On the outside, it often looks like people don’t care about others. It appears that people are selfish. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see that everyone is affected by what other people think and do. Let me give you a few examples:
- The guy who’s going to the gym for years and always thinks other people have bigger muscles than him.
- The girl who’s not going after her career because she doesn’t want her friends and family to judge her.
- The guy who’s dressing in t-shirts because he’s afraid of what his “bro’s” will say if he expresses his true style.
- The guy who thinks people will not take him seriously because of his accent.
- The girl who thinks her followers will not approve of saying something that’s controversial.
I can go on for a while. And I can’t say I’m immune to these thoughts. We all care about what others think because it’s part of our nature. Humans all have the drive to be accepted. That’s called Belongingness.
The fact that we have Belongingness in our genes is because of natural selection. In the pre-modern age, humans who didn’t have the need to belong to a group didn’t survive on their own. To a certain degree, that’s still true today. We’re inherently social beings.
But things have changed: We’re more mobile and we have better technology now. We don’t need to be accepted by everyone anymore. Back in the day, you had to be accepted by the people around you. Now, we have more power. If people don’t accept us for who we are, we simply move on. But how do you do that? How do you care less about what other people do? Here are a few things that have helped me.
Detach From Imaginary Groups
I used to love being part of a group. In high school, we had a cool-kids corner. We owned that corner and didn’t allow people to join us. Being a part of that group gave you a false sense of power and status. At some point, I grew up and realized how childish it is to be part of a group like that.
Everywhere you go you have cool-kids groups: At the office, among your family members, in bars, clubs, on social media, YouTube, you name it. Everyone wants to be part of these imaginary groups.
These days, I think it’s pathetic to be part of a group so you can be cool. It’s all signaling and a cry for acceptance. As an adult, you don’t need groups. You have your family, a few good friends, a career, a few hobbies, and that’s about it.
Every time I see a group, I run. That’s why I never became a part of writer or blogger groups. I don’t have anything against other writers, but I don’t have the need to be part of a group. Look, there’s nothing wrong with seeking peers to exchange stories with. I like that too.
But under no circumstance must you attach your identity to a group—doesn’t matter what it is.
Be Mission Driven
One of the reasons we gravitate towards groups is uncertainty. We don’t have a set of rules for our own lives and blindly adopt any belief system we run into. When you join a group, you must adopt their views and beliefs by default.
Now, if those beliefs are already yours, that’s okay. But most people change their beliefs so they fit in. In today’s world, you don’t need to fit in anymore. What’s the point of fitting in with certain people when you know there are millions of people just like you?
Instead of being driven by your need to belong, be driven by your mission. If you don’t have a mission, it’s not something you create in an hour. The late Stephen Covey, who wrote the classic 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, explained it as follows:
“A mission statement is not something you write overnight but fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.”
That last part is very important. Instead of measuring everything in your life by other people’s standards (which is why we care so much about what others think), measure it by your mission.
Vision + Values = Mission
I’ve written a lot about the power of having core values. In this article, I share 8 values I live by. That’s how I measure myself. This is not a new way of living. In fact, most successful people I know who are also happy are driven by their values. Howard Schultz, who served as Starbuck’s CEO, and turned it into the cultural icon it’s today, says this about values:
“I never wanted to be on any billionaires list. I never define myself by net worth. I always try to define myself by my values.”
If you want to be driven by your mission instead of being driven by Belongingness, take the time to uncover your core values. But that’s not enough. You also must have a vision for how you want to live your life.
When you know where you want to go (vision) and have a roadmap that brings you there (values), you’re less susceptible to what others think and do.
So what if other people go out twice a week, buy designer clothes, have Lamborghinis, talk a certain way, have biceps the size of watermelons, or have legs that look like bread sticks?
And who cares if people don’t like your work, don’t approve your career choices, want you to become a doctor, or give up your dream to please them? You should care about your mission.
Don’t Disappoint Yourself
A big part of Belongingness is that we don’t want to disappoint people. This is a trap that kind and thoughtful people fall into. I consider myself a kind person but I don’t give a shit if others are disappointed because of my actions. Not my partner, family, friends, and certainly not strangers.
The only person I don’t want to disappoint is myself. For example, when I catch myself telling a white lie, I’m truly disappointed in myself for not living up to my core values. When I don’t live up to my mission, I correct myself.
The truth is that if people are disappointed by others, they are selfish. A selfless and satisfied person will never be disappointed by another person. After all, if you don’t need anything and don’t expect anything from others, how can you be disappointed? My philosophy is that if you’re disappointed, it’s your problem, not anyone else’s.
Close Relationships With Good People Is All You Need
My ideas come from Belongingness to family. I have great parents, a loyal brother, and a few close friends who I talk to weekly. That’s the only Belongingness you need. In those cases, it leads to less depression and suicide.
If you don’t have that type of group; create one. This is a matter of biology. I understand that there are people who prefer to be alone and not belong to any group, but that’s not what I’m talking about in this article.
To be clear, trying to belong to shallow groups so you can feel better about yourself is bad. Creating a family or group with people who support each other, is essential to your well-being.
We must respect our genes. If our ancestors belonged to groups, we can’t disregard it. But since the world has changed, our need to belong has started to work against us. We started caring about the opinions of strangers and people who don’t care about us. Instead of letting those people influence you, gravitate towards people who you’re deeply connected to.
What you’ll find is that you don’t need to be a part of other groups anymore. At that point, people will want to join your group.
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