Social Norms and Our Changing Needs

Philippians 2-4

If you were to try to find me in a room of people, I would probably be in the corner awkwardly looking around at all the chatty people. I’d be wondering what I could be doing to make better use my time, at the moment. I’d be anxious and nervous. I’d be reclusive and probably not want to participate.

If you haven’t guessed it, I am an introvert. But, my introverted ways go much deeper than social skills and people contact. In fact, many times I consider myself an outgoing introvert. As I’ve said before, I’ve had numerous people mistake me for an extrovert. Thus why my social skills go beyond a simple personality trait–as they should.

In my current course, I recently delved into a term called the social information processing theory. This theory identifies how the social environment and coworkers often shape one’s attitudes, specifically in an organization. Of all the theories I learned about this week, I strongly identified with this one.

I most identified with it though because the “theory challenges notions that people have stable, relatively unchanging internal needs.” The moment I read this, I instantly thought of every situation I’ve had like the one mentioned in the beginning.

It made me realize how our needs can change from one minute to the next, and not in a bad way either. Even though one may find me in the corner of a party at the start. There is a strong possibility that same person could later mistake me for a social butterfly.

I could go to a gathering, a Bible study, a dinner, you name it, only with the need to be home and by myself. Not even an hour later, I could feel a strong need to feel loved and valued by my family and friends. Or, I could experience a heavy wave of compassion flood over me nudging me to meet someone on a heart level.

I think society has created a stigma for our hierarchy of needs in life. I think society has completely tarnished values. It has created this idea that we all must morph into this same mold to not feel ostracized or looked down upon. It’s all about banning together, rather than standing out. Ultimately, though, banning together is an impossible goal when our needs are, in fact, constantly changing.

The above statement may sound harsh and be abrasive. I stand by it. Right and left, and every direction in between, we experience different social pressures about social interactions. One person says this while another group says that. We need to ignore it all.

No one can tell us how to feel at any given moment or time, especially without our consent or say. Who is to say what our needs are at any given moment or time? Who is to say we are wrong for going to a gathering not having a strong desire to participate, but rather soak it all in?

In this moment, I am unaware of what my internal needs are. But, I do know they weren’t the same as when I woke up this morning. I know I am not done with my day yet either.

My challenge to you is this: Be attentive to your needs and especially be attentive to the needs of others. Do not tell people what they need. Instead, ask. The answer may surprise you. Let it. You could be the person that helps someone feel more at ease at a gathering. You could be the reason why someone leaves an event with a lighter spirit and a heavy dose of gratitude.

As for your needs, find what is motivating you in whatever it is you are doing. Identify the need you possess. Identify the root motivation. Is that motivation something YOU are proud of? Find your why in life. Make it something you are proud of and stand by it wholeheartedly, even if it means standing out among a crowd of people shouting otherwise.

Find your why.




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