Tag Archives: Social Pressure

Break with Tradition and Choose Your Own Bliss

Once upon a time there was a young peacock, named Roberto. He was a happy peacock, he got enough food, and he had enough friends to play with. One of his favorite games to play with his friends was go see how close they could get to the alligators before running away. Because peacocks can’t fly, it was extremely fun to have to scurry quickly away before getting eaten by the alligator. They didn’t know anybody that had actually been eaten by the alligators, but they all heard of a friend of a next-door neighbors cousin that had tripped while running away, and had never been seen or heard from again. Perhaps this was just a story, or maybe there is some truth to this. Either way they were able to use this to have fun while playing and running away from the alligators.

Lately, though, the young peacocks were talking about a great big meeting of the adult peacocks. Apparently the men and the women would go and meet in a special place, and they would do some kind of secret adult peacock ritual thing, like church or something. The young peacocks didn’t really know what it was all about. And they were too scared to ask the peahens, because well, everybody knows that peacocks and peahens don’t hang out together. It just isn’t cool.

That’s when the rumors started. They said that when young peacocks turn into adults, their feathers change colors. And depending on how much their feathers change, they will become really popular, or not so popular, depending on the color. This caused a great deal of confusion among the young peacocks. Weren’t they already popular? Why did your feathers have anything to do with whether people liked you or not? Pretty soon the two groups, the young peacocks and the young peahens would gather. The peacocks were certain that the peahens were talking about them. They were always whispering and pointing and giggling.

Then one horrible day, young Roberto learned the terrible truth. His father took him aside, and told him how things really were.

“Son, some day you are going to grow some extra feathers. And if you grow really good feathers, you will be popular.”
Roberto gulped, too afraid to ask what would happen if he didn’t grow “really good feathers,” whatever that meant.
His father seemed to sense his apprehension.
“Don’t worry son, you’ll be fine. My father had good feathers, his father had good feathers, and my feathers aren’t too shabby. You’ll be allright.”
Young Roberto, however, wasn’t convinced.
“But what happens if I don’t?”
His father only stood, and walked away.

Three weeks later, Roberto noticed that his feathers were indeed changing. He rushed to meet his friends, some of them also had changing feathers, and some didn’t. They were all confused, and scared. The peahens continued to gather and giggle and point. With every passing day, Roberto and his friends grew more and more anxious. Then one night, he got up the courage to speak with his father.

“Why do they only care about feathers? Isn’t anything else important?” Roberto asked.
His father scratched his head.
“I don’t know son, that’s the way it’s always been.”
“But does it have to be that way?” Robert asked, sensing that his father didn’t have the answers he was looking for.
“I think it does. That’s the way it has always been.” He answered, sounding unsure of himself.
Roberto wasn’t convinced. At all.

The next day he decided to try something different. He gathered his friends, and his courage. He stood up to speak to them.

“Just because everybody before has only cared about feathers, doesn’t mean it has to be that way. You are more than your feathers. It doesn’t matter if your feathers are blue, or green, or the same stupid color as they are now. Who you are on the inside is more important. Your ideas and dreams and goals are what are important. If somebody thinks you are popular only because of your feathers, that’s their problem.”

The crowd of young peacocks was joined, for the first time, by a few brave peahens.

“You mean we can choose on something besides feathers?” A peahen asked.
“Yes!” Roberto answered, the crowd starting to cheer him.
“You can choose based on whatever you want! You don’t have to choose based only on what people before you chose!” The crowd cheered again, the young peahens now mingling with all the young peacocks. They mingled and talked and explored each other’s personalities. Everybody was happy. Everybody was popular, in their own way.

The adult peacocks watched in interest, as the young peacocks and peahens broke with tradition to their own delight and happiness.

“Can they do that?” One older peacock with large, fading red feathers asked.
“I guess they can.” Said another, with a dull set of yellow and oranges feathers, and a large grin on his face.
“I guess they can do whatever they want.” He added.

And from that day on, peacock feathers became only an interesting footnote in peacock history.

Speak Your Mind – And Achieve Your Desires

I was waiting downtown in the hospital recently. It wasn’t the emergency section of the hospital, it was the place where people needed to see a doctor for things that weren’t life threatening. I was holding a number, one of those numbers that you grab like when you go to the post office. There was a big electronic board up and it showed the numbers changing as people went into the office. The peculiar thing was that the numbers weren’t really changing according to how many people went into the room where the doctor was. It didn’t take me long to figure out that people were just crowding their way in, instead of patiently waiting for their numbers to be called. I wanted to speak up, but for some reason I didn’t. Maybe because I was sick, or maybe because I was new in town and didn’t really know anybody there.

It reminded me once when I was in first grade. I used to be really shy. Once I had to go to the bathroom really bad. Back in first grade, you were always supposed to do what the teachers said. It wasn’t recess, so I was afraid I’d get in trouble if I asked to go to the bathroom. So I sat there with my hand on my crotch, I don’t even know if I knew when recess came. I was just a kid, I hadn’t realized that the most general rule in life yet.

