I am not judging you

Sep 25 2022|Written by Slimane Akalië|opinion, ideas

I was tired after traveling for five hours when it was my turn at a work gathering/party to tell my colleagues about something they don’t know already about me, making Youtube videos and podcasting wasn’t a good fit because they knew about it at that point. The only answer that came to my mind was an experiment I was running those days: Veganism. After talking about it, I realized that I made a huge mistake.

As expected, I was attacked at the dinner table that night. Some people judged Veganism as a stupid diet, others tried to push me to convince them that Veganism is good for them, and the worst thing was the dinner itself: Moroccan roasted chicken.

This situation felt like a deja vu, and my direct answer was a familiar mantra: “I’m not judging you by my behavior, this is an experiment and everyone is free to do whatever they like”. However, I indulged in some stupid scientific arguments that wasted my time and energy.

I knew that most people don’t believe this mantra because of a mix of influence from mirroring neurons and past experiences. The fact that this phrase is explaining a good but rare behavior makes it easy to start questioning the incentive behind it.

What makes a good behavior rare is the lack of willpower to do it because we’re wired to seek instant pleasure. And when you see someone delaying gratification in public for no obvious reason, you start directly questioning his or her incentive to pay such a price.

The automatic answer comes from your mirroring neurons and your childhood, a child will delay gratification to impress a parent and feel special among his or her peers. And your brain has this simple program running all the time: If you do X because of Y, when you see someone doing X, then their motivation must be Y.

As a result, when you see an adult who’s delaying gratification by adopting a good but rare behavior, you would automatically assume that they’re doing it to feel special and superior to you (because you’re now their peer). And that’s why you won’t care about any rational explanation (including my mantra at the dinner table).

But this reasoning is flawed because people are different and you can’t guess their incentive with 100% accuracy. Your guess (as inaccurate as it is) might push you to attack the person in question, hate them, argue with them in a religious fashion, waste a lot of your time & energy, and in some worst cases see them as enemies.

If someone is doing something you would like to do but you’re not doing (for lack of willpower or time), then you should take responsibility for your choice, and instead of attacking the person, either shut up or ask them for help.

And if you’re doing something that is good but rare in your community, try as much as you can to not talk about it in public (don’t repeat my mistake). This will help you to save a lot of time and energy, make rational choices that are not influenced by self-defense against other people, and most importantly it will show you whether you’re doing the thing for the sake of doing it (like an adult) or you’re doing it just for social signaling (like a child).

The more I try to guess the motivation behind certain contributions by amazing human beings, the more I see something that could be considered as not “good” by some social norms (like ego, status, or money), but who cares.

For instance, if a billionaire wrote his/her autobiography to satisfy his/her ego and someone got real value from that autobiography, then questioning the motivation behind writing it is a total waste.

Almost every scientist throughout history put their name on their theories and formulas but we can’t neglect the impact of their contributions on our daily lives.

P.S: I stopped the Veganism experiment after one month (but it was a cool one).

Cover image by Tingey Injury Law Firm.