I think I was too hasty in ascribing my performance anxiety to the role of clever person I thought I had to up-hold. Sure in my later life it certainly manifested itself through that but it wasn’t the deep, under-lying thought routine that caused it. That thought routine was the need-to-please.
Everyone – at least so it seems to me – has this need though it doesn’t always manifest alongside anxiety. This is because as I said before anxiety is often caused by physiological factors and only gets tied to mental factors if it is already present.
The need-to-please is a funny desire. It’s totally irrational of course because 1. There are no universal criteria that if fulfilled would please everyone and 2. The criteria we think – however subconscious that thought is – we need to fulfill is not derived from anyone.
We cannot possibly know the preferences of another person. This is partly because our preferences aren’t really fixed quantities. At one time of day I really prefer chocolate at another I really prefer bacon. To say either chocolate or bacon are my absolute favorite is to deny the living character of preference.
Most people don’t even know their own preferences. Even in the case of reflective people the preferences they admit to themselves that they have aren’t the result of an analysis of their native taste but a sanitized version that is culturally acceptable within whatever culture they socialize.
Often the “person” we are seeking to please is a total figment of our imagination. It is an out-ward projection of what we see as acceptable or successful that we project onto other, real people. See most of the time the other is so caught up in judging themselves through us that they don’t have the time to actually judge us. It’s quite absurd when you look at it. Even in the case where someone is actually judging you it’s not their judgment that you see in them but your judgment of yourself projected onto their face.
This need-to-please causes us to act out roles that we think are socially acceptable. In my case it was the clever person but other roles include the ditsy blond, the crazy guy, the doctor and so on. Sometimes the roles are given different names. One time in my friend group we were describing ourselves in terms of characters from “The Big Bang Theory”.