Taming the mammoth, or How to stop thinking about the opinion of others

As a child in a particular situation, we understand that you can not always say what you have in mind. If you do not get into the tone of the majority opinion, they will laugh at you. Okay still school days, but after all the rules of behavior learned in childhood continue to work and in adult life. Moreover, the orientation to public opinion is a real hysteria that spreads in the cultures of the whole world. On the one hand, there is nothing wrong with this, many people live all their lives, but how do they live and how could they live if they listened to themselves and were not afraid of society?

Irrational obsession with public opinion

There are no random events in evolution, and to understand the real cause of this insanity, let’s go back to 50 000 BC. when your distant ancestor lived in a small tribe.

Being a part of this tribe is very important for him, survival depends on it. Ancient people hunt together, protect each other, and outcasts perish. So for your distant ancestor there is nothing more important than agreement with their fellow tribesmen, especially with authoritative alpha males.

If he does not agree with everyone and pleases the people of his tribe, he will be recognized as strange, irritating and unpleasant, and then generally expelled from the tribe and left to die alone.

If he persecutes a woman from his tribe and their relationship ends, without beginning, she will tell all the women of the tribe about his failure. And all the women with whom he could have a relationship, after learning about the failure, also reject it.

So to stay in the society at that time was everything, and everything was done to be accepted.

Many years passed, but social hysteria continues to torment people. Now we do not so need the approval of each person, but the search for social approval and paralyzing fear of not being liked by other people seems to have remained in our genes and does not think of disappearing anywhere.

Let’s call this obsession a mammoth of social survival, or an internal mammoth. It looks like this:

image from Wait But Why

For your distant cave ancestor, the presence of an internal mammoth was the key to survival and prosperity. It was simple: feed the mammoth well with social approval and closely monitor his fears of disagreement, and everything will be fine.

Such a system worked fine 50,000 years BC. e. And 30 000 years BC. e., and even 20,000 years after that. But gradually the society changed, and with it the needs also changed. And biology did not have time to adapt to it, which is strange, until now.

Our body and our mind are now made as if we are to live in 50 000 BC. e. This cave style of survival in society is no longer relevant, but it continues to torment us.

Now, in 2014, we continue to be pursued by a large, hungry and timid mammoth, who still thinks, as in 50 000 BC. e.

Otherwise, why do you go through four outfits, but can not decide what to wear?

image from Wait But Why
image from Wait But Why
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image from Wait But Why

Mammoth’s nightmares about a bad experience with the opposite sex made your ancestors cautious and smart, but now the mammoth’s advice makes you simply indecisive and pitiful.

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Mammoth-06 (3)
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Mammoth interferes with the impulses of creativity and does not allow himself to express himself because of fear of failure.

image from Wait But Why


The mammoth constantly has outbreaks of fear, he is afraid of public censure, and this plays a huge role in many spheres of life.

This is the reason that you are afraid to go to a restaurant or cinema alone, because it’s strange. The reason is that parents are too worried about what kind of college their child will go to. The reason for marriages without love and a profitable career without enthusiasm and passion for their work.

Mammoth must be fed, and fed constantly. He feeds on approval and the feeling that in any moral and social dilemma he is on the right side.

Why else would you choose photos for Facebook so carefully? Why are you bragging to your friends, even if you later regret it?


The society is interested in supporting this mammoth-dependent model. It introduces titles and awards, the very concept of prestige, to keep the mammoth content and force people to do unnecessary things in essence and live a life of defective life that they would never have chosen if it were not for the mammoth.

In addition, the mammoth wants to adapt and be like everyone else. He keeps looking around to understand what other people are doing, and when he understands, he immediately copies their behavior. To see this, it’s enough to look at the photos of two college editions of different years.

image from Wait But Why

“Acceptable” prestigious education also became part of the mammoth feed.

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image from Wait But Why

Sometimes a mammoth focuses not on the general public, but on winning the approval of the puppeteer. This is a person or group of people whose opinion means to you SO much that actually determines all aspects of your life.

