Beyond the need for recognition

I feel the need… the need for recognition.

Social media seems to thrive on the need for recognition. Philosopher Georg Hegel argues that civilisation advances through an inherent need for recognition. This has led us from tribal societies through serfdoms, theocracies, aristocracies and to democracies underpinned by capitalism, where the individual’s recognition is outwardly visible, because recognition tends to be based on the opinions of others.

But what if you were already loved and recognised? As I write this, my daughter, Zoe, is 10 months old. She is so completely loved by me, my wife Lydia, both sets of grandparents, and pretty much everyone who meets her. We love her. It is in our human makeup to love her.

It’s in our human makeup to love.

So what if everyone had once had that sort of infinite love? What happens during the course of living life? Why do so many people feel unloved? Unimportant? And thus that yearning for recognition? Could it be that the experience of living in this world corrupts our ability to experience love?

Presumably, then, pockets of the sort of love we really desire still exist; sanctuaries from this hostile world. It also seems that the need for recognition drives people to produce stuff that gets them recognised, so everybody else is trying to do the same thing, and advertising to everybody else that their thing is the thing that will increase their recognition. It then appears that we’re all stuck in a self-perpetuating, self-fulfilling, yet ultimately self-destructive cycle of seeking approval.

But rejecting the existing way of the world cannot be the solution. My thinking is born from education and experience which is the result of the strivings of me, my parents, their parents, and a multitude of generations prior. So we live in the current reality, which requires recognition to be granted so that greater value can be exchanged and personal circumstances advanced. But even so, our purpose in it will ultimately tend towards a key concept: maturity of character.

If the mature character no longer needs external recognition to sculpt identity, then that person has peace. Ironically, that peace can often generate extraordinarily large amounts of recognition! But the mature character would then use that attention to genuinely help others.

So on our journey through life, we are striving for maturity of character and helping others get there too. Because trust, worthiness, value, appreciation, loyalty, and more tends to flow towards those who have maturity of character.

  • Those with business maturity release themselves and others from the lower game and get paid more to add their value in a higher game.
  • Those with relationship maturity release themselves from the need to experience only physical connection with others to temporarily feel worthy and instead enjoy greater stability, trust and an even deeper connection.
  • Those with intellectual maturity release themselves from recognition-driven condemnation of others’ perspectives and seek to nurture and grow others through thought leadership and mentorship.

And the maturity is not attained by mere advancing years, although the number of opportunities to learn life lessons and gain maturity are potentially multiplied over time. But time does not guarantee the student will learn, think, feel, change and mature.

Yet when we seek, we can find.

When we ask, we can be given.

When we knock, doors can be opened.

So when we take positive action and we stay awake and alert to the development opportunity, we can mature. That can progress further and faster today if, rather than simply seek recognition, we seek and recognise it.