No Choice but to Listen to Their Own Music

No Choice but to Listen to Their Own Music

Smiling became complicated… When was is appropriate, when was it creepy? What if they don’t smile back? Then… I’d feel bad.

Talking to strangers became complicated… What if they don’t want to talk at all? I’d just be bothering them. What if they think I want something from them? I don’t. What if it irritates them?

What’s holding us back?

Humans have been described as social creatures, but, all of a sudden protecting the ego has become a priority. With the rise of technology, there are new ways to market yourselves; and appearances mean a lot. First impressions don’t just exist in real life and in resumes anymore; they exist online, too–a new frontier where appearance perfection requires new skills: humble bragging, conveying authenticity in connection garnering, hiding flaws, and emphasizing “goodness”. We live in a time when people both judge and are scared of being judged. So, they find ways to minimize shame. Maybe it is by investing less effort, and maybe it is by investing less emotion.


It is all about “me” and how I think others perceive me, whether it is true or not. I monitor my actions to minimize judgement and incorrect assumptions, while creating an image that portrays me as the type of person I want people to see me as.

And slowly, it becomes a part of my truth. Some coincidences lead me to believe that I’m not alone. More coincidences lead me to believe that this is just the society that we live in. The power of fear is heavy and enticing; it pressures me into believing this is reality and sweetly tells me that, accepting this as reality will make things easier for me.

It tells me that life will hurt less. It tells me that the pain of embarrassment can be avoided. It tells me, I have my own music, and I don’t need others to enjoy it.

Mencius, a famous Chinese Confucian philosopher of the Warring States Period, had the following exchange with a King of the State of Qi:

Mencius: “When it comes to enjoying music alone versus enjoying music with other people, which is happier?”「獨樂樂,與人樂樂,孰樂?」
King: “Surely, enjoying music alone is not as good as enjoying it with others.” 「不若與人。」
Mencius: “Then, when it comes to enjoying music with a few people versus with many people, which is happier?”「與少樂樂,與眾樂樂,孰樂?」
King: “Surely, enjoying music with many people is more enjoyable than with few people.” 「不若與眾。」

Enjoyment of music is meant to be shared with people who also enjoy it. But fear tells me, “What if people don’t like my music, think it is silly, would rather be somewhere else, think I’m lame?” I’m not actually talking about music right now, but about this fear of judgement. However, I know that this fear is actually my ego talking to me, like a narcissistic parent telling me to be perfect, not to fail, not to be an embarrassment, and that survival in this world depends on how your appearances compare with another candidate. I discovered the narcissist that lives within.

Looking around on the bus, my eyes pass from person to person. Earbuds are in, eye contact is avoided. Appearances. Don’t get hurt. Don’t give the wrong impression. Creepy? Do these people have these thoughts too? Do they know about their resident narcissist?

Knowing mine, I aim to weaken its voice, because by giving it power, I become a fearful of failing.

It tries to scare me away from learning foreign languages, telling me that any mistake I make will invoke judgement and painful embarrassment. But learning from mistakes helps you learn better, and willingness to make mistakes provides more opportunities to practice.

It tries to scare me away from chasing my dreams, using the availability heuristic to tell me that failure is likely due to the lack of examples of success in that field. But every successful profession had to start somewhere.


Music is everywhere; they are in the people who surround us. Maybe in order to dissolve the illusion of silent judgement, we need to take out our earbuds more and notice those who want to share their music. Maybe in order to dissolve this illusion, we need to notice the people who want to hear our music and give them an earbud.


Well, we’re not getting any younger!

Daily Prompt: Pick Your Gadget

Pick one:

  • an invisibility helmet
  • a time machine
  • anywhere doors

Personally, I would pick “anywhere doors” for numerous reasons:

  1. It saves on commute time. Who wouldn’t want to transport to school/work/Hawaii/etc.? The hours in a day are precious.
  2. I never have to deal with traffic or transit delays.
  3. Whenever I have to study for a long period of time, I like to have a change of scenery every couple hours. Imagine being able to transport to a coffee shop, library, or study area just by carrying your things with you through the “anywhere door”.
  4. I can avoid sweltering weather or frigid snowstorms but still get to where I want to go. Not a hair plastered to my forehead nor a hair out of place.
  5. I can visit family and friends instantly.
  6. I would only be one second older than I was at the previous location.
  7. Can transport to a different washroom if one is full.
  8. Can transport to a washroom when food poisoning strikes.
  9. Can transport into stores and steal things… just kidding. Just being able to transport to a store, shop, and transport back would be excellent.
  10. Can butt in front of people in line-ups… just kidding. If the line-up is long, I’d just transport to a different time-zone where the breakfast/lunch/supper time rush is not in effect.
  11. Can travel longs distances and not experience jet lag.
  12. Can save the gas and/or transit pass money.

Why wouldn’t I choose an “invisibility machine”?

  1. We all know that they are unreliable. In the snow or sand, people can see your footprints.
  2. Maybe people can even hear your breathing?
  3. Maybe someone will run into you or sit on you.
  4. Maybe, you’ll be listening in on a conversation and one of them suddenly heads in your direction without warning. They might not see you, but they’ll probably hear the scuffling of your shoes or the “shit” murmured under your breath.

Why wouldn’t I choose a “time machine”?

  1. Changing an event in the past for the better wouldn’t necessarily result in a better future outcome. Maybe, you choose to go back in time to avoid an argument. What if after the argument, amendments would have been made and a greater understanding of each other was forged… and therefore a stronger relationship created? You would have deleted that from your future.
  2. Where you are now is the result of countless actions and random happenings. Changing one might change a future outcome, but it will change countless others as well. Not only that, the chance that the most optimal outcome would come to be, is low.
  3. You’d still be the same age you were before you teleported, so the time periods that you can teleport to are limited to a few years before and a few years after the present time… unless you wanted to travel back in time to visit some historical happenings or attain a new identity.


Hope this post was able to bring a smile to your face!