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

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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.”


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:


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 coward:

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:


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?


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:


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



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.


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.


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

Some people are born with a reasonably tame mammoth or raised with parenting that helps keep the mammoth in check. Others die without ever reining their mammoth in at all, spending their whole lives at its whim. Most of us are somewhere in the middle—we’ve got control of our mammoth in certain areas of our lives while it wreaks havoc in others. Being run by your mammoth doesn’t make you a bad or weak person—it just means you haven’t yet figured out how to get a grip on it. You might not even be aware that you have a mammoth at all or of the extent to which your Authentic Voice has been silenced.

Whatever your situation, there are three steps to getting your mammoth under your control:

Step 1: Examine Yourself

The first step to improving things is a clear and honest assessment of what’s going on in your head, and there are three parts of this:

1) Get to know your Authentic Voice

meet AV

This doesn’t sound that hard, but it is. It takes some serious reflection to sift through the webs of other people’s thoughts and opinions and figure out who the real you actually is. You spend time with a lot of people—which of them do you actually like the most? How do you spend your leisure time, and do you truly enjoy all parts of it? Is there anything you regularly spend money on that you don’t feel that comfortable with? How does your gut really feel about your job and relationship status? What’s your true political opinion? Do you even care? Do you pretend to care about things you don’t just to have an opinion? Do you secretly have an opinion on a political or moral issue you don’t ever voice because people you know will be outraged?

There are cliché phrases for this process—”soul-searching” or “finding yourself”—but that’s exactly what needs to happen. Maybe you can reflect on this from whatever chair you’re sitting in right now or from some other part of your normal life—or maybe you need to go somewhere far away, by yourself, and step out of your life in order to effectively examine it. Either way, you’ve got to figure out what actually matters to you and start being proud of whoever your Authentic Voice is.

2) Figure out where the mammoth is hiding

mammoth hiding

Most of the time a mammoth is in control of a person, the person’s not really aware of it. But you can’t make progress if you’re not crystal clear about where the biggest problem areas are.

The most obvious way to find the mammoth is to figure out where your fear is—where are you most susceptible to shame or embarrassment? What parts of your life do you think about and a dreadful, sinking feeling washes over you? Where does the prospect of failure seem like a nightmare? What are you too timid to publicly try even though you know you’re good at it? If you were giving advice to yourself, which parts of your life would clearly need a change that you’re avoiding acting on right now?

The second place a mammoth hides is in the way-too-good feelings you get from feeling accepted or on a pedestal over other people. Are you a serious pleaser at work or in your relationship? Are you terrified of disappointing your parents and do you choose making them proud over aiming to gratify yourself? Do you get too excited about being associated with prestigious things or care too much about status? Do you brag more than you should?

A third area the mammoth is present is anywhere you don’t feel comfortable making a decision without “permission” or approval from others. Do you have opinions you’re regurgitating from someone else’s mouth, which you’re comfortable having now that you know that person has them? When you introduce your new girlfriend or boyfriend to your friends or family for the first time, can those people’s reaction to your new person fundamentally change your feelings for him/her? Is there a Puppet Master in your life? If so, who, and why?

3) Decide where the mammoth needs to be ousted


It’s not realistic to kick the mammoth entirely out of your head—you’re a human and humans have mammoths in their head, period. The thing we all need to do is carve out certain sacred areas of our lives that must be in the hands of the AV and free of mammoth influence. There are obvious areas that need to be made part of the AV’s domain like your choice of life partner, your career path, and the way you raise your kids. Others are personal—it comes down to the question, “In which parts of your life must you be entirely true to yourself?”


Step 2: Gather Courage by Internalizing That the Mammoth Has a Low IQ

Real Woolly Mammoths were unimpressive enough to go extinct, and Social Survival Mammoths aren’t any better. Despite the fact that they haunt us so, our mammoths are dumb, primitive creatures who have no understanding of the modern world. Deeply understanding this—and internalizing it—is a key step to taming yours. There are two major reasons not to take your mammoth seriously:

1) The mammoth’s fears are totally irrational.

5 things the Mammoth is incorrect about:

Everyone is talking about me and my life and just think how much everyone will be talking about it if I do this risky or weird thing.

Here’s how the mammoth thinks things are:


Here’s how things actually are:


No one really cares that much about what you’re doing. People are highly self-absorbed.

If I try really hard, I can please everyone.

Yes, maybe in a 40-person tribe with a unified culture. But in today’s world, no matter who you are, a bunch of people will like you and a bunch of other people won’t. Being approved of by one type of person means turning another off. So obsessing over fitting in with any one group is illogical, especially if that group isn’t really who you are. You’ll do all that work, and meanwhile, your actual favorite people are off being friends with each other somewhere else.

