Lately my 4 year old has been trying to play very rough at home, and everytime I have to remind her that this is not the way that we play; punching and kicking can hurt others. I have noticed that she gets more aggressive the days that she is at school or is getting prepared to go to school. Finally, today she told me that some of her classmates at school do not like to play with her, because she does not play rough.
From a very young age, we are all looking for ways to be around other people, to get accepted by others, to get recognized by others and to be liked by others. It seems like our brains are wired this way. In other ways we are all looking for social acceptance.
According to Wikipedia social acceptance is ” The fact that most people, in order to fit in with others, attempt to look and act like them. Or sometimes it is the ability to accept or to tolerate differences and diversity in other people or groups of people.”
Today’s incident made me think about how social acceptance and happiness are closely related. In my daughter’s case it seemed easy, if she plays rough, she will get accepted by this specific group of her classmates, so she started to practice playing rough at home. I asked her how she would feel if someone started kicking and punching her? Did that make her happy? After she agreed that she does not like to be kicked and punched, I asked her, does she think it would make other kids happy if they get kicked and punched? So, she knew my point and asked me, but mom, why does “XYZ” always play rough? So I explained to her may be that friend does not know how to play nice. She accepted it, but I know deep down she is still looking for more explanations.
Let’s go beyond childhood and look into our adulthood. As adults, we tend to do the same, but sometimes it is hidden beneath other labels. You have a group of friends who are all into fitness, eating healthy, and looking perfect, So you get into stress and start a crazy diet and intense workout, every time you have to meet with them. Some people might say that your friends are having a positive influence on you, and they motivate you to get healthier, but I disagree. I say, you are looking for a way to fit in this group of people. This kind of social acceptance, is affecting your happiness directly. If you don’t look thin and fit, you don’t feel comfortable around this group of people. If they were motivating you, then you would of exercise and eat healthy, no matter what, not only when you were going to be with them.
So what should we do. We are humans and as you have already seen, we need to live with other people. We cannot live solo. But interacting with others, requires social acceptance. You have to be accepted by others to be part of their group. So the real question is that, how can we get socially accepted with out jeopardizing our happiness and our values?
Step by step guide to gain social acceptance with out jeopardizing happiness:
- Learn about yourself– the very first step in this process is to get to know yourself. What is important to you? What makes you happy? What is your goal in life? Does this support your values? Are there any consequences, if I act the way that I like? Depending on you, this can be an easy and short process or very long process. Sometimes, you need to spend some time alone away from other people and social media. Before moving to the next step, I just wanted to put an emphasis here that the subject in this process is “You”, not your friends, your spouse, your kids, your parents, etc. Also, please note in study of you, you are the only one who knows the best answer, even if that answer might seem wrong to some other people.
- Gain self acceptance– now that you know yourself, it is time to accept yourself. Without accepting yourself for who you really are and what makes you really happy, it will be very hard to get accepted into the right social group that will make you happy. To make this point more clear, let’s give an example. Let’s look at our story about the person who had to go on an extreme diet and exercise plan to get fit, each time she had to meet with a specific group of friends. If she was going to go through this step by step process, in step one she would of spend sometimes to get to know herself. Let’s say after following step one now she knows that she loves eating, eating makes her happy, she also hates exercising, but she knows that if she eats all she wants and never exercise, her health and well being will be in risk, so her goal is to become healthier. In step 2, she needs to accept herself and find a way to be healthy with out doing crazy workouts and missing out on foods that make her happy. This will take us to step 3.
- Find a friend, social group, or professional who would support you in your goal– Simply put, this step means to find new friends. My imaginary friend in this story, would complete this step by finding friends who like to live a healthier life with out necessarily giving up on foods or spending hours in Gym. She can even bring this up with her existing friends, some of them might be able to help her. These days with the help of social media, it has been easier than ever to find like minded friends.
- Keep improving– now that you know who you are, you have accepted yourself and found a new social group who accepts you for who you are, it is time to study and improve your desires. In this step, my friend would keep learning about ways to enjoy food and eating in a healthier ways, maybe find new exercises that are not so time consuming and intense, but still support her main goal of being healthy and share that with her new friend or social group. I think it is a disservice to yourself, if you atop improving.
- And final step- go back to step one. As we age and grow our likes, dislikes, goals and dreams and everything else in between changes. So it is important to go through this step by step process every once in a while and try to get to know yourself and get socially accepted for who you really are and who you really want to be.
To get accepted into the right group of people and gaining social acceptance without jeopardizing your happiness, you need to start with accepting yourself for who you really are.
Would love to hear your thoughts on social acceptance and the challenges that you face.
Stay happy and healthy!