“Hell is Other People”

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flat,550x550,075,fJean-Paul Sartre is attributed with the quote “Hell is other people”. At first this may seem like the attitude of a misanthrope who despises humanity, however Sartre didn’t mean that people are inherently cruel and selfish, – which they might be – rather he was talking about how we see ourselves through measures others have set.

Despite his quote coming fresh from the 1940’s, it still holds unimaginable relevancy today, possibly even more so today than back then. Society places physical attractiveness, extraversion and wealth, among others things, on a pedestal and if you don’t have it made in at least one of these societal endorsed traits, then you’re free to go and judge yourself to be seen as worthless by the general layman.

“But I’m really quite intelligent!”, “I’m a nice person to talk to though” and “I’m really good at this though” are all things that today’s world does not see as legal tender on the grand judging of people. Despite these being great traits to have as a person, you and the general populace will only measure your worth with a very specific measuring tape.

And this is what Sartre was trying to say when he said “Hell is other people”, that the consequences of having any sort of relationship with other conscious minds is that people will judge us, and we will judge ourselves with same means as everyone else. Assuming this is true, there is many problems for a range of people living in the here and now.

Our Glorious Modern Day

It’s not difficult to see this today. The confident alpha will take advantage of the fact that people in the western world value the more superficial traits. And of course he should, survive and thrive after all. But where do the rest of us quiet, socially-inept cynics go? For a lot of us, getting measured with the societal measuring tape reveals  we’re undesirable and that we can move swiftly on. I don’t even have to draw such an extreme distinction between people here, take extraverts and introverts.

Introverts who have great traits that won’t see the light of day because of the environment they are in that values being outspoken. Therefore people will judge him/her to have nothing of value, leading to said individual believing the same as they don’t get a positive reaction. I should clarify that just because the example person here is an introvert, does not mean he cannot be outspoken and let his strengths be known, however they are generally less likely to do so than extraverts.

©Boris Pramatarov

You don’t even have to go outside your house to see this either, it’s the norm on social media. An attractive female posts their third new profile picture of the day and in a matter of minutes there is a flood of likes from all kinds of people. Someone posts about their new book they finally managed to get published after a few years of hard work and dedication, it naturally pales in comparison when it comes to the direct effect it has on people’s discussions. Not to sound like I build my life’s foundation on being accepted on social media, but this is exactly what Sartre was trying to say. We judge others and ourselves by the thoughts of other people and that means a lot is overlooked and you can’t do a damn thing about it.

The Gist

The main point to take away from this is that you should never ever talk to people ever again. Of course I’m not serious.

I think that a lot of people consciously experience the feeling of being measured up against others based on what the majority thinks – or thinks it’s meant to think – is desirable. A negative feeling that makes a lot of people think they’re not good enough. Well I say shun the general crowd’s measuring tape and only use your own. Compare yourself only to who you were yesterday.

I’ll be back to moan more about life very soon, don’t you worry.

– Jamie


Featured Image: ©Boris Pramatarov