Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think

 

Part 1: Meet Your Mammoth

The first day I was in second grade, I came to school and noticed that there was a new, very pretty girl in the class—someone who hadn’t been there the previous two years. Her name was Alana and within an hour, she was everything to me.

When you’re seven, there aren’t really any actionable steps you can take when you’re in love with someone. You’re not even sure what you want from the situation. There’s just this amorphous yearning that’s a part of your life, and that’s that.

But for me, it became suddenly relevant a few months later, when during recess one day, one of the girls in the class started asking each of the boys, “Who do youuu want to marry?” When she asked me, it was a no-brainer. “Alana.”

Disaster.

I was still new to being a human and didn’t realize that the only socially acceptable answer was, “No one.”

The second I answered, the heinous girl ran toward other students, telling each one, “Tim said he wants to marry Alana!” Each person she told covered their mouth with uncontrollable laughter. I was finished. Life was over.

The news quickly got back to Alana herself, who stayed as far away from me as possible for days after. If she knew what a restraining order was, she’d have taken one out.

This horrifying experience taught me a critical life lesson—it can be mortally dangerous to be yourself, and you should exercise extreme social caution at all times.

Now this sounds like something only a traumatized second grader would think, but the weird thing, and the topic of this post, is that this lesson isn’t just limited to me and my debacle of a childhood—it’s a defining paranoia of the human species. We share a collective insanity that pervades human cultures throughout the world:

An irrational and unproductive obsession with what other people think of us.

Evolution does everything for a reason, and to understand the origin of this particular insanity, let’s back up for a minute to 50,000BC in Ethiopia, where your Great2,000 Grandfather lived as part of a small tribe.

Back then, being part of a tribe was critical to survival. A tribe meant food and protection in a time when neither was easy to come by. So for your Great2,000 Grandfather, almost nothing in the world was more important than being accepted by his fellow tribe members, especially those in positions of authority. Fitting in with those around him and pleasing those above him meant he could stay in the tribe, and about the worst nightmare he could imagine would be people in the tribe starting to whisper about how annoying or unproductive or weird he was—because if enough people disapproved of him, his ranking within the tribe would drop, and if it got really bad, he’d be kicked out altogether and left for dead. He also knew that if he ever embarrassed himself by pursuing a girl in the tribe and being rejected, she’d tell the other girls about it—not only would he have blown his chance with that girl, but he might never have a mate at all now because every girl that would ever be in his life knew about his lame, failed attempt. Being socially accepted was everything.

Because of this, humans evolved an over-the-top obsession with what others thought of them—a craving for social approval and admiration, and a paralyzing fear of being disliked. Let’s call that obsession a human’s Social Survival Mammoth. It looks something like this:

Mammoth

Your Great2,000 Grandfather’s Social Survival Mammoth was central to his ability to endure and thrive. It was simple—keep the mammoth well fed with social approval and pay close attention to its overwhelming fears of nonacceptance, and you’ll be fine.

And that was all well and fine in 50,000BC. And 30,000BC. And 10,000BC. But something funny has happened for humans in the last 10,000 years—their civilization has dramatically changed. Sudden, quick change is something civilization has the ability to do, and the reason that can be awkward is that our evolutionary biology can’t move nearly as fast. So while for most of history, both our social structure and our biology evolved and adjusted at a snail’s pace together, civilization has recently developed the speed capabilities of a hare while our biology has continued snailing along.

Our bodies and minds are built to live in a tribe in 50,000BC, which leaves modern humans with a number of unfortunate traits, one of which is a fixation with tribal-style social survival in a world where social survival is no longer a real concept. We’re all here in 2014, accompanied by a large, hungry, and easily freaked-out woolly mammoth who still thinks it’s 50,000BC.

Why else would you try on four outfits and still not be sure what to wear before going out?

