New Year’s Resolution: Continue To Tame My Mammoth
Bring on the goals
It’s that time of year again when the holiday indulgence guilt kicks in and everyone decides that just because the year has changed, we have to change too. Don’t get me wrong, I love goal-setting just as much as the next gal…in fact, I’d say it’s one of my favorite things. I’ve just never been one to create drastic goals just because the calendar says Jan 1 instead of Dec 31. I stopped doing that when I realized my 7th grade New Year’s Resolution of “getting a six pack” still hadn’t come true 10 years later.
I do appreciate the New Year as a time of reflection and anticipation. Despite some of the tragic events that occurred in 2016, I had a pretty kickass year… and I think personally reflecting on why that is, is important. At least it’s important to me.
As I’ve revealed in a few of my previous posts, my main struggle in relationships, fitness, and work build upon my anxiety and the constant feeling that I am not trying hard enough, that I am not doing enough, and that I am not good enough. I’ve always wondered where this perfectionism came from and why it started to cause so much (sometimes unmanageable) stress in college. And then, looking back on this past year, I feel as though I’ve learned to manage my stress and anxiety better than ever. So, what changed?
Taming “the Mammoth”
My dad sent me this article a few days ago, just in time for this exact reflection.
Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think
I will do my best to summarize in a few sentences but please, take the time to read it!
The idea is that in evolutionary terms, we developed a knack for being accepted by fellow tribe members. Back in 50,000BC, it was necessary for survival.
“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.“
The author uses the Mammoth to basically personify (or…whatever it’s called when you do that with an extinct animal and not a person) the part of our brain that is hungry for social acceptance.
Reading this article got me excited. Like the kind of excited you get when you find out someone you don’t know very well also loves Sister Wives and whipped cream and you feel like you are suddenly soul-mates. I found myself wanting to hug my laptop. Tim Urban, you have defined my anxiety in extreme detail. This photo was particularly touching as I went through this entire conversation a few days ago while internally encouraging myself to sing Shakira at karaoke at my dad’s 65th birthday party.
I feel like I’m a very pragmatic person, so one of the most frustrating parts of my anxiety is that part of me is ALWAYS reminding myself that my stress and fears are completely irrational.
Me to me: “I’m freaking out, I don’t know what to do. There isn’t enough time. I have too much to do.”
Me back to me: “Calm down, this is completely irrational. You don’t have to get all of this done today, you have all week.”
Me to me back to me: “EXACTLY! What the fuck is wrong with me? Why am I freaking out”
…continues to freak out about freaking out. #productive
Like I said, reading this made me feel like I’m not alone. But what was even more appealing was finding some sort of reasoning for WHY I might feel this way. Whether it’s entirely scientific or accurate or whatever doesn’t matter, it still helps me.
Finding your “Authentic Voice”
Tim Urban goes on to explain that in contrast to the Mammoth, there is an “Authentic Voice” (yeah that name is kinda cheeseball, oh well) within your head too.
“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.”
The first step to “taming your Mammoth” is to find this voice… to find yourself.
I know it sounds lame. But this article brought me a lot of clarity as to why this year has been dramatically less stressful for me than the previous few. I somehow, without even really knowing it, started to figure out how to “tame my Mammoth.”
In millennial terms, I learned how to give less fucks
That’s essentially all this is. A few examples:
I realized that drinking a lot on the weekends made me feel insecure and lazy. Despite the social pressures that my Mammoth proudly hung over my head- I’ve accepted the fact that my friends might think I’m lame and realized that generally, I’m happier when I stay in.
On a similar note, as social as I try to convince myself that I am, I love being alone. I no longer feel the need to fill my calendar every night of the week and it has dramatically decreased my stress level.
I’ve changed my perception of health and fitness to be entirely self-centered. I no longer eat well or exercise to look good in a bikini. Sure, that’s a great benefit but I came to the conclusion that when I am lazy and eat like crap- only I suffer. Keeping my body healthy is what makes ME feel good every day and that is why it is so important… whether other people see the results of that or not.
I’ve stopped trying to please everyone. It’s just not physically possible and I’ve learned that being selfish is sometimes the most beneficial act for the collective whole. Sometimes I need 2 hours away from a project to get the best results. It’s generally OK if that means sending a file a few hours later than expected. I’m such a perfectionist that I was probably working against some fake deadline I made anyways.
The rest of the article basically just backs these principles up. I could not believe how well it aligned with my reflection on how I’ve grown over the past year. I’ll try to summarize Tim Urban’s principles for recognizing that the Mammoth is a stupid entity you should generally start to ignore.
1) The mammoth’s fears are totally irrational.
-People don’t pay half as much attention to you as you think, everyone is self-absorbed
-You can’t please everyone
-Being judged by someone rarely has any real consequence on your life
-The people who really love you will not be disappointed with you being your authentic self / doing what makes you truly happy
2) The mammoth’s efforts are counterproductive.
-People consumed by their Mammoths are inauthentic
-It’s nearly impossible to lead or change the status quo when consumed by your Mammoth
”Almost nothing you’re socially scared of is actually scary.”
It’s quite liberating to realize how little people’s opinions really matter. I’ve seen the positive side-effects first hand. My anxiety is still alive and well, but it’s so much easier to deal with when I have a better understanding of where it comes from, how it works, and how I can help and support it with my very best interests in mind. I can only imagine how I can continue to grow as I knowingly “tame my Mammoth.”