OPINION: The Benefits of Being an Existentialist

By: Matthew Willarch

OwlFeed Opinion Writer

When a person says they are an existentialist it can be a little confusing as to what exactly that means. Well I’m gonna explain what an existentialist is and why I became one.

According allaboutphilosophy.org, ¨Existentialism in the broader sense is a 20th century philosophy that is centered upon the analysis of existence and of the way humans find themselves existing in the world. The notion is that humans exist first and then each individual spends a lifetime changing their essence or nature.¨ What that means in a more simple term is that existentialism is the philosophical belief that the only thing that matters in the universe is you, that you understand there are things far beyond your control however you just don’t worry about it. Instead the individual worries about how they cope with the world around them in the understanding they have no control over it.

In his book “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins said, “There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point…The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.”  

downloadPeople grow up having a sense of entitlement, thinking that if we do well in life someone will notice us. Why do we do well in school, because we want to get noticed by a college recruiter, why do we do our best to behave ourselves because we want our God to be pleased with us, or our parents, why do we dress nice because we want our crush to notice us.

For the most part this isn’t the worst mindset to have. In fact for a lot of reasons this could be a good thing. We are intentionally trying to better ourselves so does it really matter our reasons for trying to better ourselves?

Well yes actually they do. People tend to put a lot more stress on themselves trying to gain the attention of others. I’m sure even you the reader have, maybe you’ve dolled yourself up to impress your crush or practically killed yourself studying for a test just to secure that A.

And maybe you did it. Congratulations. Your reward more often than not is nothing. Maybe you got a quick head turn from your crush or maybe you got a smiley face on your test that you got an A on but overall the stress you put on yourself does not compare to the reward you got but for some reason people seem to look at stress as a good thing.

In a book called ¨Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff¨ by Richard Carlson, it talks about the two different kinds of people when it comes to dealing with stress: Those who have high stress tolerance and those who do not.

As it turns out  people with low stress tolerance, on average, tend to be more happy in general. Think of it like this: your stress tolerance is like your immune system where the only way to develop more of a resistance to something is to constantly expose yourself to something without directly dealing with it.

So the only way to have a high stress tolerance would be to constantly expose yourself to stressful situations. And just like your immune system when it does eventually break down it is significantly harder to solve the issue instead of just dealing with the issue right there and then, so overall it’s better to have low stress tolerance as you are more likely to want to deal with the situation immediately.

What’s the best way to ensure you have a low stress tolerance, you may ask? The answer is existentialism, which almost preaches that the only thing that matters in the universe is you as an individual, while still recognizing that there are things beyond your control.

And how do you deal with them? You don’t. Rather than focusing on all the little things in your life you can’t control, existentialism would rather have you focus on ways to cope with the overall theme of life, that theme being that it sucks and is out to get you.

The reason why you should do the right thing in life is because it is the right thing to do. I’m sure you’ve heard that line at some point in your life — well, that line stems from the idea of existentialism. You shouldn’t do the things you do to get noticed, you should do them because those are the actions that truly define you as a person and those are the morals you truly believe in.

Imagine if your parents never told you that you shouldn’t steal. Would you become a thief? Image if there was no college. Would you try so hard in school? No, so why does it matter if those factors exist?

So my advice for life advice: ¨Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.¨