Looking Stupid

<June 28/08>

I’ve written elsewhere about “looking good,” & how the Landmark Forum folks say that’s what our lives are pretty much organized around. For sure, I think they’re onto something big...

We dread looking stupid, don’t we? You can try & tell me you don’t care about looking stupid. For one thing, I won’t believe you, & for another, if you are one of those exceedingly rare people who really doesn’t give a darn about looking good/looking stupid, I’m going to tell you you’re so rare as to be merely the exception that proves the rule (maybe from another planet, even!)

I know darn well how badly most of us dread looking foolish. It’s possible I’m a little less obsessed about “looking good” than most folks, but like pretty much everyone I know, I sure don’t exactly relish looking stupid.

When we feel as though we look stupid, what is it that's really going on inside us?

I think we feel alone.

I’ve thought lots about feeling alone – & I’ve felt alone. There have been times in my life when I’ve felt not just alone – not just lonely – but abandoned; bereft. It’s the worst possible feeling I can imagine.

I’d better not get started here, or I’ll be off on a lengthy lecture about how human beings evolved to be tribal creatures, & how bereft I think we’ve all felt ever since we abandoned our tribal existence, 10,000 years ago…

When all I really set out to talk about was how awful it feels to feel or look stupid, & how very, very hard we work to avoid that sensation. Actually, I think the more we try to not look stupid, the more stupid we sometimes wind up looking. Y’know? I suspect that this feeling/looking stupid business, & also the feeling alone part, are all too darn common.

I’m going to point out that I’m writing this little item on July 1st weekend, & that all the “long” weekends – the holiday weekends – the “family” weekends – bring up complicated emotions for me. For a variety of reasons I needn’t go into, I generally wind up feeling somewhat alone/abandoned on these weekends, & that can make me feel as though I “look stupid.” Fortunately, I do a lot of talking to myself about this kind of stuff (stern little “pep talks”), & I keep it pretty much under control…most of the time.

It might be useful for all of us to do a little honest delving into our thoughts & feelings about “looking stupid” – because I think when we’re caught up in worrying about looking stupid (which for all I know is, for some folks, a lot of the time), we’ve got ourselves hemmed in by fear.

We become afraid or incapable of relating honestly with people, & we wind up doing or saying some pretty dumb stuff that actually probably does make us look stupider than if we just acted like who we really are, & owned up to the truth. What is the truth? We’re all lonely sometimes – lonely, insecure & afraid, & we all need to surround ourselves with people who help us feel good about ourselves, instead of trying to make us feel bad, or stupid, because of their insecurities.

And, we all act stupid sometimes. We all do dumb stuff, we all make mistakes, we all have vast holes in our knowledge, & we all want & badly need to be loved, accepted, affirmed & appreciated.

As long as we walk around being incapacitated by our need to “look good” & not “look stupid,” we’re liable to continue to do – & say – lots of pretty dumb stuff. Including some seriously planet-damaging things…

I say, let’s all work at finding ourselves a tribe – one that not only helps us feel good about ourselves (& each other), but also helps make the world a better place for all of us, while we’re at it.(1)

Whaddya think?


(1) F.R. Scott, poet & professor said, “The world is my country. The human race is my race. The spirit of man is my God. The future of man is my heaven.” I think people for whom that resonates could maybe constitute a tribe…