For even the most supremely confident among us, being labeled stupid, or ugly, or fat, hurts. It hurts because being stupid appears to be quite a terrible thing; you’d be missing out on so much. It hurts because it hurts; it’s that simple. It makes you feel anxious and fearful and you’ll do just about anything to make those feelings go away. Some might be able to brush those feelings aside, and move on in the direction they were already headed. And others may become so anxious and nervous that they become a self-fulfilling prophecy unto themselves.
You won’t remedy those feelings, break free from that self fulfilling prophecy, or make those new thoughts go away just by proving them wrong; surely a great pursuit – one which will benefit you greatly. That’s because in all probability, there will always be someone of greater intelligence than you (at least for most of us); someone so clever they make any Mensa-touting-genius look dim-witted by comparison. Neither is time the only treatment; hoping one day your stupidity can be remedied by some great advancement in neuroscience or pharmacology. The real insight you need is hidden within your misanthropy, your apathy and your nihilism. Those feelings that burst to the surface of your consciousness every time someone mocks you, labels you something less than what you know yourself to be, or embarrasses you for all to see.
‘I don’t matter’; the self-loathing sentiment proceeding public humiliation and often willingly embraced as a foregone conclusion. Or, ‘humans suck and life is utterly pointless’. On the grand cosmic scale, human life isn’t a necessary causal force in our universe; and so in that way, you’re right. The injustices you have suffered, while they are subjectively painful and often objectively wrong, will be forgotten; the world will continue spinning. People will still be happy, and will continue to be so. Let that empower you.
Look to your new-found worldview for freedom. Instead of accepting that your nihilism is wrong , inspect it for truth; use it to your advantage. Instead of battling against your anxious nervousness and your self-fulfilling prophecies, embrace them (who cares and so what have tremendous power). If life is pointless, and human beings don’t matter – no matter how clever, beautiful and powerful – then why should it matter that you’re stupid, or ugly, or not-so-rich? I think two-thirds of being labeled dumb, or ugly, isn’t the reality that you’re dumb or ugly – which often isn’t true – it’s the anxiety you feel when your life is contrasted with what is ‘normal’, or what is ‘ideal’. It’s the social side of life. Life isn’t just ideals; we’re social creatures. We live and die in societies. Societies chalk full of dumb and pretty people; the wise and the immature. Societies have the power to build you up, and to tear you down. We know that the social norms of the day aren’t always based on the most well thought out principles, but that realization doesn’t change the fact that people follow them, and that you will be subject to them. Anyone who deviates drastically from those standards is likely met scorn and derision. Surely no one would want that. So when we’re told we’re dumb, all of those realities, all of the negative future experiences we imagine having start quickly racking through our awareness. The label takes hold and we begin acting as we think others see us. Or we begin overcompensating, and acting in the way we think others would like us to be. In both cases we aren’t being ourselves, and in both cases we are plagued by feelings of anxiousness, worthlessness, depression and nervousness.
When you begin feeling like life is pointless (that nothing matters), ask yourself ‘if life is pointless and humans aren’t very important, then how is being a little more clever, in the grand cosmic scale, so much different from being a little more dim?And why am I exerting so much energy towards pleasing people, other people, that I am of some value to them – if they’re as equally unimportant as me?’ There’s this implicit paradox operating in the mind of the nihilist. With the one hand they dismiss life as unimportant and worthless, and with the other they desperately clamor to meet standards of a valuable life which they create.
This method to overcoming social barriers isn’t the solution to the problem, nor is it deeply connected with a deep existential awareness; it’s a band-aid. It’s a quick fix to combat those feelings of anxious depression that follow an acute blow to your ego, and keep you rooted in your self-fulfilling prophecies and aversive social roles. It will help you get through that cloudy period to a place of moderate comfort, where clear thinking can take control. That period may last a few moments, or it may last a good while longer. Remember the trope ‘ there’s always two sides to everything’ ? If you find that you’re experiencing a self-fulfilling prophecy – whether that be by behaving as you think others see you, or as you think they would want to see you – use your nihilism as a way to say ‘so what’? Once you stop fighting with yourself, and with the ways you think others perceive you, you’ll quickly realize how utterly absurd the whole thing is – and you’ll be on your way towards self-discovery and positive personal growth.
Life is either valueless or valuable; it cannot be both. You have a choice to either embrace the pointlessness, or embrace the importance. In both cases you end up leading a life free from the prescriptive mental shackles of the individual finding their path in an uncompromisingly harsh yet beautifully sublime world.