As much as we look forward to seeing friends, we may be anxious about how we come across. Is it our desire to fit in that’s causing our concern?
When this current situation returns to normal, there will undoubtedly be more social gatherings, whether family, friends or business, but this could instil more anxiety than joy.
Perhaps you worry before going out about how you will come across, and how others might judge you. Maybe you question whether you want to go out at all. Then there is the question of dress, etiquette, location, travel and other attendees.
Welcome to the world of the social animal, where we care, often desperately, what other people think of us.
Our identities are in the hands of others.
Its an unsettling thought, provoking a double worry, if people think badly about us, we will think badly of ourselves. And then we worry about the fact we care what other people think at all. Why should we be so concerned?
After all, we`re used to thinking we can be who we want to be, do what we want to do. In truth, we are social creatures.
“We need each other in order to be anybody“. Said philosopher Bernard Williams.
Of course, parties can be a delightful experience. its a bit like being part of a team, when a collection of individuals first gels as a team…. you can almost hear the click, a new kind of reality comes into existence.
A sporting team, for example, can click in and out of this reality many times during a game, and each player, as well as the coach and fans, can detect the difference. But this is the downside, individuals feel pressured to be team players.
Put this in the party, networking context and there are the pressures to have fun and enjoy the experience, it can be a horribly isolating when you don’t.
The psychiatrist Carl Jung put it down to personality types.
Extroverts get energy from being with others. For them, the night is always too young.
Introverts, though, tend to feel that when many people are present, too many people are present. For them, crowds are lonely places.
The truth is that most of us have some extravert and some introvert in us. Hence, even the most enthusiastic party-goer needs nights in, and those who usually prefer to retreat from the world might come out of their shells occasionally.
Also involved in this social dance are the so-called mimetic factors. Unconsciously, we copy those we`re closest to. Imitation brings the happiness of knowing you belong. For social animals, it is very stressful to feel otherwise. The reason others opinions influence our self-esteem is that they act as like mirrors. We see ourselves in the reflections they offer on how we look, what we do, how we love. Only the toughest characters have the self-belief to trust their own judgement and ignore others.
Some psychologists say that we best understand ourselves by focusing on the groups to which we belong – family, work, ethnicity. The German therapist Bert Hellinger uses systems theory; the idea that groups are self-regulating. Like an electrical system, when the energy is flowing freely, the elements in the system light up. When there is a blockage, things go wrong, even blow up. When we are all connected to others, life goes well for us.
Hellinger uses the word, “conscience” to describe the anxiety people feel when they go against their groups. It’s not quite the conscience that tells us when we have done something good or bad, rather its the conscience that tells us when we have done something that our group thinks is good or bad.
Many have felt betrayal radiating from their family when they spent the first Christmas away from home. the dis-quiet stems from this implicit message, I belong to another group now, too- my friends, or that of my partner. It pricks your family group conscience.
But such awkward rites of passage are essential if individuals are to develop a sense of self, as well as of belonging……