I realized after recording our last episode that my rabbit holes have changed quite a bit. Ever since the beginning of this year I research a lot about ethics, work culture, culture in general. Barriers interest me a lot. I’m interested in etiquette; the things we are “ought to do” in certain situations. How we’re supposed to dress, and behave. What’s a gentleman like? Does he/she still exist, and, does he, or she, still have relevance?
That’s just stuff that goes through my head. I’m asking myself a lot why I do the things I do, and what’s keeping me acting the way I want to act. Let me give you an easy example. (Disclaimer: These are just fictional examples.) Picture yourself in the following situation:
- You booked a holiday for an adventure trip.
- Somewhere along that trip, you visit a small small vilage, where you’re supposed to stay for the night.
- They eat bugs there, maybe some vegetables too, but the main dish are bugs.
Now, does the thought to eat bugs cause you any sort of discomfort?
- You are at a friend’s party.
- At around 10pm (i.e. not so late-ish) you suddenly get a feeling that you want to be naked. Right now.
Do you take your pants off? No? Why not? Does the thought what other people might think of you scare you? Why?
Why is eating bugs such a problem? The people in the village have been eating them for years. There’s (scientific) proof that they are not toxic.
But still we fear do either of the two things. Why? What’s keeping you? That’s just a thing your head made up. It’s not real.
On the one side, you feel like taking your pants off is the perfect thing to do. On the other side, there’s society, that has told you, it’s not appropriate.
At this point you have two options:
- Don’t give a fuck, i.e. do what feels right. Take your pants off. Confuse some people. Shock the prudes.
- Give a fuck, i.e. put many people’s comfort below one person’s comfort. Leave the pants on. Not scare people.
I hope it becomes clear what I’m getting at. This is an extreme, extreme example, but I hope they express my point. Whatever it is that feels right for us, is sometimes less important than what feels right for many folks.
There are lots and lots of these barriers that we take for granted. Barriers not mentioned yet, are those that are actually harmful to others, where we are unable to break out of our own prison.
Let’s assume the following. Let’s assume you are walking home at night. You overhear a couple, fighting. She says something like “I don’t want to see you anymore”, along with a very clear body language that says “get away from me”. Now, as you walk, the two happen to stop right in front of you. As you walk by, you realize the guy is the biggest guy you’ve ever seen. He could crush you, and he’s in an aggressive state, too. He yells at her “but I excused!”. He yells in a way like she’s supposed to answer: “All right, you excused. That means everything’s perfectly fine”.
So, you are in this situation. What are you doing?
Let’s go a little bit further. Normally I see people back out of a situation, because they feel they don’t know what to do. Let’s, moreover, assume that you made up the perfect response to that boyfriend who’s scaring his girlfriend. What are you doing?
- Do you say: “Not my stuff. Whatever these two folks have problems with, that’s their stuff, I’m not getting involved in any of this.”
- Or do you say: “I should go between the two. This is clearly not okay, but what if the guy punches me in the face and I need to go to hospital?”
It becomes evident, hopefully, what I mean. “Barriers”1 are everywhere. The reason I am so fascinated with this topic is because when you’re old enough you start to see, and feel, these barriers. It’s the reason I posted the picture above on Instagram.
There’s a prison that we have built in our head, and we are in it, and the only person keeping us in is us. Of course you could just go bonkers and don’t care anymore what other people think about you, but that’s not appropriate and you’ll soon be called a lunatic. But that’s not really my point here.
My point is that there are boundaries that can be good when overcome, but we are too scared to. Examples?
- Quit your safe job, and build your own company.
- Punch someone in the face, because the person is acting irrational.
- Being ignored by a waiter.
- Being in an argument where the other person doesn’t want to accept your point of view, and you just want to end it, but being the polite person you are, you can’t.
At the end of all these barriers lies the question: What is keeping you?
- Quit your job: just do it. I mean that’s really it, right?
- Punching someone is easy too. Just walk up to a stranger, get your fists, and boom.
- Stand up and tell the waiter, he’s been ignoring you.
- "I don’t want to talk about this anymore."
Easy, right? The thing is, those things are not easy. “Just” doing something, does not mean you are “just” doing it. Some things are easy, some things are insanely hard to do. It is not "just".
You can work around this, with some diligence and patience. A lot is psychological. Mainly you need to adjust the frame how you see certain situations. After a while you are able to do this on a situation-by-situation basis. Some things may even become your frame. Don’t be scared. Grow, learn, become a better version of yourself.
I quote barriers here, because barriers are set by society and called etiquette, rules, manners, as well. ↩