Eckart Tolle once said “It’s not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living” and so let me ask you: how often does the fear of what others think stop you from doing something?
The truth is that we’re all worried about what people might think of us. However, when it becomes a problem is when we prevent ourselves from doing what makes us truly happy. When this worry becomes omnipresent.
This worry and fear of what others think of you are absolutely normal and to understand its origin we need to talk about human evolutionary development.
Table Of Contents
- How the worry of what others think limits us on a daily basis
- The technology explosion & how it affected us
- The identity crisis & the concept of persona/self
I. How the worry of what others think limits us on a daily basis
To understand this worry of what others think of us, we need to understand our 5 primal categories of fear and how it is related to the early stages in human evolution. So on a daily basis, we had 5 primal types of fear.
5 primal categories of fear:
- Dangerous and/or predatory animals: our survival was directly in danger with lions, tigers and all different dangerous animals that we lived with.
- Other hostile humans: we had to face others tribes that potentially tried to steal our food or harm us.
- Invisible pathogens: any bacteria or viruses could possibly kill us back then.
- Natural disaster: this could be any storm, tornado or fire that could also hurt us.
- Loss of status & social exclusion: being a part of a tribe was essential for our survival.
However, over time humans beings evolved and adapted extremely well to their environment and this is probably why we are still alive. We developed many resources to help us tackle all those fear, apart from one.
How do humans overcome those fear? (remember that we are talking about how humans overcame fear on a daily basis)
- Dangerous and/or predatory animals: we created safety in numbers like cities & shelters meaning that once again, on a daily basis, most of us aren’t scared to be attacked by a lion right?
- Other hostile humans: we created laws, police and morals which resulted in a very safe environment for us on a daily basis.
- Invisible pathogens: we created hygiene, medicine, vaccines…etc which gave us the ability to live healthier & older.
- Natural disaster: for this we built shelters & vehicles that allow us to move quickly. We’re also able to predict and prepare thanks to forecasting and new technologies. So once again, we live in a very safe environment regarding natural disasters.
However, when we think of the fear of loss of status & social exclusion, what have we done or created for this fear? This is probably the only fear (on a daily basis) that still limits us. We need to understand that this aspect was essential for our survival and it was a very important aspect during the survival times.
Nowadays it doesn’t carry the same weight and we basically swapped predatory animals for….people.
A very long time ago, we lived in tribes of only roughly 20 people but now with our extraordinary evolution, we live longer, healthier and we developed so many resources to help us to survive that we started to live with more and more people. With this being so, we started to accumulate more negative context & rumination. In other words, this fear of loss of status & social exclusion is nothing less than the worry of what others think of you.
By living with that much more people, the more comparison we started to get, the more triggers appeared for our survival brain. Essentially, this fear is triggered by many components such as:
- your job: your position & title
- your personal & community reputation
- intellectual or artistic snobbery
- your role in other people’s life: parents, close friends, siblings and all the responsibilities associated.
- the amount of money you have
To put it another way: it is the fear of what other people think of you. As pleasant it is to live among different people, it’s not as simple as others make it & on a subconscious level, there’s a certain amount of stress that goes along with the increase of interactions we get.
II. The technology explosion & how it affected us
We lived and witnessed a massive technology explosion and this threw petrol on an ancient flame. Nowadays with social media and express & immediate communication, somehow we developed a worldwide comparison network that triggers right into our primal fear. So we get to compare not only with our neighbors but with people from all around the world!
In 2017 the American psychology association found out that between 2005 and 2015, adult social media use went from 7 to 65%. Usage increased from 12 to 90% for people aged between 18 to 29 years old.
The issue has been the same for thousands of years but the scale isn’t. The volume, frequency & variety of survival brain stimuli has increased considerably.
III. The identity crisis & the concept of persona/self
What is the concept of persona/self?
- The persona: is how we present to the world.
- The self: is who we truly are and what we really think.
- The persona: is something that we developed as a part of our survival mechanism to be able to cooperate with other people. The first primal role of the persona is to defend against social exclusion. At first, we might think that the persona would hinder our development. However, it’s crucial to understand that we could not always say what we really think & feel. If we would always say what we think deep down like “you piss me off!”, we would probably be a bit strange and would end up alone. So it’s completely natural to use the persona when we interact in the society and we want to keep this on a certain level.
The problem: social media & technology separates the persona and the self. With the increase of social media usage, we end up with people spending too much time in their persona, and not enough time in their true selves.
This leads to a big problem and identity crisis where people don’t know who they are anymore and what they want. It created what we call cognitive dissonance: a misunderstanding between who we are & who we’re supposed to be, according to the standards we believe.
Understanding that this worry is a part of yourself is what will lead to acceptance. This is a part of your survival brain and I personally don’t think it’s possible to completely stop worrying about what others will think of you. Instead of trying to suppress it, I invite you to flip the problem around and spend more time with yourself.
The key is to balance time spent between our persona & our self.
- Get to know yourself: define what is important for you & what are the values that you want to stand for. This will help you to find alignment and harmony in your life. It will also help you to gain self-confidence and when you do so, the less you’ll need to worry about what others think of you.
- Gain clarity: instead of trying not to worry, I invite you to gain self-awareness so that you know who you truly are, where you’re going and why.
- Solution: if you want to worry less, you’ll need to get less triggers from points of comparisons meaning less screens & less social media. Spend more time with yourself and get to learn to become your own best friend.
“People try to get away from it all- to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You wish that you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like. By going within.
Nowhere you can go is more peaceful– more free of interruptions- than your own soul. So keep getting away from it all- like that.
Marcus Aurelius – Emperor of Rome – 170 AD
If you want to start your journey to self-discovery but you don’t how I understand you, I’ve been through this. My job as a coach is to guide young determined people to gain clarity and therefore serenity. You can check out my coaching program if this resonates with you.
I wish you a wonderful journey within 🙂