The One Behavior and Way of Thinking in America Many of Our Problems…
Yes, there are other causes, but this is a big one
by Brooke Meredith
Consider the following scenarios. What does each have in common?
I decide not to wear a mask in places where COVID spread has been scientifically proven (indoors, in poorly ventilated areas), or if there’s just a rule about wearing them because it’s “an infringement on my rights,” or it “doesn’t fit with my personal politics,” or “I just don’t feel like it.”
On public transportation, on a bus or train, or in a cafe, in some public situation that is relatively quiet otherwise, I choose to take my phone call on speakerphone. Why? No other reason than because I feel like it (since, of course, I could just take it off speakerphone and hold it the three inches higher, up to my ear, like people have been doing with phones for decades).
I throw my trash on the ground instead of putting in the small effort to carry it with me to a trash receptacle.
I sit in my car with it at the curb, idling, exhaust pumping out of it into the atmosphere, and the day is not particularly hot or cold so there is no need for AC or heat. I do this just because, who cares? I’m not really thinking about it either way.
Routinely texting friends at the last minute who I have plans to meet, to let them know I’ll be significantly late, or even to cancel altogether.
Blaring loud music in the public park because I feel like hearing it.
And lastly, a common mindset prevalent nowadays in our country: “Pick yourself up by your bootstraps! You can’t afford medical care? Or college? Or child care? Or rent and bills? That’s your issue, so figure it out on your own. If you’re struggling, it is more definitely your fault, and not anyone else’s.”
What do all of these scenarios and ways of thinking have in common?
“I” is at the center of it, as its guiding principle. They are individualistic and all about “I” or “me.” They are disconnected from others. Selfishness and entitlement reign. As in, “I deserve this” (do you?) or “I’m going to do it just because I want to.”
A blatant disregard, lack of thought, disinterest in, or lack of care for the feelings, thoughts, and well being of people around you
This type of behavior and thinking is, very sadly, and very problematically, prevalent in American culture today.
“LYBL” and “You do you” are silly quotes made popular and prevalent that embody this very mindset. Let’s all do whatever we want, simply because we want to, and who cares what others think of it or how it impacts them?
This thinking is also a huge part of why we are so unhappy, so disconnected from one another, so lonely, and so polarized.
We Americans are proud of our individualistic culture, though it doesn’t seem to be working out so hot for us…
The flip side of this is collectivist cultures.
Collectivist cultures emphasize the needs and goals of the group as a whole over the needs and desires of each individual. In such cultures, relationships with other members of the group and the interconnectedness between people play a central role in each person’s identity.
There is much data to be found about the benefits and the drawbacks of both individualistic and collectivist cultures. Neither one is necessarily better.
But, going too extreme in either direction is rarely a good thing.
When the balance of anything becomes too out of whack, problems almost always tend to occur. And this is what’s happening in America right now. Our individualism and self-centeredness have gone off the charts. The first priority of most people in this country is me. What I want. What I feel. What I’m interested in. What’s good for me.
Yes, it’s true, living our lives bending to the whims of the others, to the wants and needs of everyone else all the time, this is also not going to be a good thing. It will result in living your life for others and constantly sacrificing yourself. It can lead to bitterness and resentment. It can culminate in feeling imprisoned, like a passenger instead of the pilot, and just not very happy.
But. On the flip side. Too much individualism can result in a disconnected, uncaring, far less pleasant, less empathetic, more anxiety-filled, competitive, and less happy culture as well.
And this is the direction in which we are heading.
How can we change this?
Don’t follow along with the self-centered, unkind, or entitled behavior and views of those around you. Learn to recognize this and then, rather than following along, buck the trend and be different.
Sometimes, if the situation merits it, you might even respectfully challenge them on this and offer them an alternate way of thinking.
It’s easy to look around you and see, “well, that person’s being rude…so why should I follow the rules then? Who cares.”
Don’t do this. Be better than this.
Dare to actually care about the people around you.
You’ll be one of the rare few who do and, as a result, will become immediately memorable and extraordinary for it.
Consider: how might my behavior be affecting the people surrounding me right now?
Am I doing anything that could be disruptive and that is unnecessary, to the people around me?
Can I change the way I am doing this to make it more considerate? Then, actually do it.
If not, can I do this thing later so it isn’t obnoxious and rude to the people around me?
Is what I’m doing right now thoughtful? Considerate? Is it kind? Respectful?
Is what I’m doing beneficial to society? To the world? Am I leaving a positive mark on the people and things around me?
Start operating with these questions in mind.
Choose to care about the people and places around you.
Imagine how they might be feeling, how they might be impacted by your behavior.
Then, actually alter some of your behavior if it’s both,
unnecessary and if it’s not considerate or kind.