Being disapproved of or looked down upon or shit-talked about has real consequences in my life.

Anyone who disapproves of who you’re being or what you’re doing isn’t even in the same room with you 99.7% of the time. It’s a classic mammoth mistake to fabricate a vision of future social consequences that is way worse than what actually ends up happening—which is usually nothing at all.

Really judgy people matter.

Here’s how judgy people function: They’re highly mammoth-controlled and become good friends with and date other judgy people who are also highly mammoth-controlled. One of the primary activities they do together is talk shit about whoever’s not with them—maybe they feel some jealousy, and eye-rolling disapproval helps them flip the script and feel less jealous, or maybe they’re not jealous and use someone as a vehicle for bathing in schadenfreude—but whatever the underlying feeling, the judging serves to feed their hungry mammoth.

eating words 1

eating words 2

eating words 3

When people shit-talk, they set up a category division of which they’re always on the right side. They do this to prop themselves up on a pedestal that their mammoth can chomp away on.

Being the material a judgy person uses to feel good about themselves is a fairly infuriating thought—but it has no actual consequences and it’s clearly all much more about the judgy person and their mammoth problem than it is about you. If you find yourself making decisions partially based on not being talked badly about by a judgy person, think hard about what’s actually going on and stop.

I’m a bad person if I disappoint or offend the person/people who love me and have invested so much in me.

No. You’re not a bad person for being whoever your Authentic Voice is in your one life. This is one of those simple things—if they truly selflessly love you, they will for sure come around and accept everything once they see that you’re happy. If you’re happy and they still don’t come around, here’s what’s happening: their strong feelings about who you should be or what you should do are their mammoth talking, and their main motivation is worrying about how it’ll “look” to other people who know them. They’re allowing their mammoth to override their love for you, and they should be adamantly ignored.

Two other reasons why the mammoth’s fearful obsession with social approval makes no sense:

A) You live here:


So who gives a fuck about anything?

B) You and everyone you know are going to die. Kind of soon.


So like…yeah.

The mammoth’s fears being irrational is one reason the mammoth has a low IQ. Here’s the second:

2) The mammoth’s efforts are counterproductive.

The irony of the whole thing is that the obsessive lumbering mammoth isn’t even good at his job. His methods of winning approval may have been effective in simpler times, but today, they’re transparent and off-putting. The modern world is an AV’s world, and if the mammoth wants to thrive socially, he should do the thing that scares him most—let the AV take over. Here’s why:

AVs are interesting. Mammoths are boring. Every AV is unique and complex, which is inherently interesting. Mammoths are all the same—they copy and conform, and their motives aren’t based on anything authentic or real, just on doing what they think they’re supposed to do. That’s supremely boring.

AVs lead. Mammoths follow. Leadership is natural for most AVs, because they draw their thoughts and opinions from an original place, which gives them an original angle. And if they’re smart and innovative enough, they can change things in the world and invent things that disrupt the status quo. If you give someone a paintbrush and an empty canvas, they might not paint something good—but they’ll change the canvas in one way or another.

Mammoths, on the other hand, follow—by definition. That’s what they were built to do—blend in and follow the leader. The last thing a mammoth is going to do is change the status quo because it’s trying so hard to be the status quo. When you give someone a paintbrush and canvas, but the paint is the same exact color as the canvas, they can paint all they want, but they won’t change anything.

People gravitate toward AVs, not mammoths. The only time a mammoth-crazed person is appealing on a first date is when they’re on the date with another mammoth-crazed person. People with a strong AV see through mammoth-controlled people and aren’t attracted to them. A friend of mine was dating a great on-paper guy awhile back but broke things off because she couldn’t quite fall for him. She tried to articulate why, saying he wasn’t weird or special enough—he seemed like “just one of the guys.” In other words, he was being run too much by a mammoth.

This also holds among friends or colleagues, where AV-run people are more respected and more magnetic—not because there’s necessarily anything extraordinary about them, but because people respect someone with the strength of character to have tamed their mammoth.

Step 3: Start Being Yourself

This post was all fun and games until “start being yourself” came into the picture. Up to now, this has been an interesting reflection into why humans care so much what other people think, why that’s bad, how it’s a problem in your life, and why there’s no good reason it should continue to plague you. But actually doing something after you finish reading this article is a whole different thing. That takes more than reflection—it takes some courage.

toe in water

But courage against what, exactly? As we’ve discussed, there’s no actual danger involved in being yourself—more than anything, it just takes an Emperor Has No Clothes epiphany, which is as simple as this:

Almost nothing you’re socially scared of is actually scary.

Absorbing this thought will diminish the fear that you feel, and without fear, the mammoth loses some power.

medium mammoth

With a weakened mammoth, it becomes possible to begin standing up for who you are and even making some bold changes—and when you watch those changes turn out well for you with few negative consequences and no regrets, it reinforces the epiphany and an empowered AV becomes a habit. Your mammoth has now lost its ability to pull the strings, and it’s tamed.

small mammoth

The mammoth is still with you—it’ll always be with you—but you’ll have an easier time ignoring or overruling it when it speaks up or acts out, because the AV is the alpha dog now. You can start to relish the feeling of being viewed as weird or inappropriate or confusing to people, and society becomes your playground and blank canvas, not something to grovel before and hope for acceptance from.

Making this shift isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s worth obsessing over. Your Authentic Voice has been given one life—and it’s your job to make sure it gets the opportunity to live it.


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You can buy the PDF of this post for offline sharing, or get your own Social Survival Mammoth here:

WBW mammoth plush toy


More on life and happiness from Wait But Why

A different struggle going on in another part of your brain – Why Procrastinators Procrastinate

The thing I learned from Elon Musk that changed the way I think about my life: The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

A deeper look at the deal with the mammoth and the other animals in your brain. A post that ties it all together – A Religion for the Nonreligious

To be happy, you have to know where happiness lives – Life is a Picture but You Live in a Pixel

Mammoths are not good at picking life partners – How to Pick Your Life Partner

You don’t have that many weeks, unfortunately. Make them count. Your Life in Weeks

  • 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.

    • unknown8bit

      The Mammoth approves of this comment.

  • 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.

  • Aaron

    Very well done. Also, iirc you promised a “mammoth” article was in the works? If so, nice pun :o)

  • Brian

    So true. Don’t be a robot.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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…

    • Sarah

      Good job, Elma! 🙂

    • Vikram

      Elma, you fucking rock! I’m already attracted to you. I admire your courage and feel exactly the same.

    • JustKidding:P

      Elma’s a stupid name.

      • Haha

        ;P good for you ‘El’

  • 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?

  • 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..

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • Kastellen

    I would only buy that T-shirt if everyone else did.

    • 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.

  • LC

    I applaud your constant use of the word “schadenfreude”.

  • galarant

    My girlfriend tried to “tame my mammoth” last night, if you know what I mean…

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • MissM

    OMG just read the title and love it already

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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).

    • Mitesh

      100% agree! These posts help me in much the same way. Glad they are as helpful and eye-opening for you too.

      See you soon! <–Is that weird to say on a comment thread with a bunch of "strangers".

    • Sam

      So happy for you 😉

  • Matt

    Could we get that t-shirt with the mammoth on a leash? Great post, as always. Thanks SO much for doing these.

  • 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


    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.

  • 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!

    • Effie

      Pussy may have been derived from the word pusillanimous – to lack courage and resolution.

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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]

  • 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’.

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • support

      You can do it! ignore that mammoth!!

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • Ilia Markov

    I don’t often post comments to blogposts, but when I do I say… THIS IS AMAZING.

  • stripped sock

    Can we start a cult based on your teachings?

    • Louisa

      I’m in.

  • Alexis

    I love you. That is all.

  • 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

  • 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. 🙂

  • Rich

    What if it was the mammoth’s idea for you to listen to your AV?

  • 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.

  • Ka

    *your writing, not “you’re”.. sorry again!

  • 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.

  • Anonymous

    How very fortunate that this extraordinarily bloated metaphor fits neatly onto a t-shirt.

  • 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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  • 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.


  • 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.

  • klajs

    This post is possibly life changing for me. Great post, as ALWAYS.

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  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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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  • 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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  • 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.

  • 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…)

    • PurpleMajesty

      Exactly Joel! It was just so well written.

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  • Anonymous

    Tim, you summarized my life in 2 pages.

  • 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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  • 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 🙂

  • 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

  • Anonymous

    I would like a mammoth tee in women’s sizes, please and thank you!

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  • 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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  • Arun

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

  • johanka

    this is better than the best ‘examination of conscience’

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  • 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?

  • 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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  • rafe

    AV told me to read the article about procrastination, mammoth argued turn to facebook!

  • Cate

    Best thing I’ve ever read!

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  • AJ

    Do you realize that your Mammoth is what most people call the ego? Or is that a coincidental discovery? Good post.

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  • 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!

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • q_p

    Good god I nearly cried. I needed to read this today. Thanks

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  • 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.

  • N M

    Very nice read, It all reminded me of the National Geographic Ape Man Social Climbers episode.
    Here is a link to watch it online:

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  • 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.