Often puppeteers become parents or ringleaders in the company of friends. You can make your puppet master even an unfamiliar person or even an unfamiliar celebrity (which teenagers often do).

We want the approval of his puppeteer more than any other, and we are horrified at the thought that we can disappoint or upset him.

In such a poisoned relationship with the puppeteer, your opinions and moral convictions are entirely his, and on him depends what they will be.


And while there are so many thoughts and energy left for the needs of the internal mammoth, somebody else is constantly present in your brain. He is at the very center of your self all the time – this is your true voice.

image from Wait But Why

Your true voice knows everything about you. In contrast to the strict dualism of a simple mammoth, for which there is only white and black, the authentic voice is comprehensive and complex, sometimes not very clear, constantly developing and not knowing fear.

Your true voice has its own moral principles, which are based on experience, feelings and personal views, on compassion and honesty.

He knows what you feel about money, family and relationships; what people, interests and types of activity really bring you pleasure, and which – not. Your true voice understands that it does not know how your life should go, but it feels the right way.

While the mammoth, when making decisions, focuses only on the outside world, the true voice uses the outside world to collect and learn information, but when it comes time for solutions, all that is needed is already in the brain.

Mammoth constantly ignores the true voice. For example, if a confident person expresses his or her opinion, the mammoth turns into a rumor. And the desperate pleas of the inner voice are rejected and ignored until someone expresses this point of view.

And when our brain, acting according to the laws of distant ancestors, continues to give the mammoth too much power, the true voice begins to feel superfluous. He pauses, loses motivation and disappears.

image from Wait But Why

In the end, a man, ruled by a mammoth, loses touch with his real voice. In tribal times, it was normal, because all that was needed was to agree and conform, and the mammoth copes with it perfectly.

But today, when the world has become much wider and fuller, and people are faced with a multitude of cultures and individuals, opinions and opportunities, the loss of an inner voice becomes a danger.

When you do not know who you really are, the only decision-making mechanism that you have remains is the outdated needs of your emotional mammoth.

And when it comes to the most personal and most important questions, instead of plunging into yourself and in the vague variability of your I find the answer to all the questions, you just look at others and look for answers in them. As a result, you become some kind of mixture of the strongest opinions of those people who surround you. And certainly not yourself.

In addition, losing contact with an authentic voice makes you weak. When your personality is supported only by the approval and recognition of the surrounding people, criticizing and condemning others will be really painful.

Of course, defeat is painful enough for everyone, but for people who are led by a mammoth, this is much more important than for people with a strong authentic voice.

People with a developed “real I” have an inner core that helps them stay and continue to do their job, and a mammoth-dependent person has only the desire to match others and no core, so that the failures for him are a real catastrophe.

For example, do you know people who do not know how to take constructive criticism, and sometimes even revenge for it? These people are obsessed with a mammoth, and they are so furious about criticism, because they can not tolerate disapproval.


image from Wait But Why
image from Wait But Why
image from Wait But Why

After all that has been said, it becomes clear: you need to find a way to curb your inner mammoth. This is the only way to bring life back into its own hands and manage it.

How to find and tame your inner mammoth

Some people are born with an intelligent hand mammoth, or their upbringing helps keep the mammoth in check. Others until the death never try to tame their mammoth and all his life is fulfilled by his whims. Most of us are somewhere in the middle: in some life situations we control our mammoth, in others it harms us.

If you are run by a mammoth, this does not mean that you are a bad or weak person. Simply, you have not yet learned how to manage it. You may not even know about the existence of the mammoth and that your real I am huddled in a corner and is silent.

Whatever your situation, you must keep the mammoth under control. Here are three steps that will help to do this.

Step 1: Test Yourself

The first step is to honestly and fairly assess what is happening in your head. Here are three parts of this step.

1. Meet your true voice

image from Wait But Why

It seems that it is not difficult, but in fact very much so. You need to make serious efforts to break through the web of thoughts and opinions of other people and understand your “real self.”

