Do you care about what others think about you?
For me, there are aspects of what all others have written, and aspects that are very different.
Yes, of course, being human I have many aspects that are strongly influenced by what others appear to think of me, such aspects are required to maintain stability in highly social complex organisms such as ourselves.
It seems clear that we are all part of a very complex system of life on this planet, that seems to be the result of a process of evolution by natural selection happening over the last 4 billion or so years, and in some lines happening recursively at several different levels.
And it is a very complex story at many different levels, with a couple of major themes that are important at every level.
It seems that our particular lineage has evolved in a particular niche that has a set of characteristics that are unusual to say the least.
It seems clear that the evolution of brains has been selected for in organisms that move, as brains allow for prediction of possible risks and rewards. There are many complexity traps that come with having brains, as well as the metabolic cost, and it seems clear that throughout the evolutionary history of the particular lines of surviving organisms in the particular environments that they have survived in, that tendency has, on average, over time, benefited our ancestors.
And the logic of “games theory” (the theory of costs and benefits of complex interacting strategies) demands that cooperative strategies have attendant strategies present that remove any benefit derived from strategies that cheat on the cooperative. Cooperation cannot survive unless such strategies are present.
And clearly, we are (each an every one of us) examples of cooperation at many different levels, from the molecular in terms of RNA and DNA leading to proteins, thence to prokaryotic cells, thence to eukaryotic cells, thence to bodies, brains, herds, cultures etc.
For most of that time, it seems clear now that our ancestors lived in a sort of stochastic sweet spot in terms of the random chances of particular events happening in particular sets of environments. Thus for most of our evolutionary history over the last 4 million or so years, our ancestors had low rates of reproduction, and their populations were subject to external events that killed off many individuals periodically, meaning that in group competition for survival was rare, and most of the time in group cooperation was far more beneficial for survival than competition. This seems to give us a particularly powerful set of cooperative tendencies, at the highest levels of our brain’s innate capacities.
One stabilising aspect of this set of cooperative tendencies is our need for acceptance from our group. We love to be loved. It is a part of what makes living in large groups possible.
And, as usual in living systems, it is more complex than that.
It is clear that there have also been times in our past where competition for resources has been intense, so we each have a competitive side, that allowed our ancestors to survive those episodes too.
So we all have this history, at many different levels, in our genetics, in our cultures, in our personal journeys through life, of aspects of our context of being pushing us towards cooperation and competition, simultaneously. And we, as conscious entities (to whatever degree we happen to attain consciousness in any given instant) bring our little bit of will power and intention and choice into the mix of all things past – and our brains and our bodies act as they do, as the outcome of this vast array of billions of different actors, at dozens of different levels, both within us, and around us.
We care about what others think.
And Yes, we can act independent of what others think.
And in that independent action it can be directed towards the goal of benefiting all life (ourselves and others) or it can be more selfishly directed towards our benefit at cost to others. And this seems to be the prime distinction, between cooperative and competitive actions.
So I can think and act in ways that do not have the approval of others, and still be confident (beyond reasonable doubt, in the face of lack of agreement) that in so doing I am acting in the best long term interests of everyone.
And such action isn’t easy.
At so many emotional levels we are primed to seek out approval, and to avoid social rejection – such things are necessary for cooperative social groups to survive (on average, over time – and not always, in all situations).
So yes – I care what others think, and I do not let what others think determine what I do, and nor do I entirely ignore it.
It’s complicated, as most of life is.