Understanding our Anxiety-Filled Need for Acceptance

Understanding our Anxiety-Filled need for AcceptanceTo feel valued and respected is a universal human need. We evolved over countless generations to function within groups, where being accepted as a valued member of the group was literally essential to our survival. The drive to “fit in” and to be accepted by our “pack” is not only normal—it’s hardwired into our evolutionary DNA.

How strong that need for acceptance is varies from person to person, from very high to quite low. But regardless of whether our need for acceptance is high or low in “normal” times, it is always the case that when we are experiencing higher-than-usual levels of stress and anxiety, our felt (and more often our unconscious) need to belong and be accepted takes center stage. Under such circumstances, what others think of us becomes much more important—sometimes even to the point of overcoming our need to feel good about ourselves. Unless we have a very strong and stable sense of self, a high level of anxiety to be accepted can easily overwhelm us, and we can be tempted to do “whatever it takes” to follow the herd in order to reinforce our sense of belonging.

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