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Social Proof: The Worst Enemy That Lives in Your Head

Social Proof: The Worst Enemy That Lives in Your Head

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    The concept of “social proof” (or informational social influence, if you’re a sadist for typing) tells us that, often subconsciously, individuals will look to the other people around them in ambiguous social situations to determine the appropriate way to behave. It’s a result of the subconscious mind assuming that those around us are better informed on what is acceptable and appropriate.

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    Unfortunately social proof became a bit of a buzzword for marketers a few years ago. Pesky buzzword or not, I think it’s a concept worth looking at from a personal development point of view. The bottom line is that the concept of social proof as described is something that is built in to the human mind and something we should be trying to build out through intellectual exercise as quickly as we can.

    When your decisions are informed by the assumption that those around you are better informed than you on what the appropriate action to take is, you are destined towards several places, and none of them are good. When you make your decisions according to what other people think or do you end up quite unspectacular and rarely achieving anything of note, nor any of your dreams and goals in life.

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    The right attitude to assume is that you know what you want and you need to do whatever you can to get there. Obviously, acting too far outside of social norms will just have you ostracized and prevented from reaching your goals by others, so those who would argue that trying to evolve out of our in-built “social proof” mechanism causes anti-social and even criminal behavior will be pleased to know that working towards one’s goals (usually) has checks and balances like these in place. You can’t get far alone — as much as you don’t want to follow others, you do need them.

    When my wife and I made the decision to move across the country to a better location, one of our considerations was the people we were living behind. Our families — our children’s grandparents, aunts and uncles — and friends live here and we felt bad about the prospect of leaving them (well, most of them!). But in the end your life is your life, and you need to take control of it and bring about the results you want to see.

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    That isn’t precisely social proof by the book because we weren’t taking cues from anybody but ourselves, but in the context of decision-making processes it’s the same principle at work.

    If you know the results you want to create in your life and you do nothing to go about obtaining them, you are weak. There is no way of pussyfooting around that truth. To have strength of character you must always be moving towards your optimal way of life.

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    Maybe you’re in a situation where you can’t bring about those desired results just now, but you can at least start to plan for a time when that situation changes, or preferably, has been changed by you.

    Staying because others want you to? Not going to help you achieve results. Not giving your dreams a shot because nobody else is giving theirs a shot? Definitely not going to get you anywhere. Social proof is bad. This process is probably a remnant of a time when social proof helped you decide which food was good to eat and which was poisonous; I don’t know, I’m not a scientist. All I know is that it doesn’t serve much of a purpose now. It gets in the way.

    And while I know that, in a neutral state I’m as prone to it as anyone. The difference is that I do my best to catch myself and take measures — drastic if they have to be — to get out of that rut and leave the cattle behind.

    To improve yourself you need to define your goals and optimal situation and work towards that regardless of whether others are doing the same. That doesn’t mean disregard and disrespect others — it means don’t make your decisions based on what others are doing, thinking, or desiring. You should still formulate decisions that mitigate the negative effects on others, and preferably have positive effects for them — but if the negative effect is an acceptable one and the rewards for your goals are worthwhile, you know what you need to do.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on July 2, 2020

    13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them

    13 Common Life Problems And How To Fix Them

    In life, we encounter problems as we breathe. But it doesn’t get to us until we feel a major impact, and that’s when it becomes a source of concern, hurt, or sorrow.

    Life problems, depending on their magnitude, can be clogs in the wheel of progress, and we may not be able to attain our full potential if we don’t learn to place our problems in the proper perspectives as suggested in Robert Schuller’s Tough Times Never Last.

    In this article, I have identified some common areas where you will most likely face problems as you make progress towards reaching your full life potential. I have also suggested practical approaches in handling, managing, and solving such problems.

    1. Financial Crisis

    We live in an uncertain world and a financial crisis may come at different stages of life. While you should always anticipate and prepare for a financial crisis, it may still catch you off guard or the magnitude may be far more than any preparation you have made over the years.

