8.5. Personal Hangups and Collective Action

There are a lot of ways our own individual hangups, insecurities, and egos get in the way of collective action.

There are several important obstacles that prevent us from acting collectively and effectively.

And the first place to look is in the mirror.

There are a lot of ways our own individual hangups, insecurities, and egos get in the way of collective action.

We can be too apathetic, cynical, despairing, fearful, selfish, or lazy.

We can be too proud to simply play a bit part in a big movement, preferring instead to be a big fish in a small pond.

We can trip over any number of psychological, social, and ideological hurdles.

For example, if you’re the sort of person who values being seen as reasonable and rational, you might take the shortcut of always aiming for the middle ground between two extremes—even though that isn’t always the right way to go.

By contrast, if you’re the sort of person who values being seen as passionate and committed, you might fall into the trap of black-and-white thinking, always taking the more extreme position, never satisfied with anything less than one hundred percent of what you want—even though that, too, isn’t always the right way to go.

A lot of people also have problems with authority, or can’t stand to be low on the totem pole.

They feel like they need to be in charge, or the smartest person in the room, or the most passionate person in the room, or someone who makes a big, unique contribution—because they’re too competitive, too full of themselves, or perhaps don’t have enough self-esteem, and don’t have the humility, patience, or sense of self-worth to be content being a small part of something bigger than themselves.

I’m not saying this is all our fault.

Many of these hangups are the result of how we’ve been socialized, and what kind of past experiences we’ve had.

Heck, I’ve been trying for years to be aware of all these potential pitfalls—and I still catch myself falling into them sometimes.

But just because it isn’t our fault doesn’t mean it isn’t our responsibility to get ourselves straightened out.

Because the simple fact is: we’re nothing without each other.

Individual people, small groups, and even large groups that have made powerful enemies that fight them every step of the way just don’t have a lot of power in today’s world.

Our greatest strength is our numbers. And yet we waste that potential every single day.

We come up with enormous amounts of evasions, excuses, and rationalizations not to be part of the solution.

We create lasting divisions and hostilities over the slightest disagreements and provocations.

We oppose and compete with each other, when cooperation is literally the only hope we have of generating enough influence to make the world a better place.

I’m not trying to tell you not to think for yourself. But if your inner compass is telling you that having fewer people on your side is better than having more people on your side, you should really be skeptical.

We trick ourselves, every day, into not coming together as one. We need to look ourselves in the mirror, get our own hangups and evasions straightened out, and both encourage and help others to do the same.


This is the 129th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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