinsic motivation. By cultivating a supportive social network, seeking constructive feedback, embracing internal validation, setting intrinsic goals, and being mindful of social comparison, individuals can harness the motivational power of social approval while staying true to themselves.

Strategies to Harness the Motivational Power of Social Approval

To effectively utilize the motivational power of social approval, individuals can employ several strategies:

1. Cultivate a Supportive Social Network

Surrounding yourself with individuals who genuinely support and encourage your goals and aspirations can have a significant impact on your motivation. Seek out like-minded individuals who share similar interests and values, as they are more likely to provide meaningful social approval. Engage in communities or groups that foster a positive and supportive environment, allowing for the exchange of feedback and encouragement.

2. Seek Constructive Feedback

While social approval is valuable, constructive feedback is equally important for personal growth and improvement. Actively seek feedback from trusted individuals who can provide constructive criticism and guidance. This feedback can help you identify areas for improvement, refine your skills, and enhance your performance. Embrace feedback as an opportunity for growth rather than viewing it as a form of criticism.

3. Embrace Internal Validation

While social approval is motivating, it is essential to develop a strong sense of internal validation. Focus on recognizing and celebrating your own achievements, regardless of external validation. Cultivate self-compassion and self-acceptance, acknowledging your efforts and progress. This internal validation serves as a foundation for intrinsic motivation, allowing you to pursue activities that bring you joy and fulfillment without relying solely on external approval.

4. Set Intrinsic Goals

When setting goals, prioritize intrinsic goals that align with your personal values and interests. While external goals may offer short-term rewards and recognition, intrinsic goals provide long-term satisfaction and fulfillment. By focusing on activities that bring you joy and a sense of purpose, you are more likely to maintain intrinsic motivation even in the absence of social approval.

5. Be Mindful of Social Comparison

While social comparison can be motivating, it is essential to approach it mindfully. Avoid comparing yourself to others solely for the purpose of seeking approval or validation. Instead, use social comparison as a source of inspiration and learning. Recognize and appreciate your unique strengths and talents, understanding that everyone’s journey is different.

By implementing these strategies, individuals can harness the motivational power of social approval while maintaining a strong sense of intrinsic motivation and self-determination. Balancing external validation with internal validation allows for personal growth, fulfillment, and genuine engagement in activities that align with one’s passions and values.


Why is social approval important for motivation?

Social approval is important for motivation because humans are social beings who thrive on social interaction and connection. When we receive positive feedback, recognition, or approval from others, it boosts our self-esteem and confidence. This, in turn, provides us with the motivation to continue working toward our goals and aspirations. Knowing that our efforts are being acknowledged and appreciated by others reinforces our belief in our abilities and fuels our intrinsic motivation to succeed.

How does social approval impact our motivation?

Social approval influences our motivation by satisfying our fundamental social needs for acceptance, belonging, and recognition. When we receive social approval, it signals to us that we are valued, respected, and accepted by our social group or community. This sense of validation and inclusion contributes to our overall sense of well-being and enhances our motivation to maintain those positive social connections. Additionally, social approval can provide external incentives and rewards, such as praise, accolades, or promotion, which can further boost our motivation to achieve success.

Are there any risks associated with seeking social approval for motivation?

While seeking social approval can be a powerful motivator, it is important to maintain a healthy balance and not rely solely on external validation for our motivation. Overemphasis on social approval can lead to people-pleasing tendencies, where individuals prioritize meeting others’ expectations over their own needs and values. This can result in a loss of authenticity and can hinder personal growth and fulfillment. It is crucial to develop a strong sense of self-worth and intrinsic motivation alongside seeking social approval, in order to maintain a healthy and balanced approach to motivation.

Can social approval be detrimental to motivation?

In some cases, seeking social approval excessively or relying solely on external validation can have detrimental effects on motivation. If individuals become overly dependent on social approval as their main source of motivation, they may experience feelings of worthlessness or diminished motivation when they do not receive the expected approval or recognition. This can lead to a decrease in self-esteem and can hamper their ability to persevere through challenges. It is important to cultivate a healthy mix of intrinsic motivation, personal fulfillment, and social approval to ensure sustainable and genuine motivation.

How can we strike a balance between seeking social approval and intrinsic motivation?

Striking a balance between seeking social approval and intrinsic motivation requires self-reflection and understanding of personal values and goals. It is important to set goals that align with our own aspirations and passions, rather than solely seeking external validation. Additionally, nurturing intrinsic motivation by finding joy and fulfillment in the process of pursuing our goals can help reduce dependence on social approval. Building a strong support network of individuals who genuinely care about our well-being and success can provide a healthy source of social approval. Ultimately, it is crucial to prioritize our own growth, happiness, and authenticity while also appreciating and valuing the support and approval of others.

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