Trying on Shirts

Trying on Shirts

Trying on Shirts

Trying on Shirts

The mammoth’s nightmares about romantic rejection made your ancestors cautious and savvy, but in today’s world, it just makes you a pussy:

Pursuing a Girl

Pursuing a Girl

Pursuing a Girl

Pursuing a Girl

Pursuing a Girl

And don’t even get the mammoth started on the terror of artistic risks:

Karaoke

singing 2

The mammoth’s hurricane of fear of social disapproval plays a factor in most parts of most people’s lives. It’s what makes you feel weird about going to a restaurant or a movie alone; it’s what makes parents care a little too much about where their child goes to college; it’s what makes you pass up a career you’d love in favor of a more lucrative career you’re lukewarm about; it’s what makes you get married before you’re ready to a person you’re not in love with.

And while keeping your highly insecure Social Survival Mammoth feeling calm and safe takes a lot of work, that’s only one half of your responsibilities. The mammoth also needs to be fed regularly and robustly—with praise, approval, and the feeling of being on the right side of any social or moral dichotomy.

Why else would you be such an image-crafting douchebag on Facebook?

Or brag when you’re out with friends even though you always regret it later?

Brag

Society has evolved to accommodate this mammoth-feeding frenzy, inventing things like accolades and titles and the concept of prestige in order to keep our mammoths satisfied—and often to incentivize people to do meaningless jobs and live unfulfilling lives they wouldn’t otherwise consider taking part in.

Above all, mammoths want to fit in—that’s what tribespeople had always needed to do so that’s how they’re programmed. Mammoths look around at society to figure out what they’re supposed to do, and when it becomes clear, they jump right in. Just look at any two college fraternity pictures taken ten years apart:

frat

Or all those subcultures where every single person has one of the same three socially-acceptable advanced degrees:

Diploma

Diploma

Sometimes, a mammoth’s focus isn’t on wider society as much as it’s on winning the approval of a Puppet Master in your life. A Puppet Master is a person or group of people whose opinion matters so much to you that they’re essentially running your life. A Puppet Master is often a parent, or maybe your significant other, or sometimes an alpha member of your group of friends. A Puppet Master can be a person you look up to who you don’t know very well—maybe even a celebrity you’ve never met—or a group of people you hold in especially high regard.

We crave the Puppet Master’s approval more than anyone’s, and we’re so horrified at the thought of upsetting the Puppet Master or feeling their nonacceptance or ridicule that we’ll do anything to avoid it. When we get to this toxic state in our relationship with a Puppet Master, that person’s presence hangs over our entire decision-making process and pulls the strings of our opinions and our moral voice.

puppet master

With so much thought and energy dedicated to the mammoth’s needs, you often end up neglecting someone else in your brain, someone all the way at the center—your Authentic Voice.

AV

Your Authentic Voice, somewhere in there, knows all about you. In contrast to the black-and-white simplicity of the Social Survival Mammoth, your Authentic Voice is complex, sometimes hazy, constantly evolving, and unafraid. Your AV has its own, nuanced moral code, formed by experience, reflection, and its own personal take on compassion and integrity. It knows how you feel deep down about things like money and family and marriage, and it knows which kinds of people, topics of interest, and types of activities you truly enjoy, and which you don’t. Your AV knows that it doesn’t know how your life will or should play out, but it tends to have a strong hunch about the right step to take next.

And while the mammoth looks only to the outside world in its decision-making process, your Authentic Voice uses the outside world to learn and gather information, but when it’s time for a decision, it has all the tools it needs right there in the core of your brain.

Your AV is also someone the mammoth tends to ignore entirely. A strong opinion from a confident person in the outside world? The mammoth is all ears. But a passionate plea from your AV is largely dismissed until someone else validates it.

And since our 50,000-year-old brains are wired to give the mammoth a whole lot of sway in things, your Authentic Voice starts to feel like it’s irrelevant. Which makes it shrink and fade and lose motivation.

AV

Eventually, a mammoth-run person can lose touch with their AV entirely.

In tribal times, AVs often spent their lives in quiet obscurity, and this was largely okay. Life was simple, and conformity was the goal—and the mammoth had conformity covered just fine.

