The Feeling of Wanting to Impress Others
As I've developed my meditation practice over the years, my awareness of how my body has reacted to certain things increased.
Specifically, I noticed how my body would feel when I had particular thoughts.
Where you feel things
When people experience emotions, they are having a physical reaction to a particular thought. Fear, anxiety, happiness, passion. These emotions you all feel in your gut. This makes sense on a physiological level: the gut, or stomach, has been described as the body's second brain.
However, people aren't often consciously aware of this: you may feel something, but have you consciously thought about where in your body you feel it, and what exactly is the physical feeling itself?
The feeling of wanting to impress others
There is a lot that I can say about how certain emotions manifest as physical feelings. I plan to in the future. But here I wish to speak about what was, for me, the most profound feeling, since it is one that, in many respects, has dominated my life in ways that were not positive. How do I know this? Because I know the decisions that I made following this feeling were not decisions that I look back on as being good ones; or, more accurately, they were not decisions that were true to what I actually knew would make me happy.
I call this feeling that of wanting to impress others. An example will explain. I'm walking down the street and I see an attractive person. I want them to find me attractive, even fleetingly, so I adjust my posture and expression to one that I think looks cool. I was trying to impress this person.
This example is a small, very minor one, which I have no doubt many people experience. I would describe the feeling as being one in my stomach that then rises up. I go from peacefully walking along to having a feeling in my stomach to do this thing.
This feeling can, and does, happen in much greater ways. Imagine, at your job, a colleague gets promoted above you. You think that you could do a better job, and you should be in a higher position. That feeling is driving you to do something about it. What does that feel like?
Similarly, imagine, in your career, that you are successful but then you see someone else you know from your time in high school who is earning more money than you. You feel like you should be doing something to achieve more. What does that feel like?
The most modern example is that you see someone on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube who is doing something that looks simple: you could do that. But they are making a fortune doing it. Don't you feel like you can do the same?
For me, this is a feeling I get of wanting to impress others. I originally referred to this as a feeling of trying, since for me that's what it is: a feeling that I need to try to exert effort to do something. The reason it felt like effort was because I didn't really want to do it. In the absence of that external factor, I wouldn't have had the feeling.
The feeling is, therefore, a feeling different than simply wanting to be good at what you do, or about who you are. It's a feeling of inadequacy, driven by making comparisons, that drives a person to do something which that person would otherwise not do. It has driven me to take jobs that I did not want, go to places that I did not want to go, say things that I otherwise would not want to say.
The reason that I can make this distinction is because I take time to be on my own, and reflect on what I want in life. I like to pose hypotheticals to myself: if I didn't see a person that I knew from university making more money than me, would I feel like I have to do more, or something different? Not only is the answer no, but I also notice the different way my body feels in relation to the question. That feeling of my stomach rising up goes away, and I feel it going back down.
Most importantly, this experience taught me that if it is the physical reaction that drives the urge, then directly reversing that physical reaction can remove the urge.
Try this as an exercise to get a feel for it. Imagine the simplest scenario above of wanting to impress an attractive person that you're walking past. Notice how your stomach feels. It insides rise up. Now, without thinking anything else, imagine, feel, the stomach falling back down and calming itself. If successful, what you will find is that the urge has also significantly reduced, or even completely gone away.
Another example, you're talking to another person, and you want to impress them, so you tell them something about yourself; something which, on reflection, you wish that you didn't say. In a situation where this happens, before you say anything, again imagine the feeling of your stomach falling back down and calming itself. You'll find that you don't have the urge to say that thing anymore. Interestingly, you'll find that this also makes you a better listener.
Does this apply to other things?
Yes, to answer my own question. You can apply this technique to any situation where you feel worked-up. It works far better than taking deep breaths because that is, at best, an indirect way to generate this result. People are advised to take deep breaths to calm themselves down. But all that does is focus your mind on some other stimulus. This distracts you, which can result in stomach calming down or not; it depends on how easily you are distracted.
Finally, it is okay to imagine pushing the stomach down; sometimes that is the feeling necessary to achieve the result.
There are other related ways and techniques that I have developed that will assist with other kinds of feelings that cause distress, anxiety and depression. I will write more on them in future, but for now, I hope that this will be of assistance to you.