Random Forays: The insatiable need to impress others
One of our commonest human proclivities, one that refuses to go away, is the urge to impress fellow men and women. In many cases that should read ‘women and men’, but we will go with the flow here!
The journey begins when a toddler tries his best to impress his mamma about the necessity and urgency of purchasing an attractive toy. The teenage years, quite naturally, see the emergence of the universal need to impress the opposite sex. Thus, the boys will start shaving their soft cheeks much before they’re supposed to, and the girls will hide short skirts in their rucksacks, to be worn during an unauthorised outing once school is over.
The hair, the clothes, the mannerisms, the words, the social media posts, the choices and preferences of such teenagers will continue to reflect their need to make an impact on the opposite sex, as the years roll on. I remember that one of our classmates in middle school would shave even at 5 am since he had to attend basketball practice before school. And of course, the girls were inevitably present for the practice session as well. We would make fun of him, but he was the darling of the gals and so we also nursed envious feelings within.
Youngsters who appear for interviews are also susceptible to the ailment of trying to over impress the panel. According to Harvard Business Review, popularly known as HBR, one cannot really discern or anticipate the preferences of the interviewers. It is always better to be yourselves, the renowned publication advises all candidates.
Young professionals who have just entered their careers find the need to impress others -- bosses, clients, seniors, and the like. They realise that the impressions they create by virtue of the qualities which they bring to the table, might not be enough for them to grow as fast as they would like in their fledgling careers. Many of them learn very soon to resort to tendencies like sycophancy and false praise. The cut-throat nature of the corporate world is such that the art of buttering-up others becomes a necessary component of their repertoires.
A largely attended meeting in any organisation might see the chairperson praising one individual in particular, to the exclusion of all others. And unless the individual in question is a highly popular fellow, most others will back-bite later that he is obviously the ‘chela’ of the boss. And much worse adjectives will doubtlessly be used in the locker room!
But as life goes on, the need to impress people recedes into the backdrop. Most people realise that it is simply not worth it- to live for what others may think. The need to create an impression is not as compelling, in the second half of life. One learns, or should learn, to be comfortable in one’s own skin, so to say. Yet, men will be men, and they continue to change their accents as well as their mannerisms when in fair company!
Women, on the other hand, settle into a groove with superior emotional intelligence. They tend not to try and impress anyone in their later years, except perhaps when they dress up for a ‘do’, in which case they will be disappointed if no one compliments them!
Be that as it may, human beings are forever in need of appreciation and praise. The art of praising one’s life partner fades away with years, but a genuinely expressed word of gratitude will do wonders for a relationship. It is said that of all material desires, the desire for fame, popularity, even acknowledgement, remains with us long after lesser desires for money, power and physical gratification have died down.
Thus, even if a chef is not cooking to impress, he will love the shower of accolades that comes his way, if the meal has been relished. An author will take great delight in being told that she has written her book with great felicity and style, even if she wrote it only for the becalming of her own soul.
‘Dressing to kill’ may thus not be one of life’s major requirements but receiving a word of praise never did anyone any harm!