But in today’s large, complex world of varying cultures and personalities and opportunities and options, losing touch with your AV is dangerous. When you don’t know who you are, the only decision-making mechanism you’re left with is the crude and outdated needs and emotions of your mammoth. When it comes to the most personal questions, instead of digging deep into the foggy center of what you really believe in to find clarity, you’ll look to others for the answers. Who you are becomes some blend of the strongest opinions around you.

Losing touch with your AV also makes you fragile, because when your identity is built on the approval of others, being criticized or rejected by others really hurts. A bad break-up is painful for everyone, but it stings in a much deeper place for a mammoth-run person than for a person with a strong AV. A strong AV makes a stable core, and after a break-up, that core is still holding firm—but since the acceptance of others is all a mammoth-run person has, being dumped by a person who knows you well is a far more shattering experience.

Likewise, you know those people who react to being criticized by coming back with a nasty low-blow? Those tend to be severely mammoth-run people, and criticism makes them so mad because mammoths cannot handle criticism.

Low Blow

Low Blow

Low Blow

Low Blow

At this point, the mission should be clear—we need to figure out a way to override the wiring of our brain and tame the mammoth. That’s the only way to take our lives back.

Part 2: Taming the Mammoth →

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121 comments - jump to comment field »

  1. Fangirling

    Without this post I wouldn’t have said this… But I googled you and you’re handsome!! Nice to know that you can be good looking AND intelligent! Love your posts as always.

  2. Daniel

    This is why this is the best blog in the world. The topic has been done many times before, but I’ve never seen it done like this. Going to lie down now and think about this for a couple hours.

  3. Amit

    I have been following your web page for a month now. I must say that you are an inspiration. You explain most complex things in the simplest ways possible. And your sense of humour is a cherry on top. Keep up the good work.

  4. Rahul

    I love this writer and his posts. How does he express such intricate details of how people think so effortlessly in words is an enigma for me . Wow, you are a genius and you’ve made me realize so many things about myself. Thanks for that; I’m waiting eagerly for the subsequent post.

  5. Monika

    I bet this Alana girl is regretting big time not having married you about now. Amazing post as always; big props for the mammoth high five.

  6. Mike

    I can recommend to take the advice provided in this post to everyone.

    I’ve always been a person who believes it is important to form your own, well founded opinion, but especially when it came to (dating) women I would be obsessed about what they might think of me etc. Last year I decided I would at least try to stop giving a damn about what anyone thinks of me – and it has been trully liberating. The response from other people is actually quite shocking and hilarious at the same time :)

    The hardest thing however, is to find the confidence in doing so.. but there are quite a few effective ways to boost your confidence so I would look into that if you’re a person struggling with, as this post calls it, a massive mammoth. If you just remember and accept the fact that you yourself are the only person who can really make you happy – you’re a long way. I don’t preach to be a selfish dick, but it is important to know that if you expect others to make you happy, it will never happen, not for the long term anyway! I mean it in the sense of doing what you want without caring what others think about it.

    To resort to the following cliché: life is short – make sure you do what ever the F you want before you’re old and unable to do so!

  7. Elma

    Well, this made me think. I was someone who had a big issues with the Mammoth and I thought that I tamed it… but then, when I decided to leave a comment on this page, I got stuck on the “Name” part. Ok, I know it sound silly, it’s just a name, doesn’t have to be real, how would anyone know who the hell I am… nevertheless, though of COMPLETE STRANGERS judging something I wrote scared me… yes, that unbelievably silly thing scared me.

    I never gave it a serious thought until now, but, I also never left comment anywhere :)

    So, at this point, you are witnessing the Mammoth being tamed… first step is the hardest, I guess…

  8. wobster109

    You keep saying how small we are compared to time and the universe, and I keep saying you could totally be alive for the next billion years. Really. Have a look into cryonics.

    Why not? Because your friends will call you a coward? What’s that compared to the chance for a few billion years of life?

