tokyo eric kim street photography-0000789

Why Do You Care What Others Think of You?

tokyo eric kim street photography-0000789
Photo by Beverly Komatsu

Or your photos?

I’ve always been the classroom clown

Hanoi, 2016 eric kim street photography hanoi

I don’t know about you, but I want everyone to like me. I’m a people pleaser.

When I hurt the feelings of my friends, it is like a cold dagger being slowly inserted into my heart.

I am a people pleaser because making others happy makes me happy. I have always been afraid of hurting the feelings of others.

How I overcame myself:

Portrait by Josh White

But as time went on, this became bullshit. I was so afraid of hurting the feelings of others, that I became paralyzed. I didn’t have the confidence to put forth my individuality, thoughts, and opinions, from this fear of “stepping on the toes of others”.

Berkeley, 2015 #cindyproject

America is funny. She tells you to be an individual, yet to shut the fuck up, sit down, do tests, go to a good college, get a good-ass job, save money, buy a house and a BMW, and send your 2.5 kids to college. Then one day, travel at age 65, then die.

Fear is the root of all insecurity.

Photo by Luis Donoso
Photo by Luis Donoso

Why do you care what others think of you?

I think it comes from fear. Fear of being judged as “stupid”, or perhaps the fear of becoming a social outcast, and starving to death.

But to be honest if you have enough money to pay rent, and for food and coffee, what else do you need to be a slave to the opinions of others and society?

I follow in the footsteps of SENECA: I want to be rich as fuck, yet live like a person in poverty. To use my money as a tool to help and empower others. Yet to want very little material possessions for myself. Not because I don’t like nice stuff (I do), but a lot of material things are just golden handcuffs (like owning two Golden Rolex watches).

Personally, I see how others are enslaved by their wealth. For example, you have a Rolex watch, you’re scared someone is gonna steal it or chop off your arm. So you wear your Seiko watch in public instead.

You have a Leica camera, and you don’t take it traveling, from the fear that someone is gonna steal it. Instead, you take a cheaper camera. But what is the point of having the Leica in the first place?

You have expensive furniture, yet you wrap your seats and couch in plastic. Why have it in the first place?

You have your shiny new Benz. Yet, you hate driving it. Why? Some idiots might scratch it, or “key” your car. Or you might dent it. Or if you drive a cherry-red BMW M3, you hate getting tailed by police and getting lots of speeding tickets.

More money, different problems.

I know for myself, when I started to get rich, I got more stress. Stress of what to invest my money in. Stress of wanting more money, to keep up with my $$$ Yelp restaurant lifestyle.

Even when you have money, it is still painful to spend money. Like a Stoic philosopher once said:

It is as painful to pull out the hair of a balding man, as a man with a full head of hair.

In modern English:

It is as painful for a poor person to spend money, as much as it is painful for a rich person to spend money.

A billionaire committing suicide

All is relative.

A man who was once worth $5 billion dollars, after the stock market crash lost $4 billion, and was worth only $1 billion. He committed suicide.

When I was 19 years old, I traded stock in college. I lost $3,000 at age 20. It felt like shit. Now, if I lose $3,000 it doesn’t hurt me (as much).

Nassim Taleb says:

The quickest way to become rich: move into a poor neighborhood. The quickest way to become poor: move into a richer neighborhood.

For example, let’s say you drive a (lowly) BMW 3-Series. You feel cool compared to your friends who drive Honda Accords. Yet, when you meet someone with a BMW 7-Series, you feel poor. Why? Because everyone knows that a BMW 3-Series is like the Toyota Corolla of the BMW world. Kind of how a Porsche Boxster is not a “real” Porsche– only the 911 (turbo) is a “real” Porsche.

I’ve experienced it myself. Owning a Leica “M” is a “real” Leica. We Leica snobs laugh at people who own Leica Dlux, Vlux, T, Q, or any other “non-M” cameras. Even now, I look at the Leica Q as an expensive Panasonic camera. Kind of how a Lexus is just an expensive Toyota Camry.

I wouldn’t want to be a billionaire

As humans, we are always trying to “one up” one another.

Apparently billionaires are the most envious people. Let’s say I’m worth $1 billion, and my friend is worth $10 billion. I feel poor. I only have one private jet. My friend owns 7 private jets (one for each day of the week, to suit her mood).

I own a Rolls-Royce, yet my friend owns a Bugatti (two). I feel poor.

I own a film Leica MP, but my friend owns the limited edition Leica MP Hammertone, and I feel un-cool.

I own a “starter” Rolex watch. My friend has a Hublot. I feel poor. I own a Panerai, yet someone has a diamond-encrusted Patek. I feel poor.

Some practical thoughts

Okay so the reason I talk about all this is this:

Several propositions:

  1. No matter how rich you are, you will never feel secure financially, or feel rich enough. There will always be someone richer than you. And the richer you get, the higher your lifestyle, and the more you become a slave to your salary.
  2. All is relative. “Wealth” is just comparison. Nassim Taleb says we should focus on “un-wealth”– the difference at any point in time from what we already possess, and what we would like to possess. If we don’t have any desires, we are rich. And you can earn $30,000 USD a year, and still be “rich” according to this theory.
  3. Consider what you already own or you current income might be superior than owning more, or earning more: For example, remember that having more possessions or a higher income often leads to more stress, and less personal freedom (like having to answer more emails after working hours, or not having the freedom to take a nap when you want to).

Living here in Vietnam, I feel rich as fuck. Why? I live in a $20 a night hotel, so I don’t need to clean my room, or cook breakfast, or buy groceries. I don’t live in an empty and lonely big house– I chat with the hotel staff, and I feel like family. I either walk or taxi to the coffee shop, and I think to myself, “Thank God I don’t own a car, and have to deal with the stress of driving, parking, or scratching my car”. I sit in the coffee shop, and I think “thank God I don’t have the stress of owning my own cafe, paying rent, and investing in a $7,000 La Marzocco espresso machine for that perfect shot.”

I skip lunch, and I think, “How pleasant it is not to waste time or money on lunch.”

I usually go for a walk, and think to myself, “Wow, it is a pleasure to have the freedom to walk.” I see motorcycle taxi drivers taking a nap on their bike. I then think, “Wow, these guys are more fortunate than Billionaire CEOs who cannot take a nap when they want to.”

I then do more work at the coffee shop, more small talk with the baristas, and then go to dinner with Cindy. We usually have dinner for 2-3 hours, and chat about our day. We usually share all our food. Our meals are usually not more expensive than $20-30, and that is us eating “lavishingly”– like a Sushi sashimi dinner. Usually we will share a bowl of ramen (I order extra pork) which costs us $8.

Sydney, 2016 #suits

We usually walk or taxi back to the hotel, and I will have my “egg snack” of 6 hard boiled eggs, I got for free from the hotel breakfast. I sit and look in front of the small hotel mirror, eat my eggs and dip them in salt and pepper, and have time to think and contemplate.

I will then usually read some philosophy on my iPad, Cindy will watch her show(s) on her phone, and then we will shower, and then pillow talk, then pass out. Then start the next day.

Do you.

Sorry friend, I got totally off topic.

Anyways what I want to share with you is this:

Disregard what others think of you. Life a life true to yourself, and eschew monetary wealth, comparing yourself to others, or desiring stupid material stuff. Life is simple.

Everyday, just seek to know yourself better, your personal preferences, designs, wants, or hopes, or dreams.

And when in doubt, make more art.

Be strong,


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