On the Curiously Strong Need for Acceptance

Other than death, public speaking strikes fear into people’s hearts like no other. The thought of being on a stage presenting yourself to others does things to people. It has a vomit-inducing quality you don’t find too many other places. It’s not necessarily because of shyness or a lack of preparation. It’s deeper than that. It comes from a fear that sits with us all at some point or another: the fear of not being accepted.

No matter who you are, no matter where you are, you want to feel accepted, maybe not by everyone, but definitely by someone. Acceptance doesn’t just mean being liked. It means knowing and resting assured that someone—even if it’s only one person—sees the person you are and is okay with that. Despite the ugliness you try to hide, despite the humanness you try to downplay, despite the darkened bits of yourself that feed on jealousy and rage, someone is aware of that and still looks at you with love and kindness.

This intoxicating feeling is what we all chase, consciously or subconsciously. When we feel accepted, we feel worthy of love. It lets us know that the natural light within us all has been recognized and is, therefore, still intact. Without that grounding feeling, the world is a very cold place.

When you feel accepted by those that matter most, there is no need to search for it from lesser influences. But when you don’t feel it, the stamp of others becomes vital. When we constantly seek others’ approval, to the point where we become puppets and “yes men,” we are attempting to fill the painful voids we feel our loved ones have left. Acceptance is not negotiable; we must have it. If we feel we can’t get it from the right sources, we will settle for any source that offers. Life is too hard to go through alone. Good or bad, we will find companions.

This partially explains why social networking sites like Facebook are so popular. Beyond the convenience of having access to everyone you’ve ever met in life on one screen, it’s an easy way for us to gain (or at least feel like we’ve gained) the acceptance of the masses.  Every comment, every wall post and every “like” is a small piece of acceptance we gladly take ownership of. Though many of these virtual interactions are superficial and may have nothing to do with genuine acceptance, our fragile egos don’t seem to know the difference.

And in the midst of all this acceptance searching, we limit our acceptance giving. As if there were an inverse relationship between what we give and what we get back, we guard our acceptance and offer vicious judgment in its place.  Something about judgment of others makes it so appealing. Maybe it’s the cheap and fleeting satisfaction it provides. Maybe it’s the magical way it seems to inflate our self images, putting a greater distance between “us” and “them.”  Or maybe it’s the fact that judgment is what creates and maintains the us/them dynamic.  Gotta have something to make us feel special.

It’s a shame  we get so distracted. Against the loud clamor of this world, God’s peace seems to get lost. We get persuaded by things and corrupted ideas that God’s acceptance isn’t first and foremost, isn’t redeeming, isn’t  complete.  That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The best acceptance doesn’t come from the fringe. It comes from the core. Seek it there. Find it there.

~Nadirah Angail