Do you spend time with a huge number of people, which one do you really like? How do you spend your free time and do you really like all of its components?

Are there things that you regularly spend money on, but do not feel any pleasure from them? How do you feel about your work and social status? What are your political beliefs?

Have you ever thought about this? Do you pretend that you care about things, just to have an opinion? Maybe you have an opinion about some political and moral problems that you never voiced, because the people you know will be indignant?

These are normal questions for exploring the soul or finding oneself, but it really needs to be done. Maybe you can think about it right now, wherever you are, or maybe you need a special atmosphere: to retire far away, to remain alone with yourself and only then to plunge into the reflection.

In any case, it is necessary to find out what really matters to you, and start to be proud of your true voice, the “real I”.

2. Find out where the mammoth is hiding

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Most of the time when a mammoth is under control, a person does not even realize it. But you can not succeed if you are not exactly sure where exactly the biggest problems are.

The most obvious way to find a mammoth is to find out where your fears nest, in which area most often there is shame and embarrassment. When you think about a particular sphere of life, you are surrounded by a terrible feeling, a sense of failure, and this failure seems like a nightmare. What is this sphere?

You are afraid to start something, even if you know that you are good at it. What spheres of life exactly need changes, but do you avoid changes in them and do nothing?

The second place where the mammoth hides is too pleasant feelings that arise when you agree with other people. Do you really please people at work and in your personal life? Are you frightened by the possibility of not agreeing with your parents? Between their pride for you and the opportunity to please yourself, do you choose the first?

The third field where the mammoth hides is when you can not make decisions without the approval of other people. Or you can, but you feel very uncomfortable. Which of your opinions and beliefs belong to you, and not to other people? Do you hold to these opinions because others say so?

If you represent your new friend / girlfriend to family and friends and your passion is not liked by anyone, their attitude can change your feelings? In your life there is a person who runs you like a puppet? If so, who is he and why do you allow it?

3. Decide where it’s time to take control of the mammoth

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It is impossible to completely throw out the mammoth from the head, after all we are people. But what really needs to be done is to save some spheres of life from its influence, which simply must be under the control of your true self.

These are obvious areas, such as choosing a partner, a career and a way of raising children. The other spheres are individual and defined through a simple question: “In which areas of life should I be completely honest with myself?”.

Step 2: bolder, the mammoth has a low IQ

Real woolly mammoths were stupid enough to die out, and the survival of social mammoths is not any better. Despite the fact that they are pursuing us, mammoths are stupid, primitive creatures that do not understand the modern world.

Deeply feel and realize this. This is the key to submitting your mammoth. There are two serious reasons not to take your mammoth seriously.

1. Mammoth’s fears are irrational

The mammoth has five global errors.

→ Everyone is talking about me and my life, and just think about what they will say if I go to this risky or strange thing!

This is how a mammoth thinks:

image from Wait But Why

And here’s how it looks really:

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No one cares about how you live and what you do. People mostly think only of themselves.

→ If I try, I can please everyone.

Yes, it can happen if you live in a tribe for 40 people, united by one culture. But in today’s world it does not matter who you are or how you behave. Some people will love you, others will hate or just dislike.

If some people approve of you, you make others angry. So a strong desire to please one group of people is illogical and wrong, especially if you do not strongly support their views. You are making extraordinary efforts to please one company of people, and at this time other people who could become true friends will not be able to wait for your society.

→ If they convict me, look down on me or say bad things about me, it will cause serious consequences in my life.

A person who condemns you or your actions is not even in the same room with you, or at least directly next to you. In 99.7% of cases this is the case. It is a classic mammoth mistake to imagine social consequences, which are much worse and more terrible than what actually happens. In reality, other people’s opinions practically mean nothing and do not affect life in any way.

→ People who condemn me are important.

That’s what is happening in the head of people who like to condemn others: they are completely under the control of a mammoth and are looking for themselves the same friends-puppets of a mammoth. The favorite entertainment of such people is to get together and wash the bones all in a row.

