“If I wouldn’t let someone into my house, I shouldn’t let them into my head.” How often do we encounter a situation where we find ourselves on the defensive, anxious about someone else’s opinion? We worry about what people think about the way we look, how popular we are, how much fun we’re having, even if they’re complete strangers! A lot of this social anxiety can be chalked up to social media. These platforms encourage a lifestyle of contentedness and pleasure, leaving out the realistic side of life. People feel pressure to present themselves in the same light as others.
Recently on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale addressed an article in The Atlantic by Arthur Brooks called “No One Cares!” In it, Brooks talks about this problem of “giving in to human respect” and how to fight our brain when it pressures us to act too cautiously or inappropriately.
Social scientist Arthur C. Brooks talked about a quote from Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius that says, “We all love ourselves more than other people, but we care more about their opinion than our own.” Jesus’s second greatest commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Though we are supposed to serve God and others first, we are still required to love ourselves and maintain our dignity. So why do we care so much about the opinions of others? What is the origin of this phenomenon? How do we grow beyond this excessive self-evaluation?
Cale qualified this discussion by saying that while we shouldn’t surrender to the whim of every relative, friend, or stranger, we should still care about the opinions of others to a degree. We cannot let this philosophy of not caring get out of hand or that will lead to psychopathic behavior.
From a historical perspective, Brooks suggested that this precaution of relying on others is hardwired into our brains from centuries of practice. “For all of human history, our survival depended on membership in close-knit clans and tribes. Before the modern structures of civilization appeared, being cast out from your group meant certain death.” In other words, there’s a reason humans take their peers’ opinions so seriously. And to an extent, that was a good thing because it kept us from acting out in harmful ways.
Brooks also mentioned that according to neurological study, our brain is activated in the same way when we experience physical pain as when we experience social rejection. Whereas that was once an appropriate response to social exclusion because you would most likely die fending for yourself in the wild, we no longer have to fear death. We cannot be afraid to speak the truth, practice our Faith openly, and proclaim our beliefs freely.
There are two parts of our mental faculties that either stop us from doing what we should or make us do something that we shouldn’t: the Behavioral Inhibition System and the Behavioral Activation System. Those two factors will tell us what’s happening, what we could say or do, and how people around us will react. While helpful at times, it can often prevent us from acting virtuously. For example, Pontius Pilate’s BIS and BAS made him concerned with the opinion of the crowd and that pressured him to convict and condemn an innocent man.
The number one tip Brooks gave us to fight this tendency is to remind ourselves that “no one cares”. Contrary to the way we assume others think, they perceive and judge us a lot less than we think, mostly because they’re too busy thinking about what others think of them. To tell yourself that no one cares is to remind yourself that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Nobody is spending every waking second thinking about what jacket you wore or the way you walk or the way you talk.
The second tip Brooks offers is to “rebel against your shame”. When we feel like we did something embarrassing, it’s very freeing to accept the fact that it happened and move on. If we can establish a precedent of ignoring our embarrassing moments, we replace our shame with confidence. Of course, we don’t want to make a habit of embarrassing ourselves on purpose, but mistakes are nothing more than mistakes.
The third and final tip to stop caring so much about what others think is to “stop judging others”. The reason we think those around us are judging us is that we’re projecting our critical attitudes onto them. We need to abandon our habit of condemnatory thoughts and comments and in doing so, we will stop letting the phantom opinions of others infiltrate our minds.
Listen to the full talk below:
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT