Chapter 1: Stand up Straight with your Shoulders Back.
The Dominance Hierarchy
I learned the evolution of mankind is not as efficient as one thinks. According to Jordan Peterson, there is an ancient pre-programmed mechanism in the brain protected by the firewall of our subconscious. Within this mechanism is what Dr. Peterson calls the dominance hierarchy, and it calculates our self-worth based on how we believe others perceive us. Just like human beings, the most ancient animals from lobsters to birds concern themselves with status and position and are instinctively territorial and inevitably combative. Something present in evolution since forever.
There are other similarities between human beings and lobsters because our brains react to the same neurotransmitters. For example, serotonin. In the world of lobsters and a territorial pursuit, the victorious lobster’s brain produces more serotonin affecting their posture and demeanor. Other lobsters, especially females, now perceive him as more confident and important — a natural cycle of the dominance hierarchy. On the losing end, the lobster’s brain limits the amount of dopamine released resulting in drooping, sad body language that only repels potential mates or attracts predators.
Just like lobsters, we are constantly sizing everyone up as better or worse than ourselves. The problem is all those classifications are subjective and constantly changing. As a result, we will unconsciously throw ourselves onto the hedonic treadmill where new and bigger is always better. I believe that is why in situations where men find out their ex-girlfriend is dating someone new, we immediately wonder how big their wiener is — followed by if they make more money than you. Basically, we want to know if they exceed our subjective and socially constructed model of success? It is the number one perpetrator of the “what do they have that I don’t,” thought process and no one needs to dive into that black hole.
This can manifest itself in social situations by worrying about what we think others think. Meaning how people act towards you or the things they tell you are framing how they want you to think of them — validating their own narrative of who they believe they are. That feeds into the saying, “everyone is selling something”, because instead of accepting who they are, most people are trying to sell you on who they want to be or wish they were, without ever putting any effort into truly being that person; which limits their authenticity. It eliminates the ability to be present and genuine. But it is important to understand everyone is doing it, which can be a blessing or a curse. If you continue to be intentionally ignorant, you can never be self-aware enough to understand your place in that hierarchy or have the will to overcome it.
Jordan Peterson’s advice for combating the dominance hierarchy is to stand up straight with your shoulders back. Start with focusing on your posture. This not only has incredible psychological benefits, but it also helps with how others perceive you. If we automatically perceive someone with a strong, confident posture, the dominance hierarchy is paying attention. In fact, the same principle is very similar to Ben Affleck’s, “Act as if,” speech from the film Boiler Room. It’s the same principle as Deion Sanders’s, “You look good, you feel good. You feel good, you play good. You play good, they pay good.” Just don’t let this newfound confidence get away from you. Find a balance that maintains your authenticity.