Dumbing Yourself Down

Something I’ve been noticing more and more lately is the act of people dumbing themselves down. That is, the act of lowering your intelligence level temporarily when you socialize with others, and to be honest, it’s something I’m guilty of too.

Society, for better or worse, (usually worse) generally dictates what’s “acceptable” or not. This can occur on pretty much any level, from what’s considered “cool” or “trendy,” to what a reasonable manner of socializing is. For example, society says it’s considered odd if you strike up a conversation with a stranger about the philosophy of life, spiritual communication, or about some deeper meaning in a book you recently read; yet it’s acceptable to discuss the weather, last night’s football game, or how the traffic has gotten so terrible. Society even dictates our laws and values, putting an emphasis on things like money and social status instead of personal growth and happiness. Society says marijuana is dangerous and harmful, but alcohol is perfectly acceptable. Society says that certain people are deserving of more respect than others, or that the wealthier somebody is, the more we’re supposed to value them.

Society says all of these things and more, yet it’s up to you to decide how much value you allow society to hold over you. Personally, I love when people talk to me about a challenging subject, something that allows me to think on a deeper level or gives me a chance to bring up a topic that most people don’t ordinarily discuss. Anybody can sit and discuss the weather or how they sat in traffic for an hour before making it to the office, but rarely do these provide any kind of intellectual stimulation.

Yet this is exactly why people find the need to dumb themselves down, to lower their intelligence when communicating with others. Like I said, I’m guilty of it myself, and I’ve even caught myself doing it without realizing it. Somebody will initiate some kind of conversation with me, and I can’t discuss my true thoughts with them for fear that they won’t be able to catch on. I don’t mean that to sound like I’m smarter than anybody else, but I find myself keeping my thoughts and ideas on a very basic level so that I don’t end up overwhelming the other person. This isn’t just strangers this can happens too though; it can also include family members, friends, co-workers, and pretty much anybody else you converse with.

Why Dumb Yourself Down?

I usually notice this happening for a couple of reasons: For one, when people interact with one another, even close friends or family, society dictates they act a certain way. This wouldn’t be a problem if so many people hadn’t bought into what society says, but unfortunately they have. That means when your actions lead you away from the beaten path, people may end up thinking you’re a bit strange or odd. For example, the other day a friend of mine was telling me how he thought it was strange that I hardly ever read the paper and never watched the news on television. His reasoning being that because I didn’t incorporate these outlets into my life, that I was going to somehow be “less informed” than those around me. I told him that I’m able to pull more inspiration and insight from a non-fiction novel than all the newspapers and news channels put together. I told him that I thought the news was so watered down and dumbed down so that the average person could understand it, that it rarely presented me with anything I didn’t already know. To him, he almost finds the entire idea of reading a book to be pointless, yet because society dictates that the news channels and newspapers are accepted sources of information media, he considers himself “up-to-date and knowledgeable.”

Dumbing yourself down for others can occur in a lot of different ways though. Having to play up your interests can usually be a popular one, as well as discussing what you do for a living. Ask somebody what their interests are, and you’ll usually get the same pool of answers: “cars, sports, shopping, exercising, television, video games” and maybe a few other random things thrown in there. That isn’t to say those don’t represent real interests, but you’re generally going to hear the same groups of things being listed. Most of these kinds of people have bought into society, they’ve bought into social conditioning and what’s considered “acceptable” or “cool.” When was the last time you heard somebody list their interests as being “personal development and growth, philosophy, psychology, spiritual studies, creative art, reading, and enrichment of the mind”? I’d guess it’s probably been a while…

As long as social conditioning is around, the act of dumbing yourself down is going to be around; the two go hand in hand completely. With that being said though, I actually think today’s younger generations have it a lot worse than the generations before them did. So many people in the high-school / college ages seem to dress and act the exact same. That isn’t to say uniqueness doesn’t exist, because it certainly does, but it seems a larger and larger percentage of these individuals have bought into society and what’s “trendy” and what’s not. Personally, I like maintaining my uniqueness, and it’s not something I’d trade for any amount of “coolness” or popularity. The worst part is though, these people who have bought into society usually have no idea they’ve done so. They focus so much time on their image and on how others perceive them, that most of their unique traits have been thrown out the window.

Just Be True to Yourself

Unfortunately, because nobody ever admits when they’ve bought into society, I can’t say this piece of the article is directed as one specific person or the other. That being said, when it comes to dumbing yourself down to fit in with others, try and avoid it as much as possible. It’s something I used to do all the time, trying to disguise my true interests with popular interests so I could easily relate myself to other people better. If I had an idea about something, but I didn’t think others would be on board with it or appreciate it, then I’d keep my mouth shut. It was easier to travel along the beaten path because I knew that was the path most people were on. If I could keep things on that path, then it would cause less confusion or friction between me and anybody else. This is exactly what dumbing yourself down is, reducing your intellect or creative processes so that you can stay on board with somebody else. You’re afraid that if you travel off that beaten path and down a more unique path, that it may confuse others or they’ll somehow think you’re strange or odd.

Don’t do that though, it’s just not worth it. It’s taken me all this time to realize that trading in my creativeness, the thing that makes me most unique, is not worth it for anybody. Don’t worry about overwhelming somebody with your thoughts or ideas; if they can’t keep up then they just can’t keep up. Doing this sort of weeds out the people who aren’t quite on your level yet anyways, the people who are more concerned with their social status and image. Instead, continue doing the things you do, and keeping an interest in the things that keep you interested. In doing so you’ll be a lot happier, avoiding people who may try and pull you down to their level along the way.