  9. Geertje

    What if there is no AV, no ‘real self’? What if we all have endless ‘voices’ in our head, constantly shaping our identity through dialogues? What if there are many, many ways to be ‘ourselves’, none of them truly authentic – but also not not-authentic?

    • Stormos

      Hoi Geertje,

      This is obviously a topic of debate but it’s probably safe to assume that you, when given the change, will always prefer some things over others. Iv’e seen this idea from Tim articulated by someone else, a very old and dead psychologist called Kazimier Dabrowski. He basicaly held the position that to tame your mammoth and actually listen to your AV you would need some sort of disintegrating experience (usually some event followed by a depression) to actually start down that scary path.

      He also thought a lot more about your question than i care to elaborate here. I first heard of him aproximately a year ago and there was definetly a lot of recognition going on just like now with this superbly written article.

      Anyway this is the wikipedia page of dabrowski’s theories, for if your interested..
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_Disintegration

  10. Galka

    Well, along with teaching people to be themselves we need to teach people to accept other people being themselves.

    • LL

      THIS. This 100%… Sometimes people get so lost in OTHER people accepting them as they are, that we forget to also extend the same thoughtful courtesy to others.

      I complete adored this blog post.. because it articulates so many of the things I struggle with without ever knowing exactly how to word it or whether other people experienced it to. It came as somewhat of a relief reading through it.

      But your comment is definitely something that was missing from the original post so thank you also for adding that!

  11. Lem

    Amazing post. You’re so smart and talented. All those other blogs are so dumb, right? Ugh. But we’re best friends, right? Right?! Let’s get a drink sometime. I’ll buy of course.

    • Jonathan

      I already ordered my mammoth t-shirt anticipating how popular they are going to be. The only thing that will make it better is when they sell out and only the coolest people, the early adopters will have one and I will know for sure that I am one of the elite.

  12. Bryan

    I have known several people who don’t seem to care what others think of them. Some of them are cool, quirky, artistic, and generally fun to be around. Others are are just plain creepy and make me think perhaps they really should start caring more. I hope if I ever make progress toward taming my mammoth, I end up in the first category.

  13. Erik

    Thanks Tim. Your blog posts always make me kill an hour at work reading and then pondering the universe – but it’s worth it! One of the best parts of the week. Everything you write is just so… profound! You should write a book (along with the cartoons of course). I think you’d be really successful at it. Looking forward to next week’s post!

  14. DT

    Next post – how to recognize Mammoth controlled person…

    1: Always using newest iPhone despite 3 year contract… :)

    Kidding aside, this is a serious issue. How many people do you know who are drowning in debt while driving newest cars and buying houses (and other items) they cannot afford… Banks make billions of dollars thanks to this issue…

  15. DT

    Only opinion that matters is the one from those that love you. Coincidentally, if someone has a low opinion of you, usually they do not fall into the group of people who love you. So, you can’t lose when you don’t care about what people think of you.

  16. Vikram

    My wife filed for divorce from me yesterday. I was feeling guilty for feeling somewhat relieved and happy about it (between the thoughts of losing my best friend). I realize now that my AV just would not be silenced, especially during the past few years (where the marriage started going downhill). I’m happy because my AV is smiling again and that is not something to feel any guilt about.

    Tim, I am less a procrastinator, no longer posting on facebook, living in the present rather than in the false promise of a better tomorrow, figured why I’m unhappy at the age of 37 (Gypsy), figured out that I married her for my needs than for her, and am finding renewed purpose in my life with more clarity and direction than I have ever had as of today after reading this post.

    I’ve thanked you before, I thank you now, and I’ll bet my children that I will thank you again (many times).

  17. JJ

    Thank you so much for this post. Made me realize what a mammoth-run person i am. Your blog is truly inspiring! And i’m starting to tame my mammoth right now by leaving a comment, which is something i’m usually too afraid to do on the internet, haha

  18. EMILY

    Loving it! I shed my mammoth in high school and have since been so thoroughly shamed publicly that I’ve welcomed her back into my life for short bursts of time. Now I let my AT shine but assume that most people will find me unpalatable socially and I’m okay with that.