    • Nirvan Sengupta

      If he was a published professor you would take him seriously?

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  • Steven L

    I cannot use chopsticks, even though I have lived in asia for 14 of my 18 years of life. I also cannot ride a bicycle. These things are true because my balance and hand-eye coordination are utter shit.

    My mammoth is terrified of everything, because chopsticks and bicycles are things that ‘everyone must know’. Every time I eat out and everyone uses chopsticks, I am ridiculed. And the mammoth wails in terror, at what is sure to be my imminent, chopstick-based social demise.

    And I laugh at him.

  • Steven L

    But then there’s the difficult question: How do you differentiate between something you do socially that you need to change, and something you do socially that the mammoth wants you to change?

    • That is a hard one…

      In a nutshell, I’d say reason, blended with a whole lot of honest self reflection (which many might call navel gazing) is the thing.

      As you may already know, Buddha said something about fear and desire being the cause of all suffering in the world…and regardless of what you might think or feel about the big B man, that statement does seem to cut to the chase.

      For the most part, when we humans get silly, it’s usually because we want something we don’t have or fear losing something that we do have…so, I think a good place to begin would be to simply ask yourself…Am I motivated by fear or desire?

      Then you can mover onto bigger and better things, like: Do I want to be treated as if I were a better person, or do I want to be a better person? What is a better person?

      Although, I don’t know if this’ll work for you…it just seems to be a passable solution for me right now.

  • P

    Everything you do “socially” that you are worrying about or trying to change is a mammoth problem. “Being yourself” is not caring about social stuff but only what involves your own peace of mind and happiness. Then you will find that some “social stuff” is not at all disconected from your own happiness- and there you have it. I dont think theres much thinking or making difficult questions involved, your own voice and the world´s voice are in fact one.

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  • Doktoro Kiu

    You have come to a very similar conclusion as Irvine does in “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy”. The ancient Stoics had many techniques for living a good life that can be seen as methods to counteract evolutionary tendencies that are destructive to our happiness/tranquility in a civilized world. Irvine’s book is chock full of examples of Stoics or other philosophers who have mastered their outdated evolutionary firmware. If you truly wish to master your mammoth this book is invaluable, and I highly recommend it. Look up quotes from Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius (yes, the Roman Emperor) to see a snapshot of their ideas.

    This is coming from an engineer who knew nothing of Philosophy until his Gen-Ed Intro to Ethics course in his senior year of college. My prof taught from first-sources and actually gave a damn about discussing subjects and getting people to understand them, and this assumedly boring required class ended up changing my outlook on everything. I bought “A Guide to the Good Life” after the class out of curiosity, because Stoics were referenced by other authors but we didn’t cover their ideas in class. If I could choose between having read this book and having received a million dollars, I would choose the book (even if only because I have read the book).

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  • Pessimistically_Optimistic

    Maybe some people didn’t read the entire article, or they just don’t get it. You aren’t supposed to completely not care what people think. I believe the first page even mentioned that. I grew up around people judging one another, and I judge myself harshly. This article particularly relates to me because I shouldn’t care what others think of me. If you cannot do this without becoming a complete idiot, then my guess is you have shitty morals and values. Also the way you talk to people has a huge affect on them, tone of voice is key. People will always judge, there is no way getting around that.

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  • “Not caring what others think about you is such a serious responsibility that only reasonable, rational, emotionally well-balanced individuals could even consider it, which goes a long way towards explaining why most people are so insecure and self-conscious.” — Frank Lee

    It’s a comically back-handed response, but there’s definitely something to it. Taming the mammoth is really hard and will take a whole lot of work (huge understatement), but simply being aware of the mammoth and its irrational nature is a huge first step.

    Although, at first, that huge first step looks like it puts you on the “Well-Adjusted, Emotionally and Psychologically Well-Balanced” doorstep. It does. The only problem is those door steps often turn out to be about the size of the Himalayas. And there’s a whole lot of pseudo-nirvana that can jump into the party, too.

    For instance, if you think you’ve tamed the mammoth but still bristle at social slights or can be offended by how people treat you or can be offended by how people speak to you or if you can be emotionally and/or psychologically touchy and/or fragile and/or moody…unfortunately, though you may believe you’ve tamed your mammoth…in actuality, your mammoth’s simply conned you into thinking it’s asleep.

    That mammoth can be one tricky mamma jamma.

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  • Sam

    Thank you.

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  • Brian

    This was honestly pretty profound to read. I’ve been thinking and “battling” these concepts for a long while and it really helped to read it like this with an understanding on its root and evolution. I’m pretty excited to start practicing the solution now. Thanks for this

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  • peterlake

    There’s another reason for not caring what other people think about you: you can never know what they think, no matter what they say to you. The could be mistaken, lying or ignorant, but without any way to *KNOW* what they’re actually thinking, all of what you think they’re thinking is your own creation.

