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#84: How to Stop Caring About What Other People Think

#84: How to Stop Caring About What Other People Think

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1. How to stop caring about what other people think Every few months, I sit down and answer about a dozen reader-submitted questions on video and upload them to my website. This quarter’s most popular question was a classic, a question I might get more than any other: “How do I stop giving a fuck what other people think about me?” 

Like an excellent burrito, I answered this question in three layers: the short answer, the long answer, and the unexpected answer. You can watch my full response on my YouTube channel

Watch: How to Stop Caring What Other People Think 

JANUARY 2022 UPDATE: If you’d like to ask me questions live, become a member of The Subtle Art School. I’ll be doing live monthly webinars with members, plus you get access to 6 brand-new video courses, 3 bonus courses, and a ton of other bonus materials. Learn more here.

2. Hate is proportional to audacity – An unfortunate fact of life is that you will receive hate from others in proportion to the audacity of your goals. The more ambitious and unconventional your aims, the more people will try to deter you, tear you down, criticize you, and so on.

It’s easy to sit here and complain that this shouldn’t happen—but actually, it should. Humans are a social species, and we are strongly biased towards the status quo. That’s because the status quo is likely more stable and beneficial than most alternatives. 

Therefore, when someone comes along with a big, bold idea that challenges the status quo, most people will instinctively look for reasons why it’s wrong or won’t work. They will challenge it, criticize it, ridicule it, and make lame jokes about it on Twitter. 

And I would argue this is a good thing. For one, most ideas are bad. Therefore, if an idea can’t survive being dunked on a few dozen times, then it’s better off being left for dead. 

But second, as the audacious-idea-haver, it forces us to have a deep conviction in what we’re doing.

3. The uneven distribution of awareness – This will be the last installment of my ongoing discussion of whether or not today’s society is “too aware”. To catch people up real quick, two weeks ago, I suggested that perhaps social media has caused an over-abundance of awareness of social issues, which has become counterproductive. Last week, after many reader responses, I wrote that perhaps it’s not that we’re too aware of the problems of the world, but not aware enough of the solutions.

Well, after another round of discussion with a lot of thoughtful readers, I think I’ve come to a firm conclusion on what I believe about this subject: 

  • In the social media age, we have transitioned from a few people knowing a lot about their own particular cause, to everyone knowing a little bit about every cause.
  • For a few social causes, this might be beneficial. But for many social causes, it’s probably unhelpful at best, and deeply distracting and counterproductive at worst. Most social causes likely need highly dedicated, highly informed activists working for long periods of time. This is pretty much the opposite of what social media activism is.
  • The unfortunate side effect of this shallow awareness of every issue is that large numbers of people have become incredibly and irrationally pessimistic about the future. They have a superficial understanding of the problem without really knowing the facts, history, or trade-offs involved with that problem. Therefore, the internet gets flooded with bad takes and lots and lots of angry people writing mean things to each other.
  • This widespread pessimism and occasional hysteria occasionally erupts into large and often misguided political movements. Protesting becomes performative—more about signalling which crowd you identify with rather than any actual cause.
  • The ineffectiveness of these political movements and protests eventually generates greater pessimism and frustration, and then it’s hello darkness, my old friend. 

What can we do about this? 

As always, follow a strict attention diet. Choose better information sources—i.e., follow experts over influencers. Get comfortable with finding and thinking in terms of statistics rather than stories (most statistics show things getting better; most stories show things getting worse). Learn to ask yourself, “What if I’m wrong?” — and then ask it all the damn time. Practice empathy, especially with those whom you disagree. Put the phone away and maybe go outside. 

Eat a burrito. Pet a dog. Look at a sunset or something. 

You’re going to be fine. 

Until next week,
Mark