Maybe they envy, and pouring mud on other people helps them envy a little less. Or they just like to bathe in gloating. In any case, these condemning tirades serve as an excellent food for the mammoth.

During the conviction of someone, gossipers always find themselves on the other, “the right side” and feel white and fluffy. It’s unpleasant to realize that someone at your expense feels fine and innocent, but in reality it does not affect your life in any way.

image from Wait But Why
image from Wait But Why
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Other people’s conversations and gossip do not concern you, they concern only gossips and their fattened mammoths. If you caught yourself making a decision with an eye on gossipers for fear that they will condemn you, be aware in time of what is happening and stop.

→ I will be a bad person if I disappoint or offend people who love me and invested so much in me.

No. You will not be a bad person, son or friend, if you listen to yourself. There is one simple rule: if they really love you, and do not selfishly use, they will accept everything that will make you happy, and again they will come to you.

But if you are happy, and they do not think to come, what happened is that their strong feelings about who you should be and what to do is the echo of their mammoths, and they are upset because they worry that they will be told about it other people. They allow their mammoth to conquer love for you, which means that they have no place in your life.

And two more reasons why the mammoth’s timorous obsession with social approval does not make any sense.

A. You live here.

image from Wait But Why

What in general can matter?

V. And you, and everyone you know, will die. And pretty soon.

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So, all the fears of the mammoth are irrational, because he is stupid. And here is the second reason.

2. The mammoth’s efforts are anti-productive

The irony of the situation is that a huge mammoth can not do a good job. The methods by which he was going to win could and would have been effective in simpler times, but today they are irrelevant.

The modern world is the world of the “real self,” and if the mammoth wants to survive and prosper, it must do what most scares it-letting the “real self” prevail.

The true person is interesting, and the mammoth is boring. Every “real I” is unique and self-sufficient, which is really interesting. Mammoths are always the same, they copy, obey and correspond, and their motives are not based on something authentic, present. They do only what they “must” do, what they think they should. And it’s boring.

A genuine voice leads. Mammoth follows. Leadership is natural for most real personalities, because they see ordinary things and solutions from unconventional points of view, from a different angle. And if they are smart and modern, they can change something on a global scale and create events and things that violate the status quo.

If you give a man a brush and a canvas, he can not draw anything good, but change the canvas in one way or another.

Mammoths are by definition guided. Most of all they are afraid to break the status quo, because they are just trying to match it.

When you give them a canvas and a paint of the same color as the canvas, they paint something, but it does not change anything, because you still can not see anything.

In general, the differences between people possessed by an internal mammoth, and those who are driven by a true voice, are visible almost immediately. The latter have a certain magnetism, in other words, charisma, they are respected and loved in the team.

And all because people always respect the strength of character, sufficient to curb the internal mammoth and be independent. Here is the secret of a charismatic person.

Step 3: It’s time to become yourself

Until now, we just had fun theory. We have disassembled why people are so worried about what they think about why it restricts freedom and why it is better to give it up.

But it’s one thing to read a post and think: “Yes, that’s right, you have to stop so-soaring about public opinion” – and quite another – to start something to change. For this we need courage.

image from Wait But Why

But courage for what exactly? As we have already said, there is no threat in the public opinion.

None of your social fears is really terrible.

Realizing this, you will get rid of the fear that you experience, and without it the mammoth loses its power and power.

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With a weakened inner mammoth you can be yourself and do what is right for you. And when you see positive changes in life with minor negative consequences and without any regrets on your part, listening to your true voice will become a habit.

Of course, the mammoth will not disappear, it will never disappear, but now you will easily ignore his pathetic attempts to seize power, because the true voice will become the dominant internal factor.

image from Wait But Why

Maybe you will be considered a little strange, but now society will become your canvas, a field for activity, you will cease to grovel before it and timidly wait for approval and acceptance.

Your true self is given only one life, so give it the opportunity to live it.

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