It’s interesting when you look at some kids. They just scream out whenever they want something. They haven’t learned to be shy when asking for what they want. i was studying a book on persuasion, and it said the most natural persuaders and manipulators there are little kids. They scream and people ten times their own size scramble to take care of them. It’s like if you are a little kid, you when you want something, you just ask for it. You don’t wait for permission. When you are hungry, you scream for food. When you want something, you don’t rest until you get it. And when you are a kid, the only rule in life is keep screaming until you get what you want.

Finally the teacher saw me and told me to go to the bathroom. When I came back, she told me that it’s ok to ask for things that you want, it’s ok to ask somebody in authority to let you do something. Because if you wait until they notice you need something, it might be too late. I thought that was a particularly nice lesson for a first grade teacher to teach a little kid.

So finally I stood, and walked over to the door. I noticed the people sitting next to the door, and I asked them in a fairly loud voice if there was some kind of line, or do you just push your way in. And maybe it was because I was a little impatient, but I said it loud enough so that most people heard me. And after I said it, I noticed that people started looking at their own numbers and obeying the rules. As it turns out, the nurse that was supposed to be taking care of the number system had a last minute emergency, and wasn’t able to come in until later. I’m glad I spoke up when I did, I might have been waiting there all day.


Instantly Kill Social Anxiety And Let Your Brilliance Shine

And our next speaker will be telling us the exciting news about [insert your specialty here], please show a warm welcome for [YOU]!

You stride up to the podium, completely calm, right? Not a worry at all, right? No probably don’t even need note cards, since when you speak in front of a large crowd you feel the same as though you are speaking to an old friend over a couple of beers, right?

How about this. You are meeting a friend for a drink, you think it’s going to be just the two of you. You show up, and there are about six people that you don’t know. You slowly walk up to the table, and your buddy says “Hey! He’s here! I’ve been telling these guys all about you!” They all beam looks of expectation you’d normally see just before the curtain opens at Cirque du Soleil. Of course, since you are completely at ease and outgoing without need for any preparation going into any social situation, you can handle this situation flawlessly, right?

Or how about this. You see a fantastically attractive member of the opposite sex standing across the room. You flirt with your eyes a few times, and you’re pretty sure you see a brief flash of something that could be a smile. Of course, being the socially at ease person you are, you naturally stroll over, confident that your social and conversation skills are sufficient to easily decide within a few minutes of conversation whether this person is a match for you or not. Right?

Well, if you fall a bit short in the above situations, please raise your hand and join the human race. Social anxiety is one of the biggest obstacles known to mankind. People consistently rank the fear of public speaking higher even than dying. There’s a reason at high school dances boys stand on one side of the gym, and girls on the other. 

Luckily, I have a couple tricks that can help you easily overcome this. One is a realization that you probably already know, and the other is some mental practice that you can do that will consistently give you an edge as you practice it.

First the realization. What are you thinking of in these situations? If you can, imagine now that you are in one of the above situations, and pay attention to your thoughts. What are you thinking of? Your faults? Your weaknesses? The worst thing that can happen (or more accurately about a billion worst things that can happen?) Well guess what, whenever you are in a social situation, everybody thinks those thoughts. People don’t have near enough brain energy to focus on their own worst fears AND be cognizant of what you might be afraid of at the time.

Of course, this is easy to forget when you are hit with the unexpected adrenalin shot of social pressure, but the more you practice remembering, the easier it will get.

This realization really sunk in for me when I was taking a public speaking class. During one of the speeches, I was the first to go. I don’t what it was, maybe because I was talking about a subject that I was really familiar with, or the teacher was really nice, I’m not sure. But I was really relaxed. And during the middle my speech, I paused and actually scanned the room and noticed the expressions on everybody’s faces. They were all terrified. They were all thinking “oh no i’m next!” I probably could have been speaking Portuguese, and they wouldn’t have noticed.

Many times people will pretend they are not nervous, but trust me, they are doing their best to keep their game face while they think “oh no oh no what do I say???”

The trick I spoke of earlier is to focus outward as much as possible whenever you are in those situations that can make you feel less than comfortable. The idea is to stay out of your head as much as possible. Focus on their eyes, their nose, how their lips move when they talk, their boobs (ok, maybe not the boobs,) their ears, earrings, mustache, haircut. Try to figure out from their breath what they ate last, the sounds in the room, their posture, how many different colors they are wearing. Anything to keep the focus OUT side your head.

Of course, they key is to remember these two tricks when you get into those situations. If you know you are going to be in a situation, like a speech or a first or second date, no problem. Just make sure to rehearse doing this in your mind beforehand.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are suddenly on the spot unexpected, it’s good to set up a signal system to help you remember the two keys:

They are just as afraid as you.

Focus on physical things to reduce your own fear.

One thing you might do is use the pegging technique, and attach one to each thumb. Of course, like any new mind technique, it will take some practice. Another way to do this is to purposely go into situations that make you feel a little anxious and then just practice these techniques until you become natural.

While you might not become incredibly charismatic overnight, the more you practice these techniques, the easier it will be for you to be at ease in all situations, so you can feel relaxed enough to share your true self with the world. You owe the rest of us that much.