[#24] The Caveman Dilemma: Why You Shouldn’t Care What Other People Think (Pt. 1)

‘A truly strong person does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep.’ – Vernon Howard


High school, yeah, I get it. We were young and hadn’t come out of our shells yet.

College, okay, fine. We were in a transitional period of our lives. There was a lot going on.

But if you’re an adult, it’s no longer acceptable. You are holding yourself back from the life you could be living if you put stock into what other people think of you. And, quite frankly, you are acting as though you are much younger AND much less capable than you actually are.

Today’s going to be the first post of a 2 part series. This is a fun one- a little sciencey, and maybe a little challenging, too. Hold on tight.

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Interestingly enough, to examine WHY we care so much what other people think, we need to go back in time a bit. Did you know you can learn a lot about the world by studying our primal ancestors? The DNA contained in our bodies is pretty freakin‘ close to what our cave-dwelling brothers and sisters were walking around with. The good news is that our ancient relatives did most of the hard work to get us here; they did make it to the top of the animal kingdom, after all. We’re reaping the benefits that they put in for us over the course of thousands of years.

That’s important. If we were still trying to make it to the top of the animal kingdom, how would we ever find enough time to tweet about our problems, like pretty girl’s photos on Instagram and search the Apple store for new apps?

Joking aside, this truth about our ancestors is both a blessing and a curse when you consider the fact that they lived entirely different lives than we do. If our DNA is still nearly identical, that presents a potential problem. Their lives were different, meaning that the stimuli they reacted to were much different, too. They dealt with less people on a regular basis than we do, which meant a constant influx of new material was usually not a thing.

Their stimuli- both in type and quantity- was different, yet our bodies are physiologically hardwired to cope with 21st century stimuli in the same way our ancestor’s bodies would have.

Ever wonder why you get feel anxious or angry when you get cut off by some moron on the highway?

That feeling, by our very human nature, is a chemical reaction, called the “fight or flight” response, that was originally designed to save us from life-threatening attacks. Because our brain identifies both of these acts as “stressors”, we physiologically respond to minor pestilences as if they are attacks on our lives.

See how things could get a little sticky there? Though our ancestors gave us the genetic makeup to rule all other animals, we also acquired a metaphorical “junk drawer” of extraneous adaptations and reactions that simply don’t work as they were intended to in the 21st century.


And in the case of today’s post, “different” can do more harm than good.

Back to the topic, let’s examine how our primal hardwiring might have us overwhelmed as we attempt to please the entire universe.

Tribes ruled the prehistoric world. The culture of our ancestors was one of social survival. If you were alive, it was in part because you were a member of a tribe. Tribes worked together, hunted together, celebrated together and died together. If you were no longer apart of a tribe, you were probably also soon to be no longer a part of the world. It’s harsh, but that was reality.

Being social, to our ancestors, represented survival.

Just like in the 21st century, these groupings, or “tribes”, were made up of a social hierarchy. The leader of the tribe was akin to the popular boy or girl in high school. And just like today, the leaders got to make decisions that other people had to live with. Some tribe members might not have agreed with the decision, but we all know what it feels like to justify something with an “At least it’s not me!” attitude.

If the leader of the tribe didn’t approve of you, you were probably not long to the world.

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And so, you put up with their crap and fought to be accepted. It might not have been “you”, but it was what they wanted, so it kept you alive. In the caveman world, not being yourself was actually the BEST solution, because the struggle represented staying alive.

The inherent problem with all of this lies in the fact that we no longer live in a world requiring social acceptance for survival!

We live in a world full of human beings, but we don’t need to be accepted by them in order to stay alive. Combine this knowledge with the reality that we are surrounded by thousands of more people on a weekly basis than our ancestors were, and you can get a clear picture of how our hardwiring can become problematic.

For the first time in history, we are actually part of a society that encourages us to go out and be whoever we are. Some people don’t like it, because it’s not what they grew up with or are used to. It just freaks others out, quite frankly.

The level of freedom in our world to do and be who you want has existed at no other point in our history as human beings.

In some ways, our bodies simply aren’t hardwired for this level of freedom; at least, not yet. Adaptations take hundreds, if not thousands, of years to take place. But as we shift towards this new way of living and thinking, we can also thank our ancestors for some of the gifts that will make this transition enjoyable.

In part 2 of this post, we will look at how the 21st century has set us up to take a more empowering approach to dealing with what other people think.

Yours In Cave-Dwelling,

Coach K


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