By Autumn Moon
Sometimes I find myself fumbling with my sweater or fixing my hair. As much as I like to tell myself I do this all for me, I have come to realize that I wouldn’t be so worried about my appearance if I didn’t care what other people thought. This has lead me to question why people care so much about what others think, as hard as they try to fight against it.
According to Michael J. Formica’s article in Psychology Today, “Why We Care About What Other People Think of Us,” the earliest humans relied upon group inclusion and acceptance for survival. In prehistoric times, the world was dangerous and filled with predators, hazards and obstacles at every turn. Without a group or a good reputation, individuals were left to the wolves — literally.
Because of these evolutionary developments, we still can’t shake the desire for group inclusion. Although the danger has disappeared, the thirst for acceptance still remains, even though nowadays this does more harm than good.
The fear of being alone or ostracized by others has a powerful impact on our emotions and thought processes. Social media corporations have built a money-making powerhouse with our anxiety as the foundation. Apps like Instagram and Snapchat are the perfect platforms for us to fuel our self-consciousness and need for codependence.
As humans, we possess an inner self and outer self. We are best functioning when we maintain a harmonious balance between the two. Yet, when we begin overly seeking social approval, we put too much focus on our outer image and risk losing sight of our real, internal selves.
Our true nature is different from the outer self image that we create based on outside influences. By focusing on our exterior facade, our sense of self and place becomes jaded and we lose ourselves in the need for inclusion. Focusing only on the external clouds our vision and distances us from our authentic selves. Thus, our behavior begins to rely upon the responses and views of others, rather than expressing our real values.
As part of human consciousness, we all have an “ego.” The ego is a facade formed by the demands of oppressive forces in our society. It functions as a social mask, just as an actor in a play. As might be assumed, it has quite the appetite for external approval, which is constantly catalyzed by fear.
But what if we thought about all of this more often? What if we consciously worked to fight against this destructive and outdated behavior?
I believe college is one of the ideal places to tackle this harmful attitude. I personally feel as if even in the few months that I have been at BU, I have changed tremendously.
Although I have never really been an insecure individual, it’s hard to not care what other people think when you’re in high school. Teenagers make mountains out of molehills. One rumor, a bad reputation or an embarrassing moment can seem devastating. However, college erases all of that.
In a world where everyone is living their own lives, it has become almost impossible to care what other people think anymore. People become too busy doing what they love to care, and the hierarchy that used to dominate their lives simply doesn’t exist anymore. People are allowed to be whoever they want to be with no backlash and full independence.
Self-approval is born from self-acceptance, which derives from realizing that we must be content with who we really are. This is no easy feat, but utterly necessary, as once we unchain ourselves from fear, we will no longer be looking to society for validation.
To be successful and truly happy is the skill to recognize that our authentic selves are just as they should be. Instead of striving to be people we aren’t, we should work to be content with our inner selves and let that shine through to the outside. Life is changed forever when you accept and love yourself for every last bit of who you are, no matter what anyone thinks of you.