  • humanequalswonderlust

    A very insightful article into our inner voices. I always have conflicting voices of social vs. personal and it’s just better for yourself to do what you wish. It’s alright to focus on making/sucking up to people if that is your true goal but it’s also fine to do otherwise. I’m just a kid trying to get a grasp on things but this sort of stuff helps and it’s also easy to understand.

  • vratrm

    As someone who works in tech, and therefore knows quite a number of people deficient in their people skills, I think this is terrible advice and a recipe for unhappiness. The cornerstone of human interaction is the ability to discern how others perceive you, that requires things like putting yourself in their space and empathizing.

    For example, in a meeting you make well think that you’re just stating the facts in a pure, rational, dispassionate way, but in fact your coming off as an arrogant, opinionated jerk. That’s important feedback.

    Of course we all have to say and do things that make others unhappy or puts us in conflict. Sometimes, that ‘thing’ is just making a statement of fact, of being the barer of bad news. Some times, it’s sticking up for someone who’s being bullied. The solution to those conflicts is not to somehow turn on a switch that makes you not care about what other’s are thinking. It’s instead to have the courage of your own convictions.

    As for the ‘evolution’ this post based on, a quick perusal of the disasters and slaughters that have befallen human beings at the hands of other human beings, would seem to point to other innate behavior that’s really the root of suffering. Human history is filled with numerous individuals who esteem their own selves is far more highly than others, and whose sensitivity to the thoughts and feelings of others goes only so far as that person has something of value that they can bestow. If there’s any internal battle that needs to be fought, from an evolutionary perspective, it’s the excessively innate regard that we all have for ourselves and the low regard we have for others.

    • Heavenly BluE

      No one in the meeting thinks you’re an “opinionated jerk.” The only thing 95%+ of the people in the meeting care about is when you’re going to be finished talking so they can get back to looking at funny cat videos while doing the minimum work required to not get fired.

      The slaughters of modern history (Stalin for example) aren’t applicable to this discussion because we didn’t evolve to have mega countries. We evolved in tribes of less than 150 people. Most of the slaughters when we lived like that (and in places in Africa where people still live like that) are wars between tribes – which is also not what this article is addressing. People have evolved to conform within their tribe, not with all people. Tribal leaders are aggressive and dominant – not a recipe for harmony with other tribes.

  • johnny

    Just one quick comment to the statement “Almost nothing you’re socially scared of is actually scary.”: This may be true for the western culture. But keep in mind that there are still billions of people in other parts of the world who gets socially left alone, even get jailed, or even get killed based on what other people think about them. Sad but true…

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  • Helena

    After reading several articles of yours, I think you are just explaining some basic philosophy which 40% college students aware of to the rest. Part of them make sense, part of them are just the things you want to say to people so you think they are listening. Too much smartness..my brain hurts..but you are successful and popular yeah! Just like Adam Young(if you ever listen to his album Airship and comparing its instrumental pieces with other songs from the owl city ).

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  • Josh

    Caring about what others think can still provide advantages. For example, you have to select a new employee. You have two candidates, and both are equally qualified. There would be no advantage in hiring one over the other in relation to their skills or education. You then make the decision based on who you like the best. Who fits better in your “tribe”. And there is nothing wrong with, when all other things being equal, you choose whoever you like best.

  • Jack Liu

    To me, I feel like caring about what people thinks is also important. In an Asian culture, the dominant value is to care about others and function as a group. This is entirely opposite of what you are arguing here but I think it’s still important. There is something called “reading the air” in east Asian culture, which means you say and do things that makes everyone comfortable, and it’s very essential if you want to be successful in society. Just like what you did in grade two, it can really matter sometimes, and maybe the best way is to follow the status quo. Knowing the consequences now, you probably won’t do that again.
    This becomes unhealthy when the only reason you did something was to get approval. The best way is to consider which is more important. To get more likable or to voice your opinion. Sometime alienating yourself isn’t the best way to go in a social situation. And if caring about what others think is inhibiting you to do something great, that isn’t good either. To acknowledge the consequences, then make a judgement on what is the best choice is the way to go for having character, and still be likable.

    • nyxalinth

      Funny you should say this. I had a friend who lives in Canada who is Chinese (second or third generation Canadian, and she was more Western than her family). During our friendship, it seemed like everything about me was ‘wrong’ somehow, Much of it, I suspect, was that her family didn’t like me, but she did, and her friends thought I was odd, and that I liked a lot of things that were strange and different to her, and she didn’t approve.

