Why We Care What People Think… And Why We Should Stop

It’s nice to be accepted.

I know I’ve written some pretty placating things just so that people would like them, and then I wold feel good about myself for having written them. And then that shine would wear off, and I’d feel like a sell-out, and then I’d hate what I wrote and myself for having written it.

Psychologists have been studying acceptance for DECADES, and the results of one 15-year study are interesting.

They believe belonging to a group was helpful to our ancestors.

Humans have weak claws, not much fur, and long [vulnerable] childhoods, so living in a group helped early humans survive harsh environments full of predators. Because of that, being part of a group still helps people feel safe and protected, even when walls and clothing and weapons have made it easier for one to survive.

And then there’s acceptance’s evil twin: rejection.

Being rejected is bad for your health.

It used to mean certain death. Having no group, being exposed and vulnerable to the world – that’s scary to our caveman brains. In today’s world, it leads to adverse feelings and emotions and poor health.

During intense political times, we find ourselves factioning off to be around those who align with us. When marriage equality was decided by the court, I know I got unfollowed and lost a few Facebook friends because I wasn’t afraid of telling them that I rejected their dogma and that it shouldn’t be blanket-applied to everyone. “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get one, idiot… Same to you, abortion people.”

But, speaking up like that, against the majority, isn’t always so easy. Ask anybody in Germany in the 1930s. Ask me as a young, biracial, bisexual-and-confused-about-it Texan who grew up going to the Church of Christ.

Being excluded is scary. And it’s DIFFICULT, especially when it goes against adults, entire friend groups, and other “higher authority.”

But rejection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Yes, it leads to poor mental health and, in extreme cases, suicide.

But, as we’ve seen recently, being in the majority isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either.

Just because everyone is doing something doesn’t mean it’s right. You see how that can apply across multiple sides of a number of issues? Think about a Christian mom saying that to her child. Think about a liberal dad saying it to his child in recent months. Imagine an intellectual saying that to their kid when the Science March and anti-Science arguments come up.

If you are entrenched in the crowd, you’ll go no farther than the crowd.

[And for all you babies and wannabe Devil’s Advocates out there: no, I’m not promoting lone wolf existence or purposefully shunning everyone.. this is merely an encouraging warning not to be too wrapped up in what everyone else is doing & to operate with deliberate thought and critical thinking.]