  19. Elisabeth

    This was a great article and I don’t have much patience with people who get picky about one little word BUT(!!) I surely wish that we all could come up with a new word for someone who is inordinately timid and cowardly and stop using the word “pussy” unless we’re giving equal time to a phrase like “limp dick”. There are words out there to describe cowardice that don’t insult anyone’s genitalia!

      • RJH

        That seems similar to the ‘I don’t really mean ‘gay’ when I call something ‘gay’ derogatorily’ argument. It doesn’t matter what the origins of the word are or what you’re actually thinking when you say it, the word carries subtext that we all understand.

        Using the word ‘pussy’ implies that the person is being feminine which is meant to be unacceptable and negative. It’s not great.

  20. Anonymous

    Tim, oh my goodness you never let me down haha. This whole thing was genius and I was laughing the entire time. It was the mammoth animations, they’re perfect hahahahahaha oh my goodness. I’m gonna go roll on the floor and laugh some more now.

  21. Jonathan Wells

    Authenticity is a subtle thing. Sometimes the people living most authentically go almost unnoticed because they do not attract attention to themselves. Attention-seeking behaviour is its own perverse version of the mammoth. The lives of people who are insistently “unique” or “different” in a performative way are as ruled by their rejection of internalized societal expectations as those who try slavishly to adhere to them. Humility is somewhere in the middle. Having an individual uniqueness is something we all have in common. I don’t think Tim is advocating sociopathy or anti-social behaviour, necessarily.

  22. Hoi-Ying

    Whereas I use the terms ego, fear, depression and demons, you depict my problem in the form of a cute little mammoth with pet potential. Sigh.

    Thank you for writing so clearly, I can’t wait for a book to come out.

    P.S. Being an AV isn’t always that much fun or rewarding, like Jonathan said. I’d rather stay a mammoth sometimes, because it feels less different and lonely.

    [/end of major mammoth defying one-time only activity]

  23. Elizabeth Bing

    This is generally a fair way of looking at life, behavior and social relationships. However, the concept is easily co-opted by narcissists looking for additional legitimization of their already self-indulged point of view in an ever-escalating effort to appear to be ‘right’.

  24. Anonymous

    Great article!

    However vestigial structures (appendix, tonsils, etc.) suggest that our bodies have evolved; they’re also (relatively) hairless. I’m a persnickety reader; you’re a great writer and illustrator!

  25. Michael

    First time i come to your site and this was the first article i stumpled upon.
    You really brought tears in my eyes, everything you wrote matched with my self and my controlling mamoth i know i have for years. The fear of not making a move because someone will judge you laugh at you or think bad about you even if the person doesnt give a f*ck about you, but you believe that he/she does give a f*ck, is the worst fear i have, The only thing i’m glad is that i kept touch with my AV in the same time, but my mamoth wins everytime, i’m really strugle to be myself but i cant i just facking cant because of the social acceptance and what people would thing of me if i present my real me to them. I’ve become so misserable that i often had thoughts of ending my life, luckily i have strong logical brain that prevents me for doing it. Every day i try to tame the mamoth, in rare occasions where im trully myself im one real funny guy, but these days last so little. Why is so hard to get rid of it and do the things that your heart want to do. I often feel the heat in my heart before doing something like speaking to a girl or make a funny move that is social awkward and that heat is the real me because i want so badly to do it but then the mammoth thought kicks in and prevent me for facking doing it and in the end of tha day i tell my self…hurray ass*le are you glad you didnt do it? the answer is no..will the next time do it? i say YES……Next time comes same shit happen the same endless cycle.
    You really helped me with your article and i’ll try me best to get rid of it however i can, small steps at a time.

  26. Voracious Reader

    I can’t say I’ve completely tamed the Mammoth, it waits its turn when I’m most vulnerable, but it’s something to strive for. Great post, as always.