      I think that between her family and her rather snobby, mammoth controlled friends, she didn’t have just one mammoth, she had a whole herd of them, no doubt tended by a giant, as well.

    • Speaksvolumes

      Eastern cultures are collective
      Western cultures are individualistic

      Eastern is more mammoth ruled
      Western is more AV ruled

      Ergo Western cultures are better

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  • gomi

    i would have agreed with all this, but i just finished reading an article by jon ronson in nyt magazine about how people’s lives are profoundly disrupted by public shaming in the age of social networking. he gives several examples of people who said a thing, or tweeted a thing, and then BOOM the whole world *was* in fact, watching. and judging. these people lost jobs, social circles. the mammoth’s fears were rational.
    i think you *should be* right about the ahole mammoth thing, but i’m just saying.

  • Meow

    So if I want to kill, I’ll just kill people because I wanted to? It is what I really “desire”, and as said from this article. I should just be myself. I shouldn’t care about what people think about me.

    • Bosque

      Clever question however you’re taking this too literally.

    • remy

      So the only reason you don’t kill people is because others would disapprove of that?

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  • 5i5i

    “a world where social survival is no longer a real concept”???!!


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  • Jack Smith

    Great! post….i like your way of posting keep posting more beautiful posts
    Dubai Locksmiths

  • PurpleMajesty

    This is such an amazing article! It’s just so well written. I enjoyed reading every word of it 🙂 Thank you so much for posting this

  • Joni

    Thank you so much for writing this! Really! When I was writing my book, I found your articles on procrastinating while, yes, (and ohhh the irony) procrastinating.
    This helped me so much, to give my picture thinking mind an image and help me understand.

    Then this article(when I’m, again, procrastinating from taking my buiszz to the next level)
    And oh, it rings the bells. Because all those opinions in my head make me stop from going out and say what I have to say and do it my way.

    You have such a nice way of putting it. You are so human and real and funny… Not trying to be all guru like or clean, but, no, reall lived by experience and researched wisdom, without being al dramatic about it. You give things the load they deserve it seams, heavy and serious and loathing and uplifting, but your whip of humor makes it all live buyable.
    , I now proclaim buyable a word 😛

    So thank you so much!!!!

    Love the comic sans as well,you really have wicked sense of humor!

  • Joni

    ps one tip: make the shirts in better colours 🙂 Turquoise or…… Something fresh! Also I thought that you could make really nice luxury bags. Like one with the procrastination matrix printed on it or like a printed backpack with puppets. I really like the idea of printing those amazing images, but think you can really take this to a next level! Where it becomes design more than a souvenir. (Sorry if I’m all “i know better blablabla) Its ment well 🙂

  • handleym

    I like most of this but not “You’re not a bad person for being whoever your Authentic Voice is in your one life.” Part of being a successful adult is modulating your id somewhat. You are not the ONLY person in the world, and it is not “inauthentic” to think a little before you act, and to suppress some of your desires because they will lead to unfortunate outcomes.
    The entire premise of the TV show _Girls_ (IMHO) is to show just how fscked up and unhappy are the lives of people who are living out this “I’m going to be authentic, come what may” aesthetic, in a variety of different ways.

  • I think I’ll spend all my life trying to figure out what my AV is. Just like the writer says, the mammoths are everywhere when your brain is becoming adult, and if you’re lucky there’ll be people around who can give you some words of wisdom (or even a cheat sheet). But I disagree about that the mammoth is mostly about pleasing and conforming — it’s much more complex than that. The number of norms we follow in order to function “well” socially seem to be inversely proportional to our economic independency and social status.

  • R1ck

    Unfortunately, as an insatiably social species, people with full autonomy over their lives with little to no interest in following any given crowd won’t make too much of an impact in large numbers. It’ll be that “spherical chickens in a vacuum” joke.

    Or to be more anthropologically accurate, a world of Orangutans. There may be a limit to the “saturation of authenticity”. Dishonesty is fundamentally hardwired into our brains with Broca’s Area, and we have so many cognitive and emotional biases that it’s rather staggering. Are all of these due to the Mammoth? Certainly not.

    Also, what about people who generally believe idiotic things? They are in line with their AV, and sway the world from their place of relative intellectual freedom. And the life of a megachurch pastor is likely to be as intellectually honest as that of any Belieber or Twilight Mom. But they may indeed resonate with these sickeningly awful “art forms”. I’m not going to discount Tea Baggers for being completely disingenuous, I’m sure that’s actually the problem: too many of them are completely serious.

