This post is bookmarked on my laptop and I read it every January. The new year offers us a fresh start, and we need a kind reminder that everyone isn’t always compulsively thinking about us. So, Get it, Get it. Happy new year!!
Part 1: Meet Your Mammoth
The first day I was in second grade, I came to school and noticed that there was a new, very pretty girl in the class—someone who hadn’t been there the previous two years. Her name was Alana and within an hour, she was everything to me.
When you’re seven, there aren’t really any actionable steps you can take when you’re in love with someone. You’re not even sure what you want from the situation. There’s just this amorphous yearning that’s a part of your life, and that’s that.
But for me, it became suddenly relevant a few months later, when during recess one day, one of the girls in the class started asking each of the boys, “Who do youuu want to marry?” When she asked me, it was a no-brainer. “Alana.”
I was still new to being a human and didn’t realize that the only socially acceptable answer was, “No one.”
The second I answered, the heinous girl ran toward other students, telling each one, “Tim said he wants to marry Alana!” Each person she told covered their mouth with uncontrollable laughter. I was finished. Life was over.
The news quickly got back to Alana herself, who stayed as far away from me as possible for days after. If she knew what a restraining order was, she’d have taken one out.
This horrifying experience taught me a critical life lesson—it can be mortally dangerous to be yourself, and you should exercise extreme social caution at all times.
Now this sounds like something only a traumatized second grader would think, but the weird thing, and the topic of this post, is that this lesson isn’t just limited to me and my debacle of a childhood—it’s a defining paranoia of the human species. We share a collective insanity that pervades human cultures throughout the world:
An irrational and unproductive obsession with what other people think of us.
Evolution does everything for a reason, and to understand the origin of this particular insanity, let’s back up for a minute to 50,000BC in Ethiopia, where your Great2,000 Grandfather lived as part of a small tribe.
Back then, being part of a tribe was critical to survival. A tribe meant food and protection in a time when neither was easy to come by. So for your Great2,000 Grandfather, almost nothing in the world was more important than being accepted by his fellow tribe members, especially those in positions of authority. Fitting in with those around him and pleasing those above him meant he could stay in the tribe, and about the worst nightmare he could imagine would be people in the tribe starting to whisper about how annoying or unproductive or weird he was—because if enough people disapproved of him, his ranking within the tribe would drop, and if it got really bad, he’d be kicked out altogether and left for dead. He also knew that if he ever embarrassed himself by pursuing a girl in the tribe and being rejected, she’d tell the other girls about it—not only would he have blown his chance with that girl, but he might never have a mate at all now because every girl that would ever be in his life knew about his lame, failed attempt. Being socially accepted was everything.
Because of this, humans evolved an over-the-top obsession with what others thought of them—a craving for social approval and admiration, and a paralyzing fear of being disliked. Let’s call that obsession a human’s Social Survival Mammoth. It looks something like this:
Read More https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/06/taming-mammoth-let-peoples-opinions-run-life.html