Social Etiquette- A Need for Perfection


Audrey Hepburn and Kay Thompson singing On How to Be Lovely from the film                   Funny Face 1957

Knowing what do when and how to act perfectly and properly in public and in social situations has been my mission as far back as I can remember. Some moments of my social slip-ups were really embarrassing for me, such as, my feet smelling completely awful in junior high and my friends noticing and commenting on it one day while I was wearing sandals sitting around in a group. Or all the times I didn’t have my legs closed when I was younger and went up front for the children’s sermon during church and having the whole congregation see my underwear or stockings. I was always painfully aware and monitoring social situations for any faux pauxs I may have made or monitoring people’s social interactions with each other to see if they were mad, sad, upset, or frustrated with me or someone else. I have spent many of my 27 years on this earth mediating for friends and family, because, well, I am good at it, but it also has given me a different worldview and social anxiety.

I chose the film Funny Face and this particular song, On How to Be Lovely, because its lyrics send a clear message. Audrey Hepburn is copying Kay Thompson to learn how to be and act like a fashion model, the lyrics go something like this,

“On how to be lovely
(On how to be lovely)
You got to be happy
(You got to be happy)
When you can feel
light and gay
Then you’ll be lovely
as a holiday.
On how to be charming
(On how to be charming)
You got to be merry
(You got to be merry)
If only to weave a spell
And you’ll be lovely
As a carousel too”
This really is a good message: in order to be beautiful you should be happy. But what happens when you are always working to create peace, happiness, and harmony within your personal world? It is draining…especially when you cannot control for all the factors that will make you or a loved one unhappy. This need to have a happy environment constantly, a perfect environment, creates a monster for those of us who deal with social anxiety and generalized anxiety.
I care a lot about people…almost too much to a fault. I often am so worried about other people being happy that I drive myself nuts and lose touch with what I want and need (which most of the time I don’t know).
I really wish I had an answer for how all of us “people pleasers” can stop worrying so much about others but I really don’t…at least not yet. I think like all things, it will take time to turn back 27 years of neural connections! Dammit. Until then I’ll be fighting the good fight!
As always, thanks for reading,
❤ Rachael

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