Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Does Social Acceptance Equal Self-acceptance?

Social acceptance—the need to fit in with those around—has always been central to human existence. It affects both genders and people of all ages, races, and faiths, regardless of rank or class.

Self-acceptance is the concept of loving and being happy with who you are now, in spite of deficiencies.

The Upside?

Validation is vital to an individual’s existence as an independent entity. Most humans have three acquired needs based on sensory contact (through the six portals of sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch, and thought) with the external world:

  • Identification with a group
Language, culture, rites, rituals, communities, religions, political parties—all exist to nurture people’s sense of belonging, to create a forum for expressing shared views and experiences.
Social integration is great in that it provides opportunities to learn about other races and cultures, promoting harmony and peace. Acceptance of social issues and practices such as adoption, mental illness, oppression, gay rights, and disability rights has the power to erase erroneous thinking, discourage discrimination, encourage tolerance and conformance, and help appreciate differences and diversity.
  • Identification with an individual
Mutual love and respect is the key to a relationship’s success. Between husband and wife, parent and child, boss and employee, teacher and student, between siblings or friends—the craving for each other’s approval and acceptance, and the satisfaction derived thereof, usually dictates the stability of the relationship.
  • Identification with ego
Satisfying the ego is a principal reason for social conformance. Nobody wants to live in exile. Everybody wants to belong and to feel important. Popularity and influence, in addition to money and power, have shaped and molded legal, cultural, social, and political views since ancient times, enabling individuals—on both personal and societal levels—to embrace change, break free of holdups, honor commitment, defy boundaries, confront adversity, challenge inadequacies, and resolve problems. 

The Downside?

Money and power are primeval prime evils. Elitism and social class division, a derivative of economic stratification, have existed since ancient times and afforded special privileges to their members, with blatant disregard for the rest of the community.

Today governments, organizations, and corporations around the world are beleaguered with fraud and endemic corruption stemming from individuals’ insatiable hunger for money and power. Diverting food aid away from its intended recipients, child labor, influence peddling, electoral fraud, embezzlement, nepotism, outright bribery—corruption and fraud can take various forms. A decline in values such as accountability, transparency, commitment, and an escalation in exploitation and other injustices have contributed not only to social, economic, and environmental decline on a massive global scale, but also to the conditions that have lead to global crime and terrorism.

The addiction to fame and to “winning” is pervasive—from athletes to movie stars to politicians—and incites individuals to engage in bizarre, and, at times, sensational behaviors. To attract attention and acquire bragging rights, people shamelessly flaunt their sexuality, dress inappropriately, trash talk, crash parties, judge others, or speak with a fake accent. One look at the news on television or the Internet illuminates the insidious nature of these types of behaviors. Far from expressing remorse and committing to change, most simply justify their odd and impersonal behaviors through blame, selfishness, resistance, deflection, denial, and overt defensiveness.

Let’s address consumerism. Gourmet dining, brand-name shopping, and luxury living are emblematic of an affluent lifestyle. The digital dawn has presented a new way for the common man to live that lifestyle: the clutch of materialism and consumerism. From the young to the old, transcending gender and spanning ethnicities, the single most popular feeling that people crave—admiration—drives them to display an image of perfection and sophistication. What better way to create that image than through the medium of materialism and consumerism?

Sadly, consumerism has spiked snobbery, disdain, hypocrisy, and narcissistic behavior, and, increased debt and disease. The preoccupation with power and prestige makes some believe that owning designer clothes and accessories will enhance their social standing, that participating in wine tasting or attending opera will give them an edge, that taking expensive vacations in exotic locations will make them appear influential. Some use the armor of social acceptance to make themselves feel secure from rejection, ridicule, and judgment. Many drink, smoke, lie, cheat, swear, self-indulge, and throw extravagant parties as a show of social superiority. The mere adoption of designer fashions and elitist tastes doesn’t make a person look sophisticated; it just makes them look pompous and comical.

Speaking of social superiority, think of the smirk on the parent’s face whose child attends a private or prestigious school, or the professional woman who snickers at your choice of being a stay-home mom, or the colleague who scorns you for being vegetarian. Ever meet someone that consistently uses sarcasm and makes belittling comments because they deem it “cool?” How about the person who talks loudly and incessantly to fulfill an innate desire to be accepted? People routinely over-promise and under-deliver, and, my pet peeve—they tell you what they want you to hear. The veneer of peace and contentment many people project is just that—very superficial. Quite frequently, it’s a contrived effort to mask the myriad dysfunctions that exist in their lives.

People fail to realize that constantly impressing others is not only exhausting, but also expensive, time-consuming, and distracting. In the foray to get ahead, people are increasingly sacrificing integrity and compassion for a life of sham and a false sense of respectability. Overall, the riptide of social consciousness is making the populace fearful, self-absorbed, ostentatious, and disengaged from “inner” reality.


You gleefully flaunt your online or social avatars, but do you disguise your feelings and whitewash your mistakes? Social acceptance has widened your network, but has it also widened your sense of unease, anxiety, and incompleteness? Your reputation for exquisite taste has gone viral, but is your perception of you still wedged in the depths of your mind? Social acceptance has put you on equal footing with the community’s who’s who, but has it also helped you move past pretense, avoidance, and denial? Does social acceptance equal self-acceptance?

Questions are for you to ask; the answers will come find you. Vipassana meditation can transform human consciousness the way a dam can revitalize entire geographic regions. A conscious engagement of mind and body, vipassana meditation helps resurrect an individual’s inner manifestation by unearthing their deep well of inner reality, which helps sever the individual’s dependence on external approval and acceptance, assists them to accept and resolve dysfunction, strengthens the individual’s self-discipline and resolve, and promotes the development of their humanity.

May the force of silence be with you.

Until we meet again….

1 comment:

  1. I think you were right that social acceptance validates self acceptance but it sometimes takes a more internal look at what the social acceptance is for that is the true test.