    Have you ever taken a look at Time Cube Guy? This guy is serious. Take a look at Rational Wiki, and bring about a pound of salt with you, but really, take it in, the level of genuine STUPID that works its way through the world, at all levels. There is a study out there (please someone here google it, I BEG you to prove me wrong) that says intelligence is actually slightly negatively correlated with success*.

    If your thesis is correct, the humongous following people like Steve Jobs have (God Save the Woz) would be impossible. The whole philosophy of Apple is their hipster dismissal of the world, and their amazingly aesthetic, shiny, white echo chamber. The *HHUURRGHGH* iPhone was not and is not a product that changed anything. It was an incremental backstep from the Palm Pilot, and they’ve always had worse hardware running an arguably better OS, with a laughably patronizing GUI.

    That’s just one example. The titans of earth are beyond all political reach, and the sit on the CEO boards of BP, Monsanto, and the other top 1% of the world’s multinational companies. The problem is that they are living in a very AV friendly environment, complete with oceans of mammoths that in one way or another, make their existence possible.

    So what happens when the people who are their own Metatron (Dogma was fucking hilarious btw) begin to cannibalize each other? They must: logic dictates that the best ideas should survive and thrive.

    My guess is that the people with the most pet mammoths will win. In fact, the kinda scary thing about democracy -highlighted in the very beginning by it’s creators- is that it leads to the mob mentality: populist drivel that is easy to understand and non-toxic, a saccharine sweet syrup of lies and half-truths that is feeding these mammoths.

    No, It’s not the judgmental nature of man that makes him problematic, because that is a necessary, yet insufficient part of a global solution.
    Yet, it is indeed the nature of people to clump together like the plaques that cause Alzheimer’s that does the same awful things to cultural intelligence.

    There must be another aspect that is not being discussed here. In fact I found it:
    “Where I saw X being humble, collaborative, constantly under revision, and forward-marching, I saw Y being arrogant, divisive, hostile to change, and obsessed with the past.”
    A staggering amount of people–at least half, are by definition XY. This visual pun illustrates that, while I’m sure you more invested readers recognize the original quote, anyone can be any of the 8 things here. It’s like the I Ching of Stupid Versus Smart, and regardless of what X and Y were, we see that it is isomorphic with the Metatrons and the Mammoths, up to the constants of integration 😉

    *measured in what else, dollars. That particular brand of intellectual cowardice, is however, too big to cover here. Maybe if Tim signs me on as a part-time writer to fill in the space in the perpetually-behind-schedule, I will have ample opportunity to lay out more of the idea.

  • Kathryn Warner

    Get rid of your mammoth because people will like you more is… ironic.

  • Speaksvolumes

    YAAAAAAASSSS. Been practicing this for at least a year before finding this article. I had to because I had reached a breaking point and there really was no other option for me. It is a daily exercise in being true to myself. Self-liberation is exhilarating. Everybody should try it.

  • David Scheele

    So by that logic I should start farting in public whenever I want because I do that in my own privacy alot but refrain from it in public because people might judge me? And the ones who truly love me will do so eventually even through the fog or they never truly loved me before?

  • Mayor McCheese

    Why would I care what you think? If that’s hard to understand, I’m saying your article is an oxymoron.

  • Nissa Hulder

    I used to be part of a religious cult where the mammoth became a god. It’s not fun worshipping a mammoth. I have had to learn to find my AV, and blogging has been a good way to do this. I have been treated to abuse and insults from those still worshipping the mammoth, but at least I know I am right not to be in that place any more.
    I think you might need to consider extreme examples of mammoth worship because stepping out into the waters of defiance definitely does cause a great amount of distress, and can in fact be very difficult if you lived there for any length of time. THere are actually people out there who want to hurt you, especially in the mammoth god compound. They keep your kids from you, cause people to divorce and people to have nervous breakdowns. And, yes they do think about you, and in fact stalk you on the internet.
    So, while I would like to thank you for making this idol that much easier to identify, its important to remember that sometimes the mammoth turns into a particularly nasty version of itself with sabre tooth tiger fangs and hostile intent.

  • MiyuEinzbern

    dam. I hated kid socials since I was always pressured into saying the socially acceptable rubbish that in maturer society would make it seem like my colleagues were pressuring me into coming off as asexual.

  • Nikhil

    Tim you should be a teacher. Out education system could use someone like you.

    • Jack Mackenzie


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  • Chiel Wieringa

    I live in a cult called capitalism. Since my AV really does not care
    about capital life has been hard on me. I live in a cult called
    authoritarianism, since my AV is a true anarchist life has been hard on

    People tent to understand when you broke up with religions
    like Christianity, the Islam or other “godly” religions. But when you
    break up with the religion called government life gets dangerous since
    the people with the guns are heavily mammoth driven people.

