Deep down, most of us desperately want to be liked by others.
Back when our arms were much longer and our bodies covered in luscious brown fur, fitting in with our social group meant survival. An outcast chimp is almost certainly a dead one; being accepted in a group was therefore of the utmost importance.
These days, things are a little different. Instead of swinging among the trees, we seek out adverts for parties in which we might swing with another man’s wife. Our hair-covered bodies have become smoother, save a few select spots. Sunday afternoons spent picking fleas from our cousin’s matted cranium have been replaced by Netflix.
One thing that hasn’t changed is our desire to fit in. It pervades every interaction that we have with others; an underlying motivation that we can’t seem to escape. So we often hold back what we really want to say, from fear of being ridiculed; dreading the prospect of sitting entirely alone in the lunch room, with raucous friendship groups all around us, their members incapable of even glancing in our direction. We absolutely need to fit in.
Our social dependency deters us from being our genuine selves, and the consequences are dire. Our very soul seems to push against a false action or word. It makes us feel somehow wrong, as though we’re committing some illicit action which must be hidden at all costs, most of all from ourselves. We want to run away from the situation.
In contrast, being confidently genuine feels like floating on air. It’s effortless. There’s little deliberation in our minds; less second-guessing or worry of offending. The shackles of deceit are cast away, and the feeling of freedom is rapturous.
For every social interaction, we have to choose between the need to belong, and the need to be genuine. Nietzsche suggested being 100% genuine:
“It is a new step towards independence, once a man dares to express opinions that bring disgrace on him if he entertains them; then even his friends and acquaintances begin to grow anxious. The man of talent must pass through this fire, too; afterwards he is much more his own person.”
This gung-ho approach seems unnecessary, it doesn’t always have to be one or the other. Sometimes, we must be diplomatic rather than honest. It’s necessary in order to survive in today’s world. But for the most part, we should be genuine. We’ll probably cause offence and upset, but we’ll also gain like-minded friends; people who we’re much more at ease with; our kinds of people. These friends make life worth living, they provide buoyancy against the troubles of the world. And the only way to find them is by being our genuine selves.
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