Are your judgments your own or just a reflection of the judgments of others? Is your opinion yours or are you just regurgitating what you heard from others and spitting their words from your mouth?
Okay let me simplify this: Do you like something because you liked it or because someone else said they like it.
Most people are mimetic
Most people don’t know what to do. Even if they do, they don’t dare to do it anyway. So they look towards anyone confident enough to say what he/she thinks.
And there’s a good evolutionary reason behind this. If you were living in a tribe thousands of years ago, you’d want to be around people because it increased your chances of staying alive. And since agreeing with whatever someone says feels secure and ensures company, you do it blindly.
There’s another reason why we are so memetic, when we see a confident person expressing his/her values and choices, we tend to stay closer to them in hopes that some of that confidence will rub off on us. This is practical because, in the end, we are what we surround ourselves with. But this doesn’t mean we should lack all judgment and just follow the herd.
See what that confident person is saying and then judge for yourself if what he’s saying is good or just fluff. Most of the time, people are full of shit(I know I am).
We all have a mental compass inside our brains that points us to the decision which feels the best to us personally. But we often tend to not listen to that compass. Ignore it long enough and it’ll eventually stop working. Use it and cultivate it and you’ll become somewhat of an independent thinker.
What’s your favorite movie?
Here’s a simple test: Is a movie your favorite because it related to you on a very emotional or personal level or just because it’s highly rated on IMDB and is very popular?
Or the inverse: Is your favorite movie your favorite not because you liked it but because it’s not so popular and you want people to think you have eccentric taste in movies?
In my confusing college years, the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy” had come out. Some of my friends said it’s the best marvel movie yet and I went with a couple of my friends to see it for myself. Halfway through the movie, a friend turned to me and said “Don’t tell me you’re enjoying this. This is terrible!“. I had formed an opinion of it being good based on someone saying it’s good and now was thinking like “Hey, maybe it’s not that good”, again based on someone else’s opinion.
This is a rule I’ve developed now: If something is your favorite out of many thousands, you should be able to talk about it for hours. If you can’t, it probably wasn’t an informed decision.
The age of influencers
In this age of “Influencers”, apparently the only thing left for mankind to do is either influence or get influenced. Our thoughts, choices, behaviors, habits are all very second-hand.
And yes, there’s no problem is doing something that someone else is doing. If something improves you, inspires you, or is interesting to you in any way, you should totally do it. That’s called getting inspired and using that inspiration to get something done.
But doing it just because someone else is doing it just makes you a second-hand thinker and a second-hand doer. The job of influencers is to make us see the better side of things, help us live like they are living. But we miss a crucial point, they don’t give a shit about us. It’s their job. If they can influence you to see the better side of things, they can also make you see the wrong side of things, or the side of things that makes them richer, look better, drive a point home.
The way I see it is there’s an epidemic of influencers now - it’s quite literally the age of influencers, the influencer economy. So take your time, let all the influencers sell their ideas to you. Let them compete for your attention. Remember, they revolve around you not the other way around. They are because of you, not the other way around. Sure it doesn’t seem like it but that’s the underlying premise of the whole influencer industry. Who would they influence if there’s no one to influence?
How to have “good taste”?
To have a ‘good taste’ in things, you first need to have a taste. An original thought process. It’s not that difficult, it may be the easiest thing ever but it takes time.
The only thing you need to do is be aware of what you like and why you like it. Over time you’ll realize that you have a certain taste for some things, some genres, and detest the other genres. And if you think about it, if you don’t like something, you are the one person who should know the truth about why you don’t like it.
The surest way to get confused is to ask everyone’s opinion.
If something appeals to you, you owe yourself a better explanation of why it appeals to you than a simple “Because my favorite Instagrammer recommended it”. Have at least that much courtesy to yourself.
And you don’t have to feel bad about your taste. You need to be critical of yourself and make sure you’re not bluffing yourself, other than that you’re good to go. There will always be people shitting on your choices, let them, that’s all they have.