In the West, we like to think we’re unique, with our very own set of values, original ideas, and dreams. But not everything at first is always as it appears to be.
The great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Whatever they may think and say about their “egoism,” the great majority of people nonetheless do nothing for their ego their entire life: what they do is done for the phantom of their ego which has formed itself in the heads of those around them and has been communicated to them.”
Nietzsche argued that that our sense of self is not our own, but is something that is constructed, primarily by the people in our lives such as our teachers, our friends and even our own parents.
Our sense of self then is actually a product of society.
You see this all the time such as when parents tell their kids what they should be when they grow up instead of considering what their kid actually wants to be.
This benefits society as a whole, but not always the individual.
Lieberman says, “The social world imparts onto us a collection of beliefs about ourselves. And because of how the self functions, we often cling to these beliefs as though they are unique ideas we came up with for ourselves.”
Ideas such as what’s considered to be a successful life.
Ideas like this are called social controls, ideas that society tells you how you should act so that society will benefit, but you must learn to be aware of these social controls because if you’re not careful with this, society will force itself onto you.
If you want to start a business for example, be careful when society forces you to go get a conventional 9-5 job.
If you’re a singer or a painter at heart, be careful when society tells you that you should be a lawyer instead.
Be aware of the social controls that go against your own values.