  27. James Noyes

    Another spot-on post. But I’m curious, Tim: do what degree to you think the Mammoth influences the content of your posts?

  28. Aron Stats

    This was a brilliant article. It’s spot on for society’s criticism but what is really the mammoth or the AV? Well, the mammoth in my opinion is your insecurity or your fear of being disliked. The AV is the spiritual part of your brain AKA the pineal gland. The pineal gland allows you to access your deepest thoughts and reflect on them which results in a spiritual awakening AKA finding yourself. The mammoth still lives deep inside of everyone but you can truly bypass the fear using your AV.

    Thank you for this article

  29. Thais

    Great post! I am surely struggling with my big ass mammoth since when I left college. I just wish you hadn’t used that sad image of the poor mammoth with the tusks removed. Made me sad for the mammoth and everything.
    I know mammoths are extinct, but… Not green, bro. :)

  30. Ka

    Well, thank you for clearing that up for me. So I guess I’m not as much a mammoth-run person as I’m a person whose mammoth sat on his (its? sorry for my English) face and now it’s flat as a pancake, which also makes breathing a bit harder. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that I hate it when you’re right and I love you’re damn good and spot-on observations put in writing. I also hope that one day my mammoth will curse the moment I became acquainted with this blog.
    And it’s 1:49 a.m., so keep calm and tame your mammoth. And good night.

  31. Renato

    Thank you so much for this, the timing with my life couldn’t be more perfect.

    Keep doing the amazing job, your words are among the best material that is left on the internet.

  32. Gabriele

    This may have been written in humor but it is truly a “deep” topic! Wow!! Funny but serious at the same time. I loved it. What struck me throughout is that as you get older (i just hit 60) you actually begin to silence your Mammoth and you begin to be yourself. It’s amazing. You care less and less what anyone thinks. You begin to have that freedom you are writing about. It’s very liberating not worrying about the Mammoth or what others think. Love this week’s story.

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  34. Kimberly Davis

    Are you really going to Pakistan, Nigeria and all of those other dangerous places? If so, Please be very careful. You may want to let your Social Survival Mammoth grow a little bit so that you always have something to hide behind in case there are bullets or mobs that you need to avoid. He can’t die if he gets shot so you don’t have to worry about that and i’m pretty sure mobs are afraid of mammoths.

    I am a big fan. I would be very interested to get your take on those parts of the world but I would prefer that you stay here where it is safe and everyone is bursting at the seams with love and admiration for you.

    Thanks again for another great post and making my life a little bit better every week.

    Cheers
    Kim

  35. ML

    Hmm, do you know what’s most interesting to me about this post? It kinda assumes that humankind in general has evolved past the point where we need to listen to our mammoth. I’m a former Peace Corps Volunteer and spent two years living in West Africa in a very small community, and let me tell you, fitting in and social harmony were *everything* there. And just look at other places, like Pakistan, where conforming is seen as so necessary that if — for example — a woman chooses her own husband instead of accepting her family’s choice, she may be publicly stoned to death. Social oppression of women is one big reason why that happens, but an all-consuming need for her family to “conform” to standards of acceptable social behavior is another big reason that’s not often discussed. We need to realize that those of us who can afford to listen to our AVs are in the minority: not just historically, but also now in the modern world. We have greater access to the Internet, which might make it seem like the days of the mammoth are long past, but let’s be honest: they’re still alive and well.

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  38. Katatonic

    In defiance of my mammoth, last fall I started coloring my grey hair in vivid jewel tones. Yesterday I had a customer ask me how I could do that. I said “I buy a little pot of color and…” and he stoppped me and said that wasn’t what he meant.

    I know what he meant: how could a 50-something adult professional woman dye her hair magneta?

    “Because I fucking well wanted to!!” would generate a harsh (if rightfully deserved) customer complaint.

    One of the best things about getting older is learning that social disapproval and/ostracization isn’t fatal or even a big deal any more.

    If only I’d gotten that sooner, I might have avoided some lame ass decisions.

    So glad for all you post! Thank you!

