On Impressing Others
October 04 2014
1 Comment change the world essay everyday observation fulfilment generation identity impressing leadership life lifestyle mrgn nothingness personality psychology social commentary social reflection society status validation
Recently, I have encountered a book by a man named Mark Manson; a particular quote got stuck in my mind. It was somewhere along the lines of: "People tend to seek validation instead of fulfilment." This hit me so hard - I kept thinking about it day and night, for a week; it didn’t let me sleep. But, that was not the only reason I couldn’t doze off.
The same week, I met a girl and she was absolutely gorgeous. I think of myself as a guy who has pretty high standards; but she hit the jackpot on my hotness scale. (Yup, I’m being a douche.) The most important thing is that she behaved in a way that totally threw me off guard. Her behaviour could be summed up by yet another quote, this time from Ben Stiller's movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (probably the only Stiller movie that does not upset the non-retarded person’s stomach,) "Beautiful things don’t seek attention." And that was her. Totally. No diggity.
So, as I’d like to think of myself as a social predator; naturally, I jumped all over the situation. I asked her out, yup just like that, out of nowhere: "Hey you! You seem like you don’t talk much. You wanna grab a coffee someday?" Or somewhere along those lines; it’s kind of blurry in my mind by now, it probably wasn’t all that comprehensible. Anyway, to my surprise, she agreed. Dopamine hit my brain so hard, I practically flew away from there thinking: “I still got it. I’m the man.” But boy was I wrong.
Ok, so I got a date, or you know what -let’s not call it a date, let’s call it 'a coffee'. So 'a coffee' turned into ‘ an ice-cream.’ I figured I’m going to show how non-needy I am, (perhaps my laziness has something to do with it as well) and I just picked up a Snickers ice cream at the grocery store; we decided to take a walk. “What a fucking brilliant and romantic plan,” I thought; I was giving myself a mental hug and tap on the shoulder. “You the man.” But boy was I wrong.
Remember Manson's quote from the beginning? About validation and fulfilment? Despite thinking how macho and non-needy I am, I was seeking her validation. I guess I wasn’t literally ripping my clothes off to show off my abs and run around like the Twilight kid, but I might as well have. I wasn’t bragging, yet what I was doing was equally self-disrespectful. I spent the whole time trying to impress her solemnly with my words.
I’m pretty sure she picked up on it. I’m not saying she didn’t like me, but she must have sensed my macho act. Perhaps she didn’t fully understand what was going on, but my mission for her validation probably gave me away, indicating my insecurity. Why the hell was I so self-doubting, I can’t say. But I was so insecure that thinking back about it now makes me want to tear my arm off and club myself to death with my detached limb. The worst part was that I carried on. We then exchanged couple of texts and my attempts to impress her became too desperate.
Why is it that I willingly exchanged my real identity for something so fake? Why have I entered this creepy persona act? Why was I being forcefully funny? Instead of fulfilment,I went for validation; I gave up my identity. Suddenly it hit me, it landed on me like a sumo wrestler. "What the fuck are you doing?"
I have lost lots of sleep over this. Not because of the girl,but because of myself. I couldn’t figure out where my motivation to act like that came from. Deep down, am I so insecure about the real me? The more she was withdrawing her approval, the more I tried to impress her.
As another sleepless night dawned on me, I went as far as studying body functions and hormones; in order to answer the questions that hunted me. However, biochemistry did not provide much comfort; moreover, it got me kind of side-tracked as I became paranoid thinking I might have a brain tumour. (You know, the usual when you Google the human body.) I abandoned the scientific approach, another morning that I felt like crap. Having a biochemistry exam that day, I would have aced it, but oh how little comfort that gave me.
I’m on my way to college in the subway, browsing the Instagram, listening to music, when it finally hit me. I got it! It’s not a fucking brain tumour messing with my mind. It’s something far simpler than that… and less painful. But, to be honest, I didn’t find the answer by myself; I have to give credit where credit is due. That is, in that very particular moment when I finally realized, I was listening to Ed Sheeran's song 'You need me, I don’t need you'.
The exact part that did the trick goes as following:
I sing and write my own tune and I write my own verse
Hell, don't need another word-smith to make my tune sell
Call yourself a singer-writer - you’re just bluffing
Your name’s on the credits and you didn’t write nothing
Let the words sink and read it one more time. It wasn’t only Sheeran that helped me realize what’s going on. It was the interplay of these lyrics, and Instagram #selfies I was scrolling through on my phone. The contrast between something relatively independent as these lyrics and a #selfie, demonstrating social abuse, was so apparent; it all clicked. I got it.
Not to bash people who take #selfies. It’s not that I don’t like #selfies, (or laughing at them when I’m bored.) It's what they represent; I don’t like it. Not a single bit. So, what I realized was that during the walk with that girl, I was constantly taking (imaginary) pictures of myself, and sending them to her. I was being unoriginal; I traded my true identity for her validation. And that seems to be, unfortunately, the case of our whole generation. We are just painfully unoriginal.
We are the products of our environment. The environment shapes how we behave. We feel pressured; we lose ourselves to the idea of unattainable perfection. In order to cut right through the bullshit -we all pursue validation some way or another. We want to impress. We want to exceed one another. We want to show social dominance and high status; in fact, we basically just give up our identity.
Perhaps, it is the phenomenon of social media that sparked this insanity. (Thanks Mark for fucking us up.) I was never a Facebook fan; I don’t like to share my personal life with others. I don’t seek social acceptance that way. But somehow this girl put me into a position, where I felt so uncomfortable with the (self-imposed) pressure that I jumped onto the bandwagon of our generation.
We open Instagram, Facebook or whatever else it is that kids hang on these days, and what we see are people in competition with themselves. The competition for attention. It has become our natural impulse to seek it out. Our lives on social media remind me of Hobbesian 'State of Nature' (war of all against all). We all fight for the attention and validation of others; fulfilment is forgotten. And as we forget to fulfil ourselves, we lose originality; we lose identity. You know, most of us are already subscribed to the common identity the identity of total nothingness.
Our western society and the surplus of material possessions it produces, kills our desire to be fulfilled, as our basic needs are always met. Our brains do not have to deal with the basic cookie-cutter shit of survival. We are too spoiled; our environment is not the enemy anymore. We have become our own enemies. How did the story with the girl end? What is once done cannot be undone; I obviously can’t let her read this (as she would probably think the worst of me,) but I couldn’t thank her enough. She made me realize that I completely lost myself for a while. An error in the system; it will not happen again. Next time you are with a girl, or a boy, or something in between if you want; please do yourself a favour and keep your identity; look for fulfilment. Stop posting imaginary #selfies; forget validation. At the end,it is only the fulfilment that gives us genuine happiness.
Thank you 'girl' - it may have not worked out, but I will never forget about you.