The Strive for Social Acceptance:
Why Humans Go to Great Lengths for Approval
Inquiry Question: Why do humans strive excessively for social acceptance? By: Michelle Tran
Teacher: Ms. Quansoon
Date: April 30th 2012
It is often stated in society that it is “what is on the inside that counts”, yet it takes only a few seconds for a person to judge another individual as approachable or intimidating. To society, a person may be observed as an aggressive and hopeless individual but in the eyes of another person, one is able to see more in-depth values and hold great affection for them. The automatic assumption of such rebellious behaviour by brief seconds of decree can lead to misunderstandings of the said individual, as they go through the struggle of finding acceptance in such a judgemental society. In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley takes the reader deep into the psychological and cultural perspective of acceptance, as many characters strive for recognition in a world where one is judged for defying social norms. By being a nonconformist in such a heavily-controlled society, one will endure misery and stress. And so, humans strive for social approval to gain power, avoid exclusion, create and stabilize relationships and to improve the quality of their lives.
The aspiration for power can make an individual crave for social acceptance. This power, once obtained, can allow people to feel worthy and satisfied by fulfilling their ambitions. In Brave New World, Bernard takes advantage of his new fame by pursuing conventional fads that he normally would not have approved of before, such as having sex for leisure “Bernard risked a gesture which, in the past, even total darkness would hardly have emboldened him to make. Strong in his new importance, he put his arm round the Head Mistress's waist." (Huxley, 147) This shows Bernard’s happiness of acceptance, thus his desire for recognition had been fulfilled through his reputation as a respected man after bringing John into the World State. Correspondingly, the power obtained from the acceptance of society must also not be exploited. It has been said by the Supreme Councillor in Star Wars: Episode III that “All who gain power are afraid to lose it” This quote portrays that once a person gains acceptance and power; one could possibly be destroyed by it as well. This is also evident in the book when Bernard is exiled to Iceland “Oh, please don't send me to Iceland. I promise I'll do what I ought to do.'" (Huxley, 206) This is evidence showing how a gluttonous mindset on power will eventually lead a person back to where they began – alone and isolated in society. The ambition to gain power through social acceptance is common, but should be dealt with a clear and altruistic mind to avoid definite isolation from society.
Secondly, humans are social creatures that yearn to be accepted to avoid exclusion. By being debarred, a person may feel lonesome in a sea of people. In 1950, an experiment conducted by Solomon Asch showed that peer influence plays a major role in decision making due to the stress for approval from their friends, by pressuring a person to choose an incorrect answer selected by peers as opposed to the correct, yet ostracised answer (Age of Sage, 2002). This complements to Brave New World when Bernard attends the service to blend in with society, but ironically he feels even more separated from the group than he ever did before. “‘Yes, I thought it was wonderful,’ he lied and looked away; the sight of her transfigured face was at once an accusation and an ironical reminder of his own separateness. “(Huxley, 86) This shows the desperation of Bernard to feel accepted in the service group. Also by being excluded, a person may have a lack of affection from others. Another experiment conducted by Mary Ainsworth in 1970, explicitly showed the distress of a young child who was neglected from its mother, which was later concluded that the relationship...
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