I was going through an older notebook of mine and came across a few quotes. I would like to explore one of them today, and I might take to exploring more in the future, but for now let's keep it short.
Our vast social primate brains evolved to pursue one central goal: to look good in the eyes of others.
This idea has been rattling around in the back of my brain for quite some time now, but I never gave it time for dedicated rumination. Hold onto your butts for another exciting adventure in writing while thinking. Of course you have to think to write, but you know what I mean. I hope.
This, at a high level, is not a problem, and you might even argue it has been critically important in getting us where we are today. I mean it is a quote on evolution. My concern is it's application to the modern world. The problem for me is that in an age of ever-present connectedness, many of us are trying to look good in the eyes of every single rando on the internet, or at least those in the same global tribe, much to our determent and/or the determent of others.
This is not what we were designed for. It's an overload and untenable, and in my opinion, is not resulting in a net positive force in our lives.
attention = approval = looking good in the eyes of others
It feels like we are devolving into a sheer attention game rather than perusing quality, meaningful interactions. (Groundbreaking thought, I know. Nothing new here, just thinking out loud.)
If this is the way I feel, then what am I going to do about it in my own life?
Well, I think we all want approval at some level, that is not going to change. It's human nature, as we have not so eloquently established, but I think I can reframe how I look at it. Kind of like the way I feel about being wealthy vs. being rich and even my own personal definition of those terms in general. (Maybe a future post?)
I could say—and this is how I feel if not what I always do—that I want to look good in the eyes of those important to me; close colleagues, friends and family. These are, after all, the people I spend a majority of my time with, so it's kind of logical to want this. But not in the sense that I want to impress them, no, it's more of a relationship long-term angle.
So then the definition of "to look good in the eyes of others" changes. I don't necessarily want to look good in the eyes of others. What I really want is good relationships with those important people in my life.
Ok, good. We are getting somewhere now. Baby steps, but progress nonetheless.
Still, I think we can take it a step or two further. Like giant steps. If we are sticking to the theme of simplicity, and focusing on what really matters #pinksink, I thing we can get this down to a big idea in a small package.
I kind of stopped writing at this point and took a break to step away and clear my head, which involved grocery shopping and going for a walk.
You know what it really comes down to?
Just be a good person.
The thing is, if those important in my life really are good people and I am a good person myself, the "try" part just kind of melts away. It ceases to exist. You don't get caught up in the day-to-day of the Joneses and stressing about what others think. You can just get on with your life. If they are not good people, then I will argue that you don't need them in your life. Where you draw that line is up to you, but the more honesty you can use to draw that line the better
Back to the grand scale of the internet. You might think you will be missing out on something by not trying to appease the masses (this is the trap I was finding myself in), but you know what? It's not worth it. It just isn't (again speaking for myself here).
Who do you become when you spend your whole life trying to be somebody else? Hint: The answer is in the question.
If you really want to look good in the eyes of others, just be a good person and don't worry about the rest.
Just be a good person.
Or at the very least, don't be an asshole. Gotta start somewhere.