Social Proof


Social proof is a advertising concept based on the fact most people don’t like to be different. To get people to accept a new idea or product, you have to reassure them that anybody who’s anybody is climbing on board.

If would-be customers think you’re asking them to be different from others, they won’t buy.

For example, a few years ago I was asked to give the invocation at a Martin Luther King program. As the program went on, a group of Native Americans got up to introduce a tribal dance. To start the ball rolling, the leader asked me to join them. So up I got, joined the circle and started bobbing and weaving, proving right there in front of God and the whole world that I don’t have a drop of Native American blood in me. Fortunately, the whole point was about going beyond what separates us, so my lack of native dance skills worked well.

It obviously didn’t look like nearly as much fun as it was, though, because most people refused the leader’s invitation to join in. But he kept at it, and after a while another game soul accepted the invitation, then another, and another, until it became more a group thing than individual performances. The poor guy had to work almost the entire, very large room, but social proof finally arrived.

People who had previously refused to join our merry band realized they were being left out of the fun and all but ran to get into the quickly expanding circle. At that point, joining in became the popular thing to do, and they didn’t have to worry about getting funny looks for being different.

What in the world, you might be asking, does this have to do with health?

Right now, social proof aren’t us. Only a relatively small group of health-field natives talk about becoming our own health advocates. Which means that most people, concerned about fitting in, still follow doctors, the media–any “authority figure” that makes them feel comfortable–and not responsible.

When things go south, and as one neighbor said to me, “It just gets to be patch, patch, patch,” they’re still part of the majority. The sick majority, but a majority none the less.

Those of us who take time to learn how to be healthy and do pretty much anything it takes (notice the allowance for an annual Snickers bar), are the oddballs.

And I salute you, fellow oddball. Yes, being different can get wearisome at times. And having people sneer at the decisions you make gets old really fast.

Well, I’ve been sick and heard people suggest I give in to “my lot in life.” Instead, I walked the road less traveled, made my health a priority and took responsibility for my decisions.

I may be an oddball, but now I’m a healthy oddball.

And here’s some good news. I talk to everybody, everywhere I go, usually about health, and people are more receptive than they used to be. Social proof is still a ways off, but we’re gaining ground.

Maybe we could start an “Odd Like Bette” club. We could wear buttons and figure out a secret handshake and stuff. Maybe that would take us over the top, into the land of social proof.

Or maybe not. No matter.

The important thing is that we take responsibility for our own health–no matter what others think. Living the best possible life is a whole lot better than following the crowd into the ditch.


Related articles of interest:

Modern Medicine: How Healing Illness became Managing Illness

Mainstream medicine’s dirty little secret

You Just Gotta Laugh: Test Result Tales

Doctor Problems


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Bette Dowdell

A drunk driver damaged Bette Dowdell's pituitary gland shortly before her first birthday. Although doctors insisted for years that she was fine, her health drifted to a crash-and-burn event, and she realized her health was up to her.

Now she's happy to report she has energy all day, every day. She sleeps well. Colds, flu and headaches are all in the past. Optimism moved back in. Life is good.

Now Bette's sharing what she knows with others to help them take control of their health, too. People who become their own health advocate enjoy far better health than those that don't.

Bette grew up in The Salvation Army, where her parents were officers. Like the military, this Army life involved a lot of moving, and she attended ten schools, in nine cities, in three states before graduating from high school.

After college, Bette worked as an IBM Systems engineer, a small-company consultant and software company owner. She wrote the books How to be a Christian Without Being Annoying, On We March: A memoir of growing up in The Salvation Army and the e-book Pep For The Pooped: Discovering the Vitamins and Minerals Your Body Is Starving For.

She lives in the Phoenix area.


Bette Dowdell

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  1. Anonymous says

    Isn’t that something peculiar, being an odd ball for being healthy the natural way, of course the fad is to have as many medications as possible or try drugs of any sort to be in the in thing, what a laugh. JAM

  2. Lu says

    Thank you Bette for your brave article. The Independence Day is close: taking care of our body and mind without pills.

    God bless you.


  3. Anonymous says

    Your article really struck a cord with me big time!!! I am one of those “very healthy odd balls” who speak about health issues to everyone I see. The problem I see is that it appears that many people who I speak with get information overload and because of that, they don’t seem to get what I’m saying. As a matter of fact, everyone in my family is so worried about me because I’m the only person in my family that never gets tired, feels great all the time but what they are really concerned about is that I reduced my body weight from an unhealthy 275 pounds ten years ago to about 195 pound which took about 8 years to achieve. My blood pressure was always high before and now it’s quite normal for me (120/72, pulse range: 50-60) but I also only eat whole foods, take lots of certain supplements and very careful about my diet and what’s in the labels. Most of my family members cannot seem to go from the conventional main stream medical advise to what I do. They seem very worried and scared about my ways so they always try to convince me to get off my own advice. The problem is, I seem to be the only one that’s quite healthy in my family but they think that’s because I’m the only one that’s different from them and people they know, they really think there is something wrong with me…any suggestions? Believe me, this problem of being a healthy odd ball has much greater problems socially with it than you may think because I live it everyday!

  4. Bette Dowdellbetted says

    Thanks for all your kind comments.

    #4, the only tip I have for anybody is to keep on keeping on. Most of my family can’t catch a clue, either. The only progress I’ve made is nowadays they don’t tell me when they’re sick–lest I offer to help.

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