Explaining human psychology in 3 sentences
80-20 of human psychology.
I was a naive person.
My parents always made decisions for me. I come from a very poor family, so they thought I should put all my focus on my studies to get out of poverty. I never traveled outside my city, so I lacked life experiences. I couldn’t hang out with friends as I didn’t have the money for restaurants. When I went to college suddenly everyone expected me to grow up, and I failed to meet their expectations.
I learned to become a people pleaser, and always took care of others before myself. I trusted everyone and they took advantage of me. My family and friends ridiculed me for being naive. But no one tried to understand my situation. Due to constant failures and a lack of respect from others, I lost all confidence in myself. Being naive became part of my identity, and I felt worthless. This situation went on until 2019.
In 2020, I got three salary increments at my software developer job in the space of 6 months, which gave me a self-esteem boost. I spent all my money on books and courses to learn everything. I studied every day and never took any breaks. I tried to become a senior developer quickly. I thought earning more money would get me respect from others, but couldn’t catch up with my peers.
Meanwhile, I consulted a doctor regarding some health issues and was diagnosed with anxiety. In India, we don’t have much awareness of mental health issues, so this was unexpected. But the issue wasn’t resolved.
I started reading books on this topic and in 2021 I discovered the book Unwinding Anxiety by Dr Jud where I finally got a breakthrough.
The main concept of the book is that we worry about the future because it feels good. He viewed anxiety as a negative habit, just like browsing social media. He recommended using mindfulness to train our brain about the negative aspects of this. The brain would stop being anxious when it realized that it isn’t helpful for our survival.
I got excited to get a new perspective, but the solution from the book didn’t work for me. I kept consuming more resources. And eventually found a solution from an unexpected source.
I started following Geo-politics in 2022 when the Ukraine conflict started. I realized how nations interact with each other represents true human nature. They always take care of themselves first. I found that very similar to Cynicism.
The Pareto Principle, commonly known as the "80-20 rule," suggests that in many situations, a few key factors (roughly 20%) account for the majority of the outcomes (around 80%).
Through the process of self-reflection, I managed to summarize human psychology in 3 sentences. We can call this the 80-20 of human psychology.
Let me expand on them one by one.
Humans only act out of self-interests
The core tenet of Cynicism is that humans only act out of self-interest. We say it's bad when someone thinks only of themselves. But we already think like this in many areas of our lives.
When applying for jobs, we don’t expect the company to hire us out of generosity. We think about what the company wants and try to present our skills accordingly.
The same happens when we receive a WhatsApp message promising to double our investment in 25 days. We question their intentions.
A YouTube channel with a US audience gets more money from advertisers than a channel with an Indian audience, due to Americans having higher purchasing power.
But from friends and family members we expect support without reciprocity. We overburden them with expectations without clearly communicating what we want. And when they don’t meet this we feel disappointed. That leads to all sorts of mental health issues like anger, guilt, loneliness, anxiety, etc.
Let’s explain through my story of being a people pleaser.
I used to fix the computer of my best friend, as he wasn’t a tech-savvy person. I was a people pleaser back then, always prioritizing the needs of others over me. So I dropped all of my plans whenever he called me.
But it became overwhelming. He started to offload his other chores. He started to treat me like his unpaid personal assistant. Moreover, he never felt grateful for my help. I wished he would not call me again.
Later when I started to delve into self-help content, I learned about the terms like “nice guy” and “setting boundaries”. But failed to apply their advice until recently.
Let’s think through how my psychology worked back then.
I was labeled as a “nice guy” since my childhood. Everyone called me that way to control me. And it was my way of ensuring my survival, to keep everyone happy. I never learned to value my needs.
Outsiders would assume I was a selfless person from this story as I sacrificed my own work to help my friend. But for me I wanted to keep him happy, that felt good. I got praise from others for being a “nice guy” since my childhood. I did everything for that good feeling. And that happened unconsciously.
The subconscious is focused on ensuring our survival
We can categorize our brain broadly into two parts - Conscious and Subconscious. We can think logically through our conscious brain, and our subconscious brain is responsible for our primitive desires like revenge, hunger, etc.
Most of our behaviors are controlled by our subconscious mind. This is commonly known as our habits. We don’t need to spend much energy on them. This is essential for our day-to-day actions. Imagine you need to think through every step while walking, how exhausting that would be?
During our evolution from monkey to human, the conscious part was created much later than the subconscious part. So our subconscious is much stronger. When there is a conflict between them, our subconscious desires will always win. That is why we can’t force ourselves to do something using only willpower for a long time.
Our subconscious mind is focused on ensuring our survival. So it prioritizes tasks that it feels would help with our survival.
The problem is that our subconscious doesn’t have a proper understanding of what is important to us. Hence it gets triggered by touch points like social media notifications. And it feels like danger due to the red color.
We have to rewire our subconscious programming to focus on more productive things that are aligned with our future goals. Then we don’t need to use willpower for anything.
Let’s look at my story of being a people-pleaser from the last section.
I didn’t want to help my friend by sacrificing my work. But my desire to keep my “nice guy” identity was more than doing my work. My subconscious mind only knew one way to survive - to keep others happy. And my habits reflected the same.
Now after a lot of reflection, my subconscious realized focusing on my own goals and getting powerful is the best way to survive rather than pleasing others. So the habit has changed without conscious effort.
We only need two things to understand humans
Humans act based on two things - Power and Motivation.
India has the nuclear weapon.
North Korea also has the nuclear weapon.
Both have the same power. The difference is their motivation.
I want to change the world.
Elon Musk also wants to change the world.
Both of us have the same motivation. The difference is the power we have.
The problem starts when we only think about either Power or Motivation. Let’s continue using my story of being a people-pleaser from the earlier sections.
I didn’t want to help my friend, I wanted to focus on my work. I wished he would never call me for help. So I had the motivation to finish my work.
But I had no power to confront him at that time. I was fearful of the negative consequences of saying “no”. It’s like going to a gunfight and being fearful of using your gun and hoping that the other person won’t use their gun.
Let’s consider this from the opposite viewpoint. I didn’t want to help him willingly, I wanted to keep him happy. If you only look at my motivation it’s easy to label me as a “non-authentic” person. But you need to look at both power and motivation to understand a human.
Reflecting on the power and motivation of others allowed me to evaluate who actually has the power to harm me. And as I am more secure in my position now I can express myself freely without caring about what others would think about me.
To reiterate the 80-20 of human psychology at the end
1. Humans only act out of their self-interests. That might be conscious or unconscious.
2. The subconscious mind is focused on ensuring our survival. It prioritizes tasks that it feels would help with our survival.
3. To understand a human we have to look at two things - Power and Motivation. How much power do they hold and what is their motivation?
Using these three principles I have resolved all my issues - Social media addiction, Game addiction, Anxiety, Perfectionism, Laziness, Making my own decisions, Taking more risks, Hero worship, Quitting sugar, Getting confidence and self-esteem, People-pleasing behaviors, Staying motivated without external support, Jealousy, Improving communication skills, Getting fluent in English, etc.
Cynicism has the power to simplify our lives and resolve mental health issues.
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