So What?

Our closest star is a cruel and indiscriminate beast, inflicting its wrath upon my hapless skin with wild abandon.

Guess who got a sunburn yesterday?

Aside from that and an array of mosquito bites, my weekend was pretty stellar. Thursday night we went to the movies and saw Edge of Tomorrow. Think Groundhog Day meets Saving Private Ryan meets Alien. Neither of us are Tom Cruise fans, but we both really enjoyed this film. Friday was the epitome of a lazy day. We did some drinking; listened to music; drank; cooked some food; drank; watched fireworks; and drank. Years ago the 4th of July was a very big deal; everybody in the neighborhood where I lived would get together and set off fireworks for hours. Nowadays, it’s a much more relaxed occasion – not to mention cheap. Plenty of people in our apartment complex stockpiled fireworks and were lighting them off that night, so we got a front row seat to a free display. Saturday was another lazy day – we went out to breakfast, ran some errands, then went to my parents’ house, where some family friends from Hawaii were visiting. Had a nice dinner and a great time catching up. I hadn’t seen Dave and Elaine in 11 years! Sunday, we hit the road at 8:00 AM for a drive north to Olympia, where we met up with Anne and Tara’s nephew, Anthony. We hadn’t seen them since early April. I’m quite fond of Washington’s state capital, and decided a long time ago I’d like to live there. It’s a little less than two hours north of Portland, one hour south of Seattle, and is a good-sized town, very scenic, with lots of attractions. I even sent away for relocation information years ago, but then life happened and the move never became a reality. Still, it’s a nice place to meet up, and we spent a few hours in Heritage Park playing with the kiddo, walked around Percival Landing, found a little cafe where we grabbed some lunch, and then parted ways. Today, it’s back to reality.

Weekend recaps are fine and dandy, but what I really want to talk about today is caring about what others think of you. Or more to the point, NOT caring. I discovered a new blog over the weekend called Wait But Why. It’s a remarkably well-written and thought-provoking site that delves into some pretty heavy topics, but in a lighthearted way that includes lots of charts and crude drawings. It covers science, psychology, history, and more. One of the posts was called Taming The Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring About What Other People Think, and was nothing short of eye-opening. The point of the article is, humans evolved with an over-the-top obsession of caring what others thought about them because, back in 50,000 B.C., we all lived in tribes and social approval was a necessary component for survival. Nowadays, not so much – but it’s still there, hardwired into our brains and our psyches. And it’s an incredible waste of emotion.

Our bodies and minds are built to live in a tribe in 50,000BC, which leaves modern humans with a number of unfortunate traits, one of which is a fixation with tribal-style social survival in a world where social survival is no longer a real concept.

This is something I’ve long felt. Sure, it’s important to care enough about your job that your boss won’t fire you, and you had better care about your driving lest you run somebody over. Those things are basic. But by and large I’ve never really subscribed to the notion that it’s necessary to please everybody all of the time. In fact, it’s impossible. I have always celebrated my joie de vivre, my zest for life and talent for not taking it too seriously, but like most others I do find myself caring what other people think about me. But that has been gradually changing, and after reading the above referenced blog post, I’m more committed than ever to doing things for me. Not because they’re the socially acceptable or politically correct thing to do, either. In fact, some of them likely won’t be. But why should I care? It’s more important to listen to your Authentic Voice, that complex, constantly evolving, internal voice with its own moral code, likes and dislikes, topics of interest, etc. Back in those tribal days the Authentic Voice often lived in quiet obscurity, and that worked because conformity was the key to acceptance and survival. Nowadays, it’s dangerous. Letting others influence your behavior at the expense of listening to your Authentic Voice makes you extremely susceptible to criticism, rejection, and all kinds of emotional pain. Worst of all, it turns you into a sheep. You might find your political opinions, for instance, are merely Jon Stewart’s talking points. Or your disdain for Walmart is there because hating Walmart is the fashionable thing to do.

Don’t worry, my hatred for Walmart is real.

I owe a lot of the way I think to my wife. She is the type who will wear pajamas to the grocery store without a second thought. At first I was aghast over this practice, but now I realize it just doesn’t matter. Tara is very much into the whole “don’t worry, you’ll never see these people again” mindset. And while that is sometimes false, I see now that the true point is, even if you DO see those people again – so what?

Realizing you are not the center of the universe is liberating.
Realizing you are not the center of the universe is liberating.

So what? That is a great motto for life. So what if that one coworker thinks I’m an ass? So what if my neighbor laughs at me when I crank up ABBA? So what if that Facebook friend hates my anti-gun sentiment? It doesn’t matter. I am me and to pretend otherwise would be the ultimate betrayal.

