I used to be afraid of what others thought. Of me, of what I did, of what I didn’t do. It was a tiring endeavor – caring so much about other people’s judgments of me.
And I know I’m not alone.
Before you say “well I don’t care what other people think of me”, let me ask you this.
Have you ever held back from doing something even though you wanted to do it, because of what people might say or how they might react?
‘Cause I definitely have.
This fear can be a major impediment to us doing our best work. It erodes our self-confidence and inhibits creativity. No one wants that.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve learned how to dial down the volume of that voice of doubt inside my head. I’m not saying I’ve managed to eliminate it entirely, but I did transform it from a major obstacle into a minor annoyance.
Today, I’m sharing a few strategies that can help you go after the mission you care about, without worrying about what people will say about you.
Fearing what other people think is an almost universal problem. And it can be paralyzing if you let it control you. It’s also a total waste of time.
Back in my 20s, boy did I care what others thought of me. Those days I was hyper attuned to things I might say or do that (a) could be taken out of context (b) totally misinterpreted, or (c) would embarrass the heck out of me.
Now would be a good time to ask yourself: is there anything holding you back from pursuing something, or trying something new, because you’re not sure how it’ll be received?
Let me give you an example of what that was for me.
Long, long ago, in a galaxy far away – well actually it was this galaxy, and I guess 2009 isn’t thaaat long ago – I remember when I posted my very first YouTube videos. My goal was to document my travels to showcase similarities between different cultures around the world.
I was proud of those early videos because I had put in a lot of time into researching, practicing, filming and editing. But I didn’t tell anyone about them. I was mortified of what people would think. Would they laugh? Would they scoff? Would they yawn?
Now, fast forward a decade later, I regret not doing more with those videos. I’m disappointed that the younger me was too afraid of what people would say. I can’t help but think where that channel would have led me if I had the confidence to promote them and embrace my creative drive.
What’s funny is that I’ve started to show those early videos to close friends and, to my shock, they have nothing but kind things to say!
You see? It was all inside my head. All that fear and worrying was unwarranted. Your mind can play powerful tricks on you.
More recently, I faced my fears once again. Fortunately, this time I was the victor and launched the Explearning YouTube channel. This time around, I worried much less about what people thought of me and what I was doing. I just do my best and share what I think will benefit people the most.
What changed between my first attempt in 2009 and now?
It certainly isn’t the amount of work I put into it. Or that the stakes aren’t as high.
The difference is that, last time, my focus was on myself. This time, my focus is on the mission.
In other words, what’s changed isn’t the WHAT, but the WHY.
Back then, I knew I wanted to spread cultural awareness, but my ego interfered with the mission. It prevented me from doing my best work because I was more concerned about what people thought of me than about the content I was creating.
This time around, with Explearning, I have absolute clarity of purpose. We see so many problems in today’s world stemming from a lack of effective communication. Social anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-loathing – these issues are huge obstacles in people’s lives and research is showing the situation is only getting worse.
At Explearning, we are convinced that if we can equip the world with a foundation of rock-solid social strategies, it will enable people to take control of their lives, build a supportive social network, and pursue their passions with confidence.
So that’s my first piece of advice for you: shift the focus from yourself to the mission you’re on. The mission is bigger than you, so stop caring about how your outfit makes you look, or how people perceive you. Because that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are able to make progress, to move the mission forward, whatever the cost.
This is an incredibly liberating feeling, surrendering your insecurities and embracing the mission. Your creativity goes into overdrive, your productivity skyrockets, and your ego dissolves.
OK I think we’re ready for the next tip.
Recognize that you are your own worst critic.
Who’s your arch nemesis? For high achievers, it’s not that bully from high school. Instead, it’s more likely to be yourself.
A friend from my ballet days who’s since gone on to be a professional actress told me no one can say anything mean, critical or hurtful about her that she hasn’t said about herself.
I don’t know about you but that makes me sad. Really sad.
It’s time to flip this on its head. We should be our own best cheerleader. The one person you’re stuck with the rest of your life is yourself, so why not celebrate that with encouragement and support?
We have plenty of other people to give us a hard time. If you can’t give yourself a break, don’t expect anyone else to.
So instead of depleting your brainpower and precious energy with negative self-talk, save that for creating and doing stuff that matters.
Now, the final strategy for getting over the fear of being judged is to ask yourself this very important question.
Write this one down, I’ll wait.
Ok, you got that notepad and pen?
Here it is.
Imagine yourself twenty years from now. When you look back at your life, what fear will have most crippled you? How did it prevent you from achieving your full potential?
Identify that fear. Study it. Understand where it comes from and why it’s still there. Once you’ve done that, go back to step one and figure out a mission that’s bigger than that fear. Set your eyes on something that makes that fear a mere distraction.
Now go after that mission like nothing else matters. Because nothing else does.
Whew, that was intense.
Shall we recap?
- Find your why. Shift your focus from yourself to that “why”. If it really matters, your ego won’t.
- Become your personal cheerleader. Celebrate your successes and learn gracefully from your mistakes.
- Identify your most crippling fear and make sure your mission is bigger than that fear. The future you will thank you for it.
And now, my friend, you are now unstoppable.
Don’t hold back on what you’re passionate about, or curious about, simply because of what others might think or say about you.
Believe me, people will have opinions and make judgments. There’s no changing that.
But you only live once, and your mission is too important. Devote yourself to something bigger than yourself and all those nagging fears will be replaced with a powerful sense of urgency to do what matters most.
Congratulations on getting out of your own way. Now go make a difference!
So now that I've shared our thoughts, I want to hear about the last time self-doubt got in the way of something you wanted to do. What happened? What are some ways you could have dealt with that? How can you equip yourself to overcome future fears?
Share those three things with me and the Explearning community in the comments below.
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And remember, the writeups of these lessons are always available on our blog at explearning.co/blog.
With that, have an awesome week, Explearners.
Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your next Explearning lesson.
Happy Explearning ⚡