  39. Spotstain

    Ohhh… but you forgot Part Three — VERY IMPORTANT!!!! The part that talks about what its like to live in this world, when you have traded the Mammoth for the Authentic Voice. There is no balance!

    Authentic Voice: What do you mean I can’t wear whatever I want? I can have PRIDE in myself and still look like as slob as long as I’m clean!
    Authentic Voice: So what if I don’t follow grammer (not grammatical) conventions! Haven’t you learned that language evolves? I’m evolving it! English particularly is warped, yet many have the audacity to envision it as the global language? (Question mark intended.)
    Authentic voice: Mammoths says never to put me on a committee because I don’t conform to the traditional way of thinking. My views hold up progress because they are different. Hah! They slow it down!
    Authentic voice: I like being me. My IQ is 150 But no one else likes me. They don’t think I’m smart. They just think I’m weird. This world isn’t for me –especially corporate!

    • AJ

      Hey Spotstain,
      facebook iq tests are not accurate, and your mammoth (ego) is thriving; if it weren’t you wouldn’t be getting all worked up about this comment. Also: grammAr! Keep searching.

  40. Tickle Me Elma

    I think the ability to see one’s own patterns and to consciously not follow the unhealthy, outdated ones makes the difference between having a good life or an unnecessarily difficult life. The mammoth is one of those outdated patterns- craving social approval in order to feel safe.

    However, it is useful to know what societal expectations are and how one’s actions are read by the larger community, whether you conform to it or go against it. Fitting in or being well regarded can mean the difference between a job offer or not, being offered a housing situation or not, or experiencing social inclusion or not- social inclusion being a necessary part of emotional health. The key, though, is that closely connecting to one’s AV will ultimately help one determine from the AV’s point of view when it is necessary or beneficial to fit in and when it is not. It’s important not to go from the mammoth’s point of view, since the mammoth is always afraid, by definition.

    And to anyone who doesn’t agree with me: Yeah, well your dad’s dead!

  41. anonymous

    I can’t forget hearing about the atrocities committed by Nazi soldiers who were just following orders. It always made me appreciate those who questioned the status quo. If someone doesn’t fit in, I generally think of that as a good thing. It’s the first step toward being able to question authority. I don’t know if this what you mean, though.

  42. theorist

    Interesting article, but I’m not sure about the anthropology. The author seems to be arguing that hunger-gatherers (HG’s) didn’t need their “AV’s” (and that listening to them could be detrimental, so they essentially vanished) but today we do. This doesn’t invalidate his central point, but: I suspect the opposite is more likely: that both HG’s and moderns benefit from a strong AV; and, possibly, the AV was typically stronger in HGs than moderns because of societal differences. The author is really talking about social anxiety. It would be interesting to see a comparison.

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  44. anon

    Just to say what an insightful post! Managed to magically make sense of stuff I’ve bee trying to sort through for a while- thanks!

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  48. josh

    Many posters before me have made this point, but I think that I’d like to add some examples. You idea falls down when peoples ideas actions and power affects others. I want my politicians and their staff to be ashamed when they leave and cash out. I want bankers to be ashamed when their policies destroy communities. I want oil companies to care about the long term. There may be many mammoths in these institutions, but their overriding stance is without them.

  49. Joel

    Wow… Just wow! I didn’t even think it was possible to write about a such complicated subject with such ease and clearity! (I hope I’m not feeding your mammoth in any way now…)

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  51. francis

    Excellent post. Thank you. And a note from my AV: pussies are actually pretty strong – probably one pushed you out into the world. It’s your choice which words to use to convey what you mean. But my AV asked me to let you know that that word choice detracted from your valuable and well written message, for me and maybe for others.

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  53. Mammoth Tamed :)

    I absolutely love, love, LOVE this article. It served as the catalyst for me to make some huge changes. Thank you and please don’t stop what you are doing :)

  54. Out with the old...

    I agree with francis: ‘Pussies are actually pretty strong – probably one pushed you out into the world. It’s your choice which words to use to convey what you mean. But my AV asked me to let you know that that word choice detracted from your valuable and well written message, for me and maybe for others.’

