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Sociability • Confidence

How to Leave a Party

It is possible to catch a telling glimpse of our levels of underconfidence in a sad quirk of our approach to social life: our inability to leave a party. By which one really means, to leave a party when we desperately want to, when we are exhausted and have a daunting day ahead of us.

Photo taken at a crowded, fashionable party at Studio 54 in New York, circa the late 70s.
Tod Papageorge, Studio 54, New York, 1977-81

Why don’t we just leave? Chiefly, because we very badly need people to like us, and we cannot possibly imagine that they would unless we did precisely – down to the last degree – what they asked of us. We wouldn’t dare not to laugh at their jokes; we would never risk contradicting their political views – and we certainly wouldn’t hazard asking them where the toilet was or departing early from one of their celebrations. People need a lot of self-love before they can find their own needs acceptable – and by extension, dare to try to transmit these to others.

We, the reluctant party-leavers, strongly suspect that there is deep down something very bad about us – akin to a foul odour – which needs to be repeatedly apologised for and cannot possibly be compounded by starting to say what we want. We know just how much they would talk about us the minute the door closed – because we appreciate how much there is to say: how repulsive we look, how nervous we are, how sexually weird we seem, what losers we are turning into.

In short, we don’t leave the party because we hate ourselves a lot – and we do so principally because we weren’t sufficiently loved by those close to us in the key early years as our self-image was taking shape.

The good news is that if we ever do dare to get our coat and go, we’ll know at once that we did the right thing. The dark cold street will welcome us. The majestic trees will greet us. The stars will embolden us. No one cares. 

The party is not – of course – just the party; it’s the job we hate, the relationship that’s making us ill and the parent who bullies us. We don’t – in reality – ever have to stay. We need, above anything else, to be more loyal to ourselves.

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