We want likes, shares, re-posts, favorites, or whatever you want to call it, because we seek acceptance. Some of why we seek it is based in how we were built and how we function, some in how we are social animals, but I think the biggest reason is in our fear of rejection. The science of acceptance, let’s talk.
A long time ago when we all spoke in grunts and killed food with spears we were a group hominid social animals living throughout the world. We lived in groups of people in which we relied on each other to gather food, protect each other, and survive. Some people were the hunters that went out and protected the tribe, some stayed back to keep track of the youth, some were builders, and so on… We all played a different role in these groups and worked together. This is the reason we have lasted longer than any other species, we have not always been the strongest, biggest, or fastest, but we have worked together to take care of each other and ensure each other’s safety and security. This leads me to my first topic, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Maslow came up with a theory in which he structured the needs of the human race into different categories. There are five total, but I want to focus on the first three; physiological, safety, and belonging. First is physiological, this is where your most basic needs are met. Food, water, protection from the elements and other functions that are crucial to our ability to survive. Next is safety. This has developed into a multitude of types of security, but at its base level it is security in knowing that you will not die or be killed, a great asset that comes with being a part of a group. This is the first sign of acceptance that we see. In older times we had to look out for each other while others were sleeping or working in order to survive and if someone were to ostracize themselves from the group they would be left to defend themselves, hence group living. We need each other to survive and prosper. This leads into the third level of the hierarchy, belonging. We want to belong to a group, we want to be accepted not only for the safety and security, but to be a part of something that is bigger than just ourselves. At the end of the day we don’t find fulfillment by doing things ourselves. It’s about sharing those moments with others that allow us to feel fulfilled and satisfied with what we are doing with our lives. There is also another play that we as humans feel, chemically, involving dopamine and oxytocin.
Dopamine and Oxytocin are two of the four chemicals that represent happiness. To hear more in depth about all of them, listen to the Simon Sinek talk called “Leaders eat last” on YouTube. Dopamine is released when we achieve our goals or accomplish something. Other activities that release dopamine include, drinking, gambling, drugs, and even your cell phone. This is why we seek out the like, retweet, favorite, and so on because it gives us a “hit” of dopamine. Dopamine is very addictive and this is why you see people become engulfed and dependent upon these substances mentioned above, including your cellphone. This is why people and our society as a whole have become obsessed with the result. I believe that we have become so asphyxiated on acquiring things that we have become addicted to dopamine and another chemical called serotonin. Between these two chemicals we can see that we try to find acceptance through the acquiring of material goods and “Status”. We strive to be a part of a group so badly that we look for any avenue to get it, like buying a car or seeking more promotions at work. It is a mindset of “keeping up with the Joneses” or seeking that next dopamine fix. It is a great chemical and allows us to accomplish our goals, but be weary in where you find it. Fall in love with the process, not the result and see yourself grow and learn.
The second chemical is oxytocin, which is the chemical that is released by human touch, love, and sexual acts. It also plays a part in our search for acceptance. It is in our best interest to be around other people and to build relationships with them not only from theory set out by Maslow, but also because chemically it drives us as humans. Oxytocin is the reason we enjoy hanging out with our friends and family. It is a chemical that has our best interest in mind. It wants to bring us closer to people and to continue to seek out safety and belonging in those hominid groups as our ancestors did.
The last driver as to why we seek acceptance and why we need acceptance has everything to do with the opposite, rejection. I think we are so afraid of rejection and not being a part of a group that we often find ourselves with groups and people that we may not be happy with. Rejection is such a big factor in our lives that we can fundamentally go against what we believe or what we value to a point in which we drive the groups we want to be a part of away from us. I see this often as we develop into adults, with groups of friends through grade school, middle school, high school, and into college. Find out early on what is important to you and don’t let it waiver. Rejection affects your relationships. Guys won’t ask girls on dates, girls are afraid to make the first move, fear is crippling. We live now in a technology dependent world in which we are losing the ability to deal with this type of emotion. It is not about getting rejected, its about how you react to the rejection. As Rocky said, “It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” Bad things are going to happen in your life, don’t let it change or alter your core values and beliefs and build a support network of people who have similar ideals. How can you find those people? Everything you say and do is a symbol of what you believe, and that symbol will attract people. So who do you want to attract?
In closing, we see that acceptance is a part of our core as humans and is needed for our survival. We cannot let it become our addiction though; we need to learn to function as a group, but also independently. So I challenge you to have the confidence to take the next step, push your limits and make a small change in what you are doing. Try something out on your own and have the confidence to not only accept yourself for who you are and what you are doing, but know that you have a strong network behind you to pick you up when you fail. Growth comes not in stagnation, but in vulnerability and change. We need other people in our lives to support us, but know that we can function on our own when we need to. Go out and experience life and grow each day to get better, because in 20 years do you want to look back and say I wish I had the confidence to have done it, or I’m glad my friends and family were there to support me through it?