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One of the biggest obstacles standing between where you are now and where you want to be is your worry or concern for what other people think about you.
When you can overcome your fear of being ridiculed or shamed for doing something out of the ordinary, you will start to create a life that is out of the ordinary.
Why We Worry About What Other People Think
Everyone agrees we shouldn’t obsess over what other people think. Yet, we still do. There are all the surface level answers to this question like no one wants to be judged or rejected. But the level of fear we experience in relation to what others think and say about us goes to an irrational level.
I am always looking for deeper answers to these types of questions. I believe anything we continue to do has to have some purpose or benefit it serves. Many things in life appear to cause us pain or harm, yet we do them anyway. When this occurs, there has to be something positive it provides us, even if it doesn’t seem that way on the surface.
Our worry about what others think of us is based on a fear death. In human history, if you were banished you would die.
We're Afraid of Being Banished from the Tribe
Our fear of what others think goes back to the early history of humanity. For the majority of human history, if you were not part of a group, you would not survive. There were very large predators, and other tribes of people, out there. To avoid these threats, required remaining part of a group – there was strength in numbers. If you did something to violate group rules or standards, you would be exiled from the community. Banishment was equal to the death sentence. Maintaining approval of the group was very adaptive to your survival.
Another factor that drives anxiety about what others thinks is fear of isolation. As human beings, we are biologically wired for connection. When we experienced forced aloneness, it's painful for us. Most of us have some level of fear of being alone until we overcome it. People will stay in unhealthy or abusive relationships rather than face being alone. This is a powerful fear for many. There are also additional associated fears that individuals experience when spending time alone, such as fear of feeling suppressed emotions and lack of worth. Some people’s worth and identity is so tied up in what they do. When they are not doing these activities, they feel like they are nothing.
A final aspect that drives worry about what others think is somewhat tied to the last line of the preceding paragraph – a fear of loss of identity. Our sense of self is formed in relation to others. To become isolated from others eventually disrupts our identity. The worst form of punishment we inflict on others is solitary confinement. If you spend enough time in isolation, your personality will disintegrate – you will lose all sense of yourself.
After understanding the deeper factors related to fear of what others think, it becomes a bit more understandable why we obsess about them so much.
Steps to Overcoming the Fear of Being Alone
So how do you overcome all this you ask? Good question. The first step, as with so many issues, is working with a safe individual or group to conquer shame.
Shame is the primary core emotion that triggers so much fear and panic regarding what others think. Disclosing your shame and receiving love, compassion, and acceptance is what will release you from it. This takes courage on your part, which is why you need to develop relationships with those who are emotionally safe and caring.
“Once you have received help in processing these emotional memories, the fear will go away.”
The next step requires emotionally processing unresolved feelings of sadness associated with times you were helpless and did not have what you needed relationally to cope with such emotions.
The thing that triggers so much fear about experiencing these types of emotions is due to times we experienced these emotions and had to dissociate from them in some manner. They are now stored as implicit memories that can be triggered by the possibility of feeling similar emotions in the future. Once you have received help in processing these emotional memories, the fear will go away.
The last step towards decreasing your fear of what others think is through developing a stronger sense of self. This is done emotionally and relationally.
The Key to Creating a Strong Sense of self
You create a strong sense of self through accepting and emotionally connecting to all aspects of yourself: thoughts, emotions, behaviors, desires, dreams, etc. You stop censoring yourself. Doing this in your life requires building relationships with those who accept all parts of your authentic self; this requires you to do this for others as well.
Lastly, facing difficult emotions and things you have been avoiding is key. These are the steps for building a strong sense of self.
Nothing Happens Unless you do this
Truly conquering the worry of what others think of you requires more than self-awareness and good intent. It takes action. If you begin to work on these three steps, you will be well on your way to overcoming worry and anxiety about what others think of you. This will lead to a life filled with more purpose, peace, creativity, and joy.
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