Friday night, we were walking to 7-Eleven, and passed by a grassy incline. “We should roll down the hill!” Tara declared. Audrey looked at us with horror. There was another couple approaching, and she wouldn’t be caught dead doing such a childishly immature thing in front of them. But Tara and I did. The other couple laughed at us, but we didn’t care. It was simply a fun and spontaneous thing to do. (In the interest of full disclosure, we might have been drunk).

I had Audrey read the article above over the weekend, and she was astounded. Said it would change her life. So I asked her afterwards, if we were walking to 7-Eleven tonight, the same couple was approaching, and we decided to roll down that hill, would she join us? Without missing a beat, she said yes.

That was actually a proud moment for me, as her father. Teenagers are the ultimate “I-won’t-do-that-because-other-people-might-laugh-at-me” people. But oh, if they would only learn that while they think they are the center of the universe, in reality few people ever pay them any mind. We all think everybody else in the room is thinking about us, silently judging us if we don’t act a certain way. In reality, everybody else in the room is thinking that everybody else in the room is thinking about them, silently judging them. What a silly, narcissistic notion. Back in 50,000 B.C., if your tribe thought you were odd they’d kick you out, and you’d probably be devoured by a sabertooth tiger. Today, here’s what will happen:

Absolutely nothing.

That’s a lesson we could all benefit from.

 

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12 thoughts on “So What?

  1. Anne says:

    One of my favorite quotes is “you wouldn’t care so much about what people think of you if you knew how little they really did.” Can’t give credit because I don’t remember where I heard it, but it really changed my way of thinking.

    Like

    1. Mark Petruska says:

      I love that quote, too – and it’s one I came across when researching this article. I kind of wish I’d had a poster printed up for my kids when they were younger with this printed on it. I think it’s one of the best (and truest) pieces of advice you can give your teenager!

      Like

  2. Jess Witkins says:

    I am going to check out this article you suggest. Not because you suggested it, or because links in blogs are the cool thing to do, but because I WANT to.

    Also, my love for ABBA is real.

    Like

    1. Mark Petruska says:

      It’s funny, I found this site because of another article entirely: a friend on Facebook linked to a post there that talked about why intelligent life in the universe has never been found. Not just “because it doesn’t exist” or because “the heavens are incredibly vast” – there were a laundry list of plausible explanations, some of them quite disturbing. Fascinating stuff. And that led to another post about 7 insufferable types of Facebook posts/posters. Let me know if you find it all as interesting as I did!

      Favorite ABBA song?? (“Knowing Me, Knowing You”).

      Like

  3. Ron says:

    AWESOME post, Mark!!!! And you hit the nail on the head with this…

    ” Letting others influence your behavior at the expense of listening to your Authentic Voice makes you extremely susceptible to criticism, rejection, and all kinds of emotional pain. Worst of all, it turns you into a sheep.”

    Amen! And as you shared, not caring what people think of you does not mean being ‘careless’ with such things as your job; driving; and being careless with our words when we speak. To me, not caring what people think of me means that I don’t place more stock in what their opinion might be of me, over the opinion I have of myself. I think caring too much what others think of us is looking for validation and approval, when in fact, validation and approval has to come from within us.

    “It doesn’t matter. I am me and to pretend otherwise would be the ultimate betrayal.”

    Exactly.

    And now I am going over to read that article because it’s sounds faaaaaabulous!

    Thanks for sharing, buddy!

    Like

    1. Mark Petruska says:

      “And as you shared, not caring what people think of you does not mean being ‘careless’ with such things as your job; driving; and being careless with our words when we speak.”

      Yes, exactly! There were some comments on the original post that took the author to task on that point. I think it’s pretty obvious there are SOME facets in life where you should most definitely care. (Then again, the author probably didn’t care about those comments. Man…this is liberating).

      “To me, not caring what people think of me means that I don’t place more stock in what their opinion might be of me, over the opinion I have of myself.”

      Couldn’t have said it better myself! Hope you enjoy the blog, Ron.

      Like

    1. Mark Petruska says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Jean! I’m really digging the clean, minimalist look myself. It’s the complete opposite of every other theme I’ve had here! And I hope you enjoy the blog. It’s truly worth a read.

      Like

  4. Bijoux says:

    I’ve always thought the peak of caring what others think hits at puberty, for obvious reasons. Once you find a mate, you can stop caring, although some people take that to the extreme!

    Like

    1. Mark Petruska says:

      Yes, that’s exactly it! Boy, do we care when we are teenagers. That’s a universal thing. I bet if we didn’t, peer pressure would basically disappear!

      I think mates who stop caring too much end up divorcing. So there’s definitely an important balance to maintain in your relationships.

      Like

  5. benzeknees says:

    Oh, so wise! You sound like you have reached the stage most dying people reach where they don’t give a tick for what others think of them, they do what they want, when they want, for the simple enjoyment of it.

    Like

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