Ever since we left our caves, there’s been a deep-rooted need in all of us to belong to groups. The lucky ones have a family as the first group they belong to. After that, we seek to join those who will accept us for who we are, but on that journey, we tend to become something that we aren’t just so we could fit into a certain group more easily. Why do we do that? Evolution.
Strength is in numbers. Without living in groups, humankind would not have survived.
A long, long time ago, people were living in herds. Small herds, big herds, family herds… Herds. You had a much greater chance of survival and better dealt with natural elements, animal predators, and actually got some food if you were a part of a group than if you stood alone. Self-sufficiency was not something that was advertised as even being possible because the chances of one person surviving the harsh elements were very slim. People hunted together, sought shelter together, and stayed alive together. A lot of theorists explain how this is the root cause of our need to belong. The thing that we often forget is that evolution hasn’t stopped and never will.
The need to belong
The motivation to not only form but sustain a certain amount of social connections is a powerful human drive. To satisfy that drive, we moderate our behavior because our cognition is under its influence too. Depending on the strength of that drive and our age, we will change how we dress, how we talk, and even question our beliefs all to fit in and be accepted. As we grow older, the need to belong doesn’t miraculously go away. It just transforms into different forms, from political and religious groups to sports clubs and hobbies. Even identifying yourself as a man or a woman is choosing a group because there is an assumption that a woman will act the way women do, and a man will do the things that men do. Biology and personal preferences aside, some people will intentionally choose to follow the unwritten rules of their gender as their last and first group they belong to.
One might ask, “Well, what is wrong with wanting to socialize with people who meditate if I like to meditate?” Nothing. Absolutely nothing. On the other hand, everything. Surrounding ourselves with people who share our opinion and have the same interests is natural and even beneficial for our mental health. The social bonds we create can be very powerful and encouraging. But what happens if we surround ourselves with only like-minded people? Are we not preventing ourselves from seeing more, learning more, and expanding more? Are we not limiting ourselves from experiencing more?
We all want to be happy, and everything we do is from a belief it will bring us happiness. In that life-long pursuit of satisfactory emotions, we will choose to share our lives with those who are easier to be around than others, those who bring us more joy, people we could talk to and with whom we can enjoy the activities that provide pleasure together. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you are not an army of robots that shares one collective mind. Your individuality should never be at risk, and you should always be free enough to express yourself without fear of being judged. Forming friendships with people who do not share your beliefs, opinions, and activities is something that I strongly encourage. Social bonds that are built on mutual respect, support, and some quantity of love and affection are much more stronger than those created solely on having the same opinion on something.
What has all this got to do with opinions of me?
Well, remember how wise men say that knowledge is power? A great amount of that knowledge is not about the world but about yourself. To change our behavioral patterns, we must first change our cognitive processes. And to change our cognitive processes, we must first have at least some way of grasping the huge knowledge of the human mind, evolution, and psychology. The question that arises is why would you want to do that. Well, do you want to be happy or not?
In order to be happy, you must first be FREE.
After we have an understanding of why we want people to like us and know it is rooted deep into our psyche as an evolutionary survival mechanism, after we understand our need to belong and accept its nature, then and only then can we move on and evolve further. Just do it is a popular slogan that people all over the world use when they are trying to motivate each other, but they fail to realize that you can’t do it unless you understand how to do it and why you even want to do it, whatever that it might be in your case. In the case of this text, the it is not caring about what other people think of you and embracing the freedom from what goes on in their minds.
There have been many explanations and opinions about the famous Janis’s verse… well, actually it’s Kris Kristofferson’s verse. I say Janis’s just because her version of the song is my favorite. Back to the matter at hand. So the verse that stuck with me provides an author’s definition of what freedom is.
“Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”
The way I choose to interpret that line is by letting go of the need to be liked by everybody. People want other people to like them and have good opinions. They don’t want to lose the support and are terrified, in a way, of someone out there hating them. To give someone the freedom to not like you is the biggest freedom you can give yourself. You will no longer be tied with chains of wanting to please others just so you could get their approval. The realization that other people’s opinions of you are none of your business will set you free.
Go on, be free
You will never be able to please everyone, so why even bother? You do you. There are even those who will say if you never made any enemies, you’re doing something wrong, the wrong being faking your way through life. You can be the nicest person in the world, and there would still be those who wouldn’t like or agree with you. If history has shown us anything, it is that even the most charismatic, selfless, and lovely people had haters. Some of those (most of them, actually) were even killed by their haters or at least attacked. So if those like Gandhi, Jesus, John Lennon, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Dalai Lamas, etc., etc., etc., have not been liked by everyone everywhere, how can you even begin to think that you would be?
The way to recognize if you are free from other people’s opinions of you is to see if you are trying to change them. How do you feel and act when you learn that someone doesn’t like you? Are you trying to convince them they are wrong or act in the way it would please them when they’re around? Are you discussing with your friends and wondering why would they not like you? Besides, what have you ever done to them? You’re a nice person. Why don’t they see that? You should say something about this to someone. Someone should say something about this to them. Is your mind spinning in circles trying to figure out what you’ve done wrong? Wouldn’t it be better to give zero f@cks about it and go on to be free?
Sometimes you got to spread your proverbial wings and just fly away from the chains of pleasing others. You will never please them all, so instead of trying to become someone you’re not just so you would be accepted by those who are not that important anyway, why not be yourself instead? Why not be free? I too often see people who were born to stand out trying to fit in molds and sacrifice their individuality all for the sake of becoming something they neither want nor should be. Be who you are. Who you are. You.
- cover image by Rob Curran, edited by Towint
- first image by Shane Rounce
- second image by Mohamed Nohassi
(free to use under the Unsplash License)
Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again my dear pagan soul. Rejoice in life, and life will rejoice in you. May God and Goddess bless you in everything you do and spirit guides follow you wherever you go.
In love and light,