    So, we definitely do not live in an AV world. The only AV’s that are allowed are the ones that want to dominate the rest of humanity and are willing to force their AV upon others bye whatever means necessary (the psychopaths).

    So everything in the article is true except the part where you state we live in an AV world. Your AV is allowed as long as it remains within the boundaries profitable to the psychopath AV’s. Conformity (fear) among the mammoth people makes sure this status quo keeps on existing. This conformity also opens up possibilities like WW2. Now I do see a little tiny wheeny bit of chance towards an AV world, but we still have a lo^2000ng way to go.

    (think about some AV’s that truly disrupted the status quo and what we have done to them. All of them got murdered… and we allowed it to happen)

    So please people, let’s transform the world from a Mammoth world to an AV world. Let go of the fear. I dare to state that it will solve ALL the problems (yes, all of them) we have in the world today. Conformity makes you do insane things that you would never do if you listen to your AV.

    • BioWebScape

      google me, the JEDI are here, we plan to make you change for the better, or you’ll just die off and we will change for the better the ones left.

  • BioWebScape

    I was moved so many times by the time I got to West Germany, I was just 4, but moved about 12 times it seemed. But the basement apartment off base, was in the home of a hardware store owner, who had a daughter about some months younger than me, first love, we did things, I can’t remeber the age is dark at those ages. but once at their families biggest wedding invite, we were there, for most of the first day. her and I danced the night away, the charm of the crowds. , No elepants in my room, got 43 invisible ones jumpin g on the couch right now, but they are having a party, it’s always going on, party on dudes, live it like you are already the KING.

  • What if your AV is an asshole? Should you listen to the mammoth then?

    • Chiel Wieringa

      If you consider your AV an asshole, is it YOUR AV then? Or is it the mammoth trying to convince you to stick to the program. Tricky territory here, because people can change.

      As long as you respect the free will of others without diminishing your own you are not an asshole imho. If you want to rule over others then you are an asshole. Mammoths are assholes bye that definition. Only a few AV’s are assholes. But if your AV is an asshole, I still think you should listen to it. Nothing more frustrating then being something you are not. If everybody listens to their AV this shouldn’t be a problem at all. The problem nowadays is that all most only the assholes listen to their AV and transform the mammoth (shared bye the tribe) into that AV (using stuff like mass media/social engineering). Schooling teaches people to listen to hierarchical authority (the mammoth) and crushes most other AV’s. A a result the “good” AV’s who didn’t get crushed bye the schooling system become misanthrope since they get bullied a lot bye the mammoth.

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  • Steve

    Interesting. I think I come down closer to the AV led end of the spectrum but I’ll admit I’ll play the social games I need to to avoid “social death” when I deem it in my best interests.

    One weird example was at my sister’s wedding. For the first half of the week at this countryside estate I didn’t really know anyone but my sister and her fiancée. Even then my relationship with my sister can be a bit cool (mostly I think it’s just how she is). I spent pretty much all that time wandering around the estate feeling completely useless and wondering why I was there imagining that all my sister’s friends and acquaintances were having the best times of their life while I felt forgotten and un-needed. It was a very weird self-indulgent self-pitying and misery.
    One night I even weeped a little. That’s right, weeped allowing myself to feel bored, fed up, neglected and rotten. A soon-to-be-wed bride cannot allow much if any time to worry about her friendless isolated brother surrounded by people at a happy occasion and yet feeling more alone then when by himself in normal circumstances.

    Suffice to say when an uncle of the groom was uncharacteristically talkative for his family, I was happy for any social interaction. The day of the wedding the first chance I got to socialize with someone more like a peer to me I took it and never let go, interacting with everyone I could, while also being insanely aware of making sure not to commit any potential group taboos, trying to make sure not to say anything too weird or provocative, and basically try and establish what the group tone was and not stray too far off it.

    It worked, the rest of the wedding week I (mostly) managed to hang out with people, socialise and avoid that weird little deep dark miserable wallowing–that sense of social death–that I was in that one night.

    Most of the time I like to think I can step back and be a bit more impartial than the average, but in an ultimately unimportant but still isolated social setting, the thought of being a sad loner floating around unwanted was just awful. Even my timid and small Social Survival Mammoth in those circumstances can rear it’s head.

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  • :)

    Thank you so much Tim for this article! I am 16 years old and I think the advice in this article would be useful to me for a lifetime 🙂

  • pomegranates

    thank you SO much, Tim…

  • Shailja Chandra

    Arghhh…these evolutionary socio-neuro legacies vs the vulnerable voice in me !!! The combat is rather one-sided but so a privilege of human mind!!! Unshackle, unlearn, erase and Repeat.

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