    It could be that you lost your job or a major investment, got slammed with a lawsuit that threatens your savings, or have your livelihood be affected by a major disaster. So what do you do when you are in a financial mess?

    Solution

    To overcome a financial crisis, you will have to come to terms with the crisis. Acknowledge and accept the situation and begin recovery by setting your financial priorities right.

    The next thing to do is to identify the cause of the crisis. If it’s due to a job loss, then your effort should be directed at getting a new job. If it is having multiple debts, look for ways to consolidate your debt so that your monthly debt repayment can be consolidated into one instead of being burdened with multiple payments.

    You can also sell some of your assets to raise money to save the situation, or look for a better job if you are earning less at your current job. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from family and friends if you need to.

    2. Health Crisis

    Another major problem that might come up in your life is a health crisis. This is not far-fetched because our body systems work round-the-clock, even when we are sleeping. As a result of this, and if you don’t maintain routine health habits, health deterioration might begin to set in. Things might even get serious if you don’t attend to it early.

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    Solution

    When you are facing a major health crisis, the first thing to do is to consider lifestyle changes. This includes cutting down on junks, eating healthy diets, exercising, breathing fresh air, taking some sun, etc.

    Apart from the lifestyle changes, you have to seek quality medical help and make sure you get different opinions about the state of your health so you can get the best affordable care.

    3. Relationship, Marriage, and Family

    There may not be anything as sweet as love and family life, but it can also be the source of pain for some. Human imperfections in a relationship can cause a major crisis in life. This has been a stumbling block to many on their path to fulfillment.

    Solution

    The best thing to do is to prevent relationship problems from happening, but if they do happen, you need to face reality and begin to take steps towards addressing them. Do your best to keep the lines of communication open as this can help in strengthening your struggling relationship. Talk about the challenges with your partner and look for common grounds.

    You can also arrange to see a counselor together or read books that address the specific challenges you are facing. The worst thing you can do is to end a relationship and that’s only when you have exhausted all other options.

    4. Workplace

    The workplace is supposed to be a place where we dutifully render the services for which we’ve been hired.

    However, it is not impossible to face animosity at work—dealing with toxic people who would rather not see any good in what you do. It might be caused by differences in background, attitudes, and unhealthy competition that can result in personal conflicts. This can create undue stress and reduce productivity.

    Solution

    Be as professional as possible when dealing with toxic people. Be kind and show understanding, and try to avoid personal confrontation.

    You can even try to reach out to the persons and invite them over for a coffee and get to understand their worldview. This can help you to connect with them at their level so that you can avoid unnecessary stress for yourself.

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    5. Career Pressure

    In your quest to become more successful, you will likely encounter work-related pressure. Such can come when trying to stabilize your career or climb the career ladder. It can also come as a result of overworking and having no life. Career pressure is one of the most common life problems.

    Sometimes, it may be that the promotion you are working hard to get is not coming or positions you are qualified for are being offered to others. The pressure can get more intense when you find that most of your colleagues are moving ahead of you.

    Solution

    Check to find if you have personal or attitudinal problems. Some attitudinal problems can put you at a disadvantaged end. It may be poor communication, poor personal grooming, or poor relationship and networking skills. If it is any of these problems, then work on improving yourself in those areas.

    You can also observe your colleagues who are succeeding and take note of what they are doing differently.

    6. Unfair Treatment

    We are in a world where some people often think they have some privileges over others and may want to exercise this thinking and treat others unfairly. If you find yourself in an environment where you are being oppressed or treated badly because of your race, gender, or current status, this can make you feel really bad and can also affect your psyche and productivity.

    Solution

    There is the temptation to decry your treatment, defend yourself, and demand a change immediately, but you should really wait for the right opportunity to do that.

