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Fearing Other's Opinion


Fearing other people’s opinions, or FOPO as the renowned high-performance psychologist Michael Gervais calls it, affects us all.

But why are we so afraid of what other people think of us?

As tribal beings, we are biologically wired to care deeply about other people’s opinions. For our ancestors, acceptance and inclusion in the tribe meant the difference between the physical safety inherent in numbers versus the vulnerability and danger of going it alone.

Although our basic survival issues are different today, we retain much of that primeval fear that now has less to do with physical safety and more to do with emotional security.

Of course, as social creatures it makes perfect sense that we want to fit in, and we want to be included, but here’s the paradox: We are so busy fearing what others will think of us that we spend our lives doing what others expect us to do or what we think they want us to do. Handing over our personal power to others in this way leads us to avoid taking risks and to forgo our dreams. And the results are extremely detrimental to our wellbeing and happiness.

Just think of how many times you longed to dance, but let the fear of what other people think keep you glued to your chair. When we allow this sensation of “sitting it out” to dominate our lives, we fail to explore what we’re truly capable of and we squander the unique gifts that have been bestowed upon us. Being inauthentic and untrue to who we really are is not helpful to the world and certainly not helpful to us.

The good news is that other people don’t think about us anywhere near as much as we think they do. And those few that do—who actively want us to suppress us for their own fear-based agenda—are best dismissed from our consideration. They do not have our best interests at heart and no matter how hard we try, we will never be able to please them.

So, what can we do to get beyond our fear of other people’s opinions of us?

The first thing to bear in mind is this: how we think about ourselves is so much more important than what others think. Take stock of how you think about yourself and the words you use. If you think of yourself as small you will feel small and be seen as small.

Then compile a prioritized list of the secret hopes and dreams buried in your heart. It seems modest but having them manifest on the page is surprisingly powerful. Now it’s time to add a concrete step that feels manageable: Book those guitar lessons, write a page a day, put some brush strokes on paper. No matter what, get started.

You’ll be amazed and how empowered you will feel—and you just never know where it might lead.
Give yourself the chance to dance—the only thing stopping you is you.