The Evolution Gap and Rule One

Jul 14, 2023

Standing Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back

In his book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” Jordan Peterson presents the first rule as ‘Stand up straight with your shoulders back.’ At first glance, this principle appears to be a simple directive toward physical posture. However, it encapsulates a more profound psychological and social significance that can be understood even more profoundly when examined through the lens of the Evolution Gap. This concept emphasizes the divergence between our slow-paced genetic evolution and the rapidly changing societal and technological environments.

In essence, the Evolution Gap refers to the inconsistencies between our genetically programmed instincts, refined over thousands of years of evolution, and the demands of the modern world that has transformed dramatically in just a handful of generations. As such, Peterson’s first rule connects directly to the Evolution Gap, offering insights into our physical and mental health, social dynamics, and personal well-being.

Physically, standing up straight with your shoulders back is a posture that conveys confidence, strength, and openness. Biologically, this can be traced back to our ancestors’ survival instincts. The upright posture of a creature is a universal sign of vitality and dominance in the animal kingdom. It communicates one’s status and strength to potential adversaries and allies alike. This instinctual understanding continues to apply in the human sphere, shaping our perceptions and interactions. 

Yet, slouched posture has become more common in our contemporary society due to lifestyle factors such as long hours spent in front of computers and a generally more sedentary existence. Here, we see a clear example of the Evolution Gap. Our bodies and minds are designed for movement and physical engagement, yet modern life often inhibits these needs. This results in physical manifestations—weak muscles and poor posture—that can negatively impact our health and social and psychological state.

From a psychological perspective, standing up straight with your shoulders back embodies self-esteem and personal resilience. It signals to our brains and others that we are prepared to face challenges and are open to opportunities. It reflects an attitude of taking responsibility for oneself and one’s life—a central theme in Peterson’s book.

However, modern life, characterized by its often overwhelming complexities, can sometimes undermine this confidence. The pressures and anxieties of today’s world may push individuals towards a metaphorically and physically slouched posture. Further, the underutilization of musculature leads to muscle weakness, making a straight posture more challenging to maintain.

The Evolution Gap, in this context, highlights a disconnect between our evolutionary predisposition towards displayed confidence and the fear or uncertainty that the rapid pace of modern life may induce.

Adopting an upright posture can influence how others perceive us in our social dynamics. Standing tall is often viewed as more attractive, reliable, and competent. This instinctive judgment traces back to our early days as a species when physical stature often determined one’s survival capability and, therefore, one’s desirability as a mate or ally.

However, in an era where most of our communication is non-physical (virtual or textual), the nuances of physical presence may often be overlooked or forgotten, widening the Evolution Gap. Our evolutionary instincts can not correctly comprehend these newer modes of interaction, potentially leading to miscommunication or misperceptions.

Peterson’s first rule, therefore, serves as a call to action to mitigate the effects of the Evolution Gap. It encourages embracing our inherent evolutionary traits, advocating for the importance of a strong posture as a tool to navigate through modern life more successfully. By standing up straight with our shoulders back, we respect our biological inclinations and foster personal confidence and social respect—a crucial step towards bridging the Evolution Gap. Developing better posture may start as a psychological and physiological process; furthermore, to establish and maintain better posture, it is essential to exercise posture-related muscles to compensate for our sedentary lives.

In conclusion, Peterson’s first rule, viewed through the lens of the Evolution Gap, offers valuable insights into understanding our evolutionary heritage and its interaction with the modern world.

 

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