There is a popular saying that goes, “With age comes maturity.” But that’s not all age brings. It also makes us tired of trying to impress people. Either they like us the way we are, or they don’t. And that’s okay with us.
For some, age is just a number, but it’s hard to deny its benefits and drawbacks. You can get a driver’s license, but you have to drive your parents around; you can buy beer, but you have to start making money; you are now considered wise, but you’re too old to do the things you love.
The one thing that remains constant throughout our lifetime is change and our tendency as humans to look out for our happiness, satisfaction, comfort, and joy. As we grow, we learn to evaluate the worth of our lives by constantly comparing ourselves with others. Most of us do this so much, we can never seem to enjoy our experiences or the quality of our lives without comparing them to the experiences and lives of others.
However, the same way we depend on others for our happiness, most of our sorrows are the result of our association with or expectations of others. This dependence on others is the root of why we look to them to validate our decisions, or view our choices through their eyes.
The Need to Impress
Impressing people is a natural desire and not always a bad thing, since it can help us get something our regular self may not. Our desire to impress others, therefore, goes hand in hand with our innate desire to feel special. If we fail to meet this desire, we are plagued with feelings of shame, worthlessness, and inadequacy.
For some, it may feel like they are in competition with everyone else. For example, we may feel like people we talk to have met other people who are more social, skilled, or intelligent than us and so, we feel that in order to prove ourselves worthy of that person’s attention, we have to be seen as more impressive than our competition.
This need to impress is also what makes us aspire for social status and the respect, honor, assumed competence, and deference it brings. It makes us want to get a higher paying job, a nicer house, and a faster car to impress people and increase our ranking of the way we think they see us. However, there is a further problem with trying to impress others.
Once we achieve one status level, another often instantly appears above it. For instance, we may aspire to be a successful athlete, but after training and participating in several competitions, we might then want to be amongst those who have won coveted awards or who have broken records.
Therefore, the more we try to impress people, the more we strive for social status. As we climb higher up the social ladder, our peer group shifts, and the status we seek is forever just beyond our grasp.
How to Break Free from Trying to Impress People
“Why you buy is just as important as what you buy,” said Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. “When people buy life experiences to impress others, it wipes out the well-being they receive from the purchase. That extrinsic motivation appears to undermine how the experiential purchase meets their key psychological needs.”
Changing the reason for why we make choices and ensuring it is in line with our desires, interests, and values results in a greater sense of fulfillment and well-being.
“The biggest question you have to ask yourself is why you are buying something,” Howell said. “Motivation appears to amplify or eliminate the happiness effect of a purchase.”
In an article by Trent Hamm, he gave six practical steps on how to break free from trying to impress people.
Take the lead and become a trendsetter within your group.
Try new activities with your circle of friends or on your own, especially activities you never have considered before.
Guide the conversation and focus on being positive towards everyone, particularly in non-material areas.
Use your compliments wisely as doing so will show clearly what you value.
Share personal growth-oriented thoughts instead of talking about popular culture and “stuff” all the time.
Explore new relationships if your circle of friends is still focused on impressing others and on material gains.
The key to happiness is breaking free from trying to impress people and instead, focusing on things that bring real value to you — and gives real value to others.
“Self Worth: Why Do Some People Always Try To Impress Others?” SelfGrowth.
“Who Are You Trying to Impress?” Psychology Today.
“Buying life experiences to impress others removes happiness boost.” Science Daily.
“Rule #6: Stop Trying to Impress Other People.” The Simple Dollar.