    Someone else agrees too:
    Why do people say “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and vulnerable. If you want to toughen up, grow a vagina- those things can take a pounding. – Betty White

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  56. suli

    SLAM DUNK and congrats on allowing your AV to shine as you so clearly have shown in your ability to move us with your profound insights on social consciousness while also profiting from it! You are clearly a great thinker and writer whom I feel privileged to be able to read when you help us recognize and encourage us to confront what in our lives make us unhappy. I feel even more at peace with my very unconventional self because your post very effectively articulates a fundamental need to stay true to ourselves in the face of all that is conventional (and supremely boring).

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  59. Arun

    “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”
    ― Eleanor Roosevelt

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  63. Muller

    This post would need a follow up on how others/the environment actually influence the AV. How does one define ‘yourself’ when that person is constantly under influence of the person’s (social) environment? And when that AV is for a big part formed by the environment while growing up?

  64. Bullnutzz

    Love the articles! Lot of good points, don’t agree with all of them but I think that comes from our different precepts seeing as we have totally different belief systems. I especially like the observation of others being so revered (or feared) , they are called ‘puppet masters.’ I choose to call those idols, something a person serves in place of a GOD. Again, good articles, keep it up.

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  72. Lepanto

    All well but the problem is that other mammoths will get violent when they see someone being himself. Those are the bullies, the street gangs, the police forces, the government officers, those are the worst of all. They will come after you and take you down. No, you need to be a hidden AV, at least in 99.9% of the social interactions. And yes, it is soooo boring!

  73. Pingback: Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think | Jonathan Abolins

  74. Monica

    Thank you, Jonathan. I can’t tell you what this has done for me. Life-changing. A blessing. And just so damn funny, too. Mammoth shirt on my Christmas list (and of course a DNA test, too). Hugs from a new fan.

  75. simba

    Eh. People will still need to regard what others think of them. I’ve met too many jerks who would have loved this post, because they reckoned doing things like disrespecting other people, not listening to reasonable instructions (say, not to borrow someone else’s clothes after they’ve asked you not to, or not to be rude to wait staff, or to wash more than once weekly- all real examples) was just bowing down to the whims of others. They wanted to be themselves, assert themselves, not be a pussy- but really it was all about being able to inconvenience others or behave in socially unacceptable ways, without the consequences that usually follow from that.

    I can see this being a dangerous article for a few of the people I know. When you write ‘listen to your inner voice, your AV’- some people’s Authentic Voice tells them that they are an asshole. The social judging system stops us wearing odd shoes, but it also helps keep assholes from being able to be assholes without social consequences.

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  78. Darp

    I also had this fear and the way i over came is really simple.
    I an an teenager and i have a beard.
    When i started to have an beard and it stared growing people criticized me about having a beard and i did got criticized i actually took a scissor and cut it.

    But now after few months i have changed my self by reading this types of article and actually doing stuff that i know people will get puteen off by.I wanted to experience that and realize that there is no fucking way it would now effect me.

    Now i actually have a beard longer than before and i still get criticized at least twice a day.

    but i take it in and realize that how weak they are and how strong i am becoming.

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  80. thatguy

    I stopped reading after a while because it smelled so strongly of conjecture… Is it all just musings on facts considered to be common knowledge? (ie. humans came out of Africa and hunted Mammoths) I would assume my Ethiopian ancestors really did live in tribes and feared isolation, but I’m not an archeologist. It’d be nice to see anything to corroborate these musings. Especially if they’re supposed to change my outlook on life. A study. A paper. A professor. Anything really. Without it, this sounds only as accurate or helpful as a self help book. Sort of like a nerdy Doctor Phil. Evolution as a natural process might be true, but it was found because humans studied nature meticulously, and tested their findings. Not because they took a few accepted facts that were commonly accepted in their society at the time and philosophized them.

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