FOPO: Fear of Other People’s Opinions
I’m obsessed with FOPO right now. Fear of Other People’s Opinions could be the single biggest barrier to confidence and success. It’s the gigantic bag of rocks that we lug around, barely able to walk, let alone leap enthusiastically towards our best self.
- There are people who literally start sweating when they sit down to write a social media post, spend 4 hours writing it, and decide not to post it after all.
- I know people who will only ever take their kids in a swimming pool if they’re on holiday, in another country where there’s no chance that someone they know will catch a glimpse of them in a swimming costume.
- I know people (erm, used to be me!) who spend days unpicking their contribution in a meeting, wondering how they came across to the people in the room.
- In large organisations I was involved in conversations about the `optics.’ It could be the right thing to do, but if it would be perceived negatively it wouldn’t happen.
- Scared to take part in a gym class, scared to join a gym, join but scared to enter the gym, join the gym but gripped by the fear of Lycra.
My FOPO obsession gathered momentum after a recent a breakthrough. Since starting my own business I’ve had my fair share of sweaty palms. Social media posts, videos, hearing my own voice, sharing an opinion that not everyone is going to agree with and generally doing anything public (a requirement in my business).
My first live video! OMG, what will people think of me? It took months before I felt confident in front of a camera.
But this year my husband Mark was diagnosed with Cancer, and the bag of unimportant bricks I’d been lugging around were replaced with a massive rucksack filled with lead. When you’re facing one of the worst things that could happen, everything else evaporates. The things I lacked confidence in suddenly looked ridiculous:
What if I forget my content during the lesson I’m facilitating?
What if I make a fool of myself?
Can I really write a blog on this topic?
In the past 4 months, I’ve said to myself many times “I no longer give a f***!”
I wasn’t faking it and it wasn’t bravado. I genuinely felt the change deep inside, one of the many gifts of Mark’s health `speed bump.’
But it’s human nature to want to be appreciated by others. It’s normal to want to be liked and loved.
Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich says there are 6 Ghosts we need to overcome if we are to maintain the mindset for success. They are the 6 Ghosts of fear, fear of ill health, fear of death, old age, poverty, loss of love and fear of criticism.
How do you imagine things have changed since 1938, when Think and Grow Rich was first published?
How would you rank these fears in order of dominance in your life / mind?
Which of them hold you back most?
Illness and death are serious, one could be deadly, the other positively IS deadly.
But, if you currently don’t have an illness, and you are reading this blog from a train rather than your death bed, then the threat isn’t real.
Maslow’s hierarchy suggests that love and belonging are the third basic human need. Could fear of losing love and the fear of criticism be linked? If we are criticised and judged negatively, we are not appreciated by others, we’re not liked…we’re not loved.
The conclusion in our mind is, If I am criticised, I am not loved.
The message to our mind, I must pay attention to what other people think of me.
I must care what other people think of me.
Which becomes…I must fear what other people think of me.
Which becomes…I lack confidence to do the things I truly desire.
Caring about what other people think and fearing what other people think of you are not the same. I’m not suggesting that we do whatever we want and stick a finger up to the consequences. I am suggesting we learn how to recognise when FOPO is holding us back and push ourselves onward.
I’d like you to reflect on all the areas of your life to understand where you’re overly sensitive to what other’s think. The school gates, in meetings, at the gym, sharing a photo, sharing an opinion on social media, with your family/friends…
Signs of FOPO
- You are in the habit of asking 10 people their opinion before you make a decision.
- There’s something you desperately want to do, but you’re worried what other people may think, so you don’t bother.
- There’s something you could do to achieve a result you desire, but you’re avoiding it because you know it won’t be popular with 100% of the people involved.
- Think of all the areas where you believe you lack confidence and dig into the reasons. In many cases it’s FOPO:
- Lack confidence presenting – FOPO
- Lack confidence speaking up in a meeting – FOPO
- Lack confidence asking for the sale – FOPO
- Lack confidence having a difficult conversation – FOPO
In my business, my desire to reach and help as many people as possible is stronger than my fear of judgement or criticism. Make your desire stronger than your fear and you’ll do whatever it takes. You might care what other people think, but don’t be afraid. You can learn to hold the opinions of others gently, thank them and let them pass.
Overcoming FOPO (Examples provided at the end of the blog)
- Be honest with yourself that FOPO is holding you back.
- Write down the fears. If I do this, then…
- For each fear, consider the likelihood of it happening. If there’s almost no chance it would happen, you can eliminate the fear from your mind immediately.
- Write down the benefits of doing the thing you’re scared of. If I did this then…
This exercise will cleanse your mind from unnecessary clutter, help you laugh at some of the things you’re scared of and be clear on the fears you must face to move forward.
Remember the worst that can happen usually isn’t that bad, but the best could be incredible.
This is YOUR LIFE. Don’t miss out on anything that brings you abundance, joy or success, because someone who is NOT YOU might not appreciate it. Never dim your light or play small to please or appease others. Take the rocks out of the bag and release them. Lighten the load.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Laugh, every chance you get.
And finally, try not to be the person giving the opinion that the people in your life fear. If you’re going to judge others, make it your mission to look for the good in them, notice their gifts and talents and tell them you appreciate them.
Overcoming FOPO Example 1
Fear of what my boss will think is holding me back from sharing an opinion I feel very strongly about
I’m scared that if I don’t agree with my boss, she might fire me.
The chance of that happening is low.
The benefits of me voicing my opinion are:
- Congruence with my integrity
- I want to develop confidence which will be a requirement when I am a leader
Overcoming FOPO Example 2
I want to go on holiday for alone to recharge and write a book
My husband and kids will think I am selfish for leaving them, my parents think I never finish anything and don’t believe I’d have the staying power to complete a book
The chance of them having this opinion is high.
The benefits of me booking my holiday alone are:
- I teach my kids about boundaries
- I might write a best-selling novel
- I will be a rested and better parent / wife when I return
- I am showing that I trust my husband to take care of the kids
- It’s a desire I have had for 20 years and if I don’t do something to put pen to paper, I might die with this book inside of me
 I want to acknowledge that this fear can feel very real for those with health anxiety.