The other day someone asked me if I thought it was a bad thing for them to enjoy getting positive affirmation from others, and I said, no, as long as you don’t need it. As long as it’s just the icing on your cake.
But that is wrong. I made a big mistake. And I take it back.
We are relational beings. Through and through. And in the happiness research I always have my nose in, the same thing keeps showing up as the single most influential contributor to our overall happiness and well being. And that is relationships. Real live relationships. Authentic, genuine relationships. People with whom we feel loved and accepted for truly being ourselves.
But unfortunately, in our society, relationships like this are becoming more and more of a scarcity. And I could go on philosophizing as to why this is: Too busy, too many social media “friends” and not enough real ones, too much emphasis in our culture on being independent, striving too hard to get rich and not taking time for one another etc. etc. etc, but we’ll save that for another day.
But as I was saying, feeling loved, affirmed, valued and accepted by others is not the icing on the cake. Nope, it is, in fact, one of the main ingredients in our cake. It is necessary.
We are relational by nature, and contrary to popular belief, we actually DO need one another. Not in a needy, unhealthy, or co-dependent way, but in a healthy mutually beneficial, giving, nurturing, fulfilling and rewarding way. In an authentic and reciprocal way. We need each other.
And perhaps because most of us have enough money to not need each other to help us meet our basic needs, we don’t think we need one another to help meet our emotional, mental, and psychological needs. But we do.
And as one of the forefathers of modern psychology, Alfred Adler so wisely stated:
Genuine human connection is as essential to our existance as air and water.
So relationships are not a bonus, they are a key component. An essential component. We all need people to believe in us and to see us and love us and affirm us and value us for who we really are. And if we don’t have that we are going to come undone pretty quickly, or turn to things like substances, workaholism, self-harm, over eating, and so on, to deal with our feelings of disconnection and aloneness.
NOT to say our entire sense of value and self-worth is to dictated by the thoughts and opinions of others. No. We also need to believe in, value and love and accept ourselves – flaws, messiness, humanness, and all. But part of our sense of worth does come from others. And that’s a good and normal thing.
This sense of loneliness and disconnection from others is also often at the root of depression. Not necessarily being alone, but feeling alone. Feeling like who we are is not good enough, not acceptable, and not worthy of love from both ourselves and others.
So we keep ourselves hidden and don’t show people who we are. Because hey, if we don’t really show people who we are, they can’t actually reject us, can they? We fear getting hurt. We fear getting rejected. And those fears are real. And being who we are, and putting ourselves out there and asking for acceptance and love is a risk.
But we need to show up. We have to work through whatever is preventing us from being ourselves so we can show up and be who we are, like I said: Flaws, messiness, humanness, and all.
Because ultimately, our hearts deepest desire is to be seen. To be truly and deeply seen and accepted. And that only really happens when others tell us they recognize, value, appreciate and affirm us for who we are.
Oh, and did I mention that affirmation through social media “likes” do. Not. Count. At all. It might give you a little rush of dopamine in the moment, but it’s not real so it won’t last. Sorry. Or, perhaps I should say, thank goodness! Thank goodness we can’t replace the depth and breadth of a real relationship with technology.
IF we don’t allow ourselves to both need others, and allow others to need us, we can’t actually experience a real relationship and if we can’t do that, we will be miserable. I know this sounds harsh, but it’s true.
If you enjoyed this, please do share it. And if you do, let me know so I can thank you!