    When the time is right, reach out directly to the person or authority involved, and make it private. Meanwhile, you should be factual about the instances of your unfair treatments. Don’t just say it that you are being treated badly; give several undeniable instances.

    Once you’ve made your grievances known politely, keep being you. If things don’t change, you can cocoon yourself in that environment. If you have an option to leave, you can do so as well.

    7. Emptiness and Boredom

    When you are in a rut, everything becomes normal, dull, unproductive, and yet difficult to change. This can lead to feelings of emptiness and boredom. This may not seem like a serious life problem, but it can have a great impact on your life.

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    Solution

    To overcome boredom and emptiness, break out of your routines, and deliberately create a new experience for yourself. If you can’t leave your job to find a new one, start doing other things that reflect your true passion. Sometimes, the things that give us the needed drive in life are not our day jobs.

    8. Confusion

    Confusion is described as a change in mental status in which a person is not able to think with their usual level of clarity.[1]. It is inherent in forgetfulness and lack of concentration.

    It can be caused by different things including medical and environmental factors. It can also be due to the experience of a loss, a heartbreak, or abuse.

    Solution

    Don’t allow the situation to deteriorate into something more serious. Try to snap out of whatever experiences you have had that is causing confusion. Seek medical help if necessary or talk to a psychologist.

    9. Friendship Problems

    We need friends in our lives to rob minds and hang out together and even help us when we run into trouble. But many people have found themselves in serious trouble as a result of the company of friends they keep. They’ve experienced jealousy, backstabbing, and betrayal of trust. Some friends have even used the information freely provided in times of friendship to betray trust.

    Solution

    Don’t open up on everything to friends. Keep some information only to yourself. If you notice that a friend is working against you, confront them with the truth. Limit your interaction with them or get rid of such toxic friends completely.

    10. Haunting Past

    We all have pasts, and we might have done some crazy stuff in the past before we begin to live a more civilized and decent life. But sometimes, the past comes back haunting. It’s even worse when life problems of the past haunt you back and become problems of the present.

    It may be that what you have done is now striking your conscience, keeping you awake at night. Or someone who knows about it is trying to use it against you, and it is standing in the way of your progress.

    Solution

    Be true to yourself and forgive yourself. If it is an issue with another person, you can reach out to the person to settle with them. If it is a secret that is now being leaked out, own up to it, take responsibility, and move on.

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    11. Safety and Security

    You may find yourself in an environment where there have been unexplained murder, gun violence, police brutality, insurgencies, and other life-threatening situations. This can make you feel like you might be the next victim. What should you do in this situation?

    Solution

    Ensure that you watch where you go and keep your home secure. You can also get involved in a neighborhood community watch to collectively find solutions to the threat. If the situation persists, you can move to a more secure location.

    12. Failure

    Failure can bring disappointment and can also slow the pace of progress. But failure is also part of life, and we have to learn to deal with it. But what do you do when an experience of failure weighs you down?

    Solution

    You can read a book or biography to get inspired by other people’s success stories.

    13. Grief

    No one loves to grief but we can’t totally shield ourselves from it. The loss of a loved one is painful and, if not properly handled, can lead to an emotional breakdown.

    Solution

    Take your time to express emotions. You can also pen an emotional tribute to the individual. Writing can help us bring out the feelings that cannot be expressed otherwise, and it helps us breathe a sigh of relief.

    You can also cope with your grief by helping them to realize some of their unfulfilled dreams or do something in their honor. Lastly, while you think about your loss, you will still have to move on, accepting the fact that life is transient.

    The Bottom Line

    Problems are what make life worth living. They help us adapt to become tougher as we adapt to different situations. Always remember that whatever problem you are facing has a solution or, at least, a manageable approach.

    Therefore, never allow your challenges to stop you from fulfilling your true potentials in life.

    More Tips to Help You Get Unstuck

    Featured photo credit: Danka & Peter via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Medicinet: Confusion: Symptoms & Signs

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