The need for recognition is a lure because it can be insatiable. The need for paternal recognition can very quickly lead to a need for recognition at work and project it onto his superior. To avoid this endless race, it is advisable to put an end to this need as soon as possible, at the risk of spending one’s life chasing chimeras.
Why is it bad to seek recognition from others?
People are moody, that’s why it is illusory to look for recognition elsewhere than towards oneself, at the risk of going in circles. Moreover, it is never good to make one’s happiness rest on others, seeking recognition is neither more nor less than giving a third party control over us, and moreover control over our happiness.
The need to adopt a philosophy of life that gives you back the power
Seeking recognition is nothing more than the mark of our own incompleteness, we must get rid of that, otherwise we will never be happy. To do this, you need to find a philosophy of life, because the incredible power of philosophies is that they give you back control. There are dozens and dozens of philosophical models to follow, they can be adapted to your environment and your pre-existing principles. Let me introduce you to one of them that I think is one of the best for fighting this need for recognition: Epicureanism.
Epicureanism distinguishes between necessary and non-necessary needs as well as natural and unnatural needs.
To be happy according to Epicurus, one must simply satisfy one’s natural and necessary needs and neglect all others. This sounds simple, but in reality it calls into question many things, especially those we take for granted.
There are three categories of natural and necessary desires:
– those related to life itself: drinking, eating and sleeping
– those related to the well-being of the body (aochlesia): to preserve the body from the cold (to be near a fire) and from bad weather (to have a shelter)
– those related to happiness (eudaimonia): the desire to philosophize and the desire for friendship (philia)
Other desires that do not fit into these categories are not essential to happiness according to Epicurus. These are the other kinds of desire:
– Natural and non-necessary desires: sexual desire (the satisfaction of sexual appetite) and the desire for beauty (desire for aesthetics).
According to Epicurus, the desire to expend oneself in sexual activity can be simply replaced by physical effort, which one accomplishes in sport or gymnastics, or gymnosophy (a combination of nudity, contemplation and meditation) or philosophical conversation with a friend.
The desire for beauty (as in the reading of poems) is to be proscribed if it is accompanied by a detour from the truth. In this respect, he criticizes Homer’s stories which contributed to convey lies through attractive and mythical stories.
Unnatural and unnecessary desires: vain desires (“empty” (kenai): without object). These are desires that are unlimited, in opposition to the finitude of nature. These are desires for possession, glory or power. The more a desire is not necessary, the more it is difficult to satisfy and the more it generates suffering and thus does not allow ataraxia, guarantor of happiness.
It sounds radical, but that is what Epicurus advocates. Seeking beauty or pleasure should not be part of our concerns. This threatens the possibility of finding ataraxia, the absence of trouble and essential condition for happiness.
The need for recognition limits your potential
The need for recognition is a trap and will not get you very far. You must root your struggle and your life in values. Did you think for a minute that the great men who missed history were driven by a need for recognition?
You think that Mandela endured 27 years in prison only to find some form of recognition. He got the glory because he did not seek it, it was the values of truth and humanity that brought him to the top, not some need for recognition.
Get rid of the need for recognition
What is the difference between a child and an adult among many other things? The need for recognition. So, one might be tempted to say that the need for recognition can be a good thing if it helps motivate you to do certain things. I don’t think so. When you have a strong need for recognition, you are easily manipulated and can start chasing fantasies like money or fame. If there are certain cases that are favorable, I would say that they are the following: your need for recognition is driven by a person you hold in high esteem and who is distinguished by an incredible character. If satisfying a need for recognition in this case can simply drive you to perform noble, generous acts etc., I could say that this is a good thing even if it is not the act itself that is the real motivation but the reward which is satisfying a need for recognition. Nevertheless, by doing good things repeatedly, even if it is not for these things in themselves that we do them in the first place, we end up sooner or later being transformed and becoming a better person. The second case where the need for recognition is also good I would say, is in the spiritual realm. If wanting to please God can drive us to do good things, I totally agree with this idea. It’s kind of like the previous scenario except that the relationship is intimate. It is only in our soul and conscience that we know if what we are doing is in agreement with God.