Even though we always pretend to be part of this enviable group of people who seize the day and live every moment to the fullest as if it was their last, the need to define is ubiquitous.
Every day my students ask me to define their performance by giving them grades for the work they do both in and outside of class. They actually wouldn’t even hand in a project unless they know it will be graded, no matter how interesting the project might be.
No matter which social network or instant messenger I register with, in the registration process I am always asked to define myself, too, and my registration will not be completed if I refuse to do so.
Finally, whenever you meet new people they ask you questions requiring you to define yourself, such as “Where are you from?”, “What do you do for a living?”, “Do you have a boyfriend?” / “Are you married?”, etc..
However, why do we have to define ourselves over and over again when we simply want to live and let live and be happy? Do we end up thinking that we need to define ourselves because the older we get society asks us with an increasing urgency to make clear who we are and what our relationships to certain people in our lives are?
In principle I think that we are the architects of our own lives and happiness but we cannot deny that our surroundings influence the ways we see things. However, when it comes to this need to define certain things there is one more issue to be taken into account beyond what you may call “peer pressure”: how strong is our intrinsic motivation to define certain things, certain relationships and where does it come from in the first place?
I personally believe that as long as we feel safe and secure in certain surroundings, around certain people we don’t feel any pressure to either keep our “social masks” on or to define anything because we feel like we’re loved for our own sake, that we deserve to be loved and we can just enjoy the moment. As a consequence we don’t feel the need to define anything because everything feels perfect and as if it will last forever.
However, as soon as we lose this feeling of being in a “safe haven” and are no longer sure about who the people around us are and what they feel we don’t feel so secure anymore because we feel like we’re in a constant flux of shifting emotions and as if we could lose everything from one moment to the next. I think that this is the moment we start to pick up our “social masks” again, ready to put them back over our faces any minute if necessary. This is the moment we take a step back from even the people we most love, we start observing them and interpreting their actions (or lack thereof) because we suddenly think we need to define ourselves in relation to them and thus our relationship. And it is exactly this sudden need to define things that complicates everything, makes us act strange and makes it impossible to cherish every single moment, no matter how short it might be.
I know that a lot of people, but especially men don’t understand why the people they care about feel the need to define their relationship, maybe even bug them about it and can’t just take things the way they happen and enjoy the moments spent together. If only they realized that things could be (back to being) so easy if only they decided to take a clear stand on things, acted the way they used to and according to what they say or show they feel and thus didn’t make us wonder about so many things because they act completely unpredictable and because their actions betray their words, leaving us to wonder what is fake, their actions or their words.
So it’s not at all a guarantee we need to be happy with the state of affairs and our lives but it is just the lasting and vivid feeling that we count, that we have a place in people’s hearts and that they make some relatively small (but no less important) place in their no matter how busy lives for us.