Trusting ourselves and the fear of isolation

I’m running down the street at a leisurely pace, building my base up for some high-intensity training later in the offseason. I’m certainly looking like a jogger, meandering about at an 11 or 12-mile pace. But then, a car drives by, I perk up! put my shoulders back, pick up my feet and up my pace. After countless occurrences of this scenario, I’m left wondering what the hell I am doing.

Why do I perk up every time somebody is watching? Why do all social creatures perform better on automatic tasks and worse on cognitive tasks while others are watching? It’s because of one thing. This thing permeates our every movement, constantly floating around in our unconscious, rarely recognized, for it might cause the very thing which it seeks to avoid so desperately. That thing is the fear of isolation.

Why do people most often do the right thing in public? Why is peer pressure such a strong force? Innumerable times the fundamental motivation behind these actions is fear of isolation. The fear of being an outcast is so strong, that people can interpret the regression of their anxiety after doing a good deed as a positive emotion. Our social wiring is so unbelievably present, this circuit runs over and over constantly binding groups together.

In a world where people often seek personal fulfillment, an understanding of who they are, what their strengths are, what path they should take, the fear of isolation can be a crippling burden. The unconscious fear makes you feel silly when you start to take action towards something you want to try. The unconscious fear makes you hesitant to start a conversation for fear you may say or do something wrong. With societies comprised of millions, we never know with new people what they may perceive as good or bad. A confrontation with someone we admire can completely freeze us if we do not know how to act in their presence.

The fear of isolation tosses and turns us in all different directions constantly. We do things we otherwise wouldn’t, we don’t do things we feel we should, and all the while we feel good because we remain in the group.

When could we ever break free? To act in accordance with our personal beliefs and longings? To strive towards our own aesthetic judgements? Is there any circumstance when we are free from the fear of isolation? I’m not sure if we can ever fully achieve this freedom, but our freedom to act in confidence of our own judgement is often heightened when we are at the top of a hierarchy. When we are our own boss, when we are the best in a particular group, our decisions tend to be less burdened by the fear that we are doing something wrong. People who feel they somehow deserve to be the best often act more independently, even if they are delusional.

There are some fascinating studies done on people who are delusional about themselves. Apparently people with false beliefs, paradoxically, tend to be more likable and experience more positive emotion. Weird…

Hustle it up!

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