Ep 59: How to Work Through the “What will People Think of Me” Fear

When I first stepped onto the path of chasing my dreams, the palpable fear of ‘what will people think of me?’ was a constant companion. Perhaps, like me, you’ve wrestled with the overwhelming anxiety of judgment and rejection, especially in this era of social media spotlight.

Today, I unpack my personal journey of navigating this fear. We will drill down into the  impact of this fear on our ambitions. We explore the importance of emotional resilience, the power of self-inquiry, and how to engage with and move past these fears.

By the end of this episode, you’ll gain insight on how to confront your deepest fears and develop the skill to work through this fear for the rest of your life.

This Episode is For You If: 

  • You have ever wrestled with the anxiety of judgment and rejection
  • You’ve ever experienced the fear of ‘what will people think of me?’
  • You’ve been paralyzed by fear of failure
  • You’ve found yourself suppressing your ambitions due to fear of rejection

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Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Transcript:
 Welcome to the Mom On Purpose Podcast. I’m Lara Johnson and I’m here to teach you how to get out of your funk, be in a better mood, and play more with your kids. Manage your home better. Get your to-do list done and live your life on purpose with my proven method. This is possible for you, and I’ll show you how. You’re not alone anymore. We’re in this together. Welcome back to the Mom On Purpose Podcast. I am Lara Johnson, your host, and I am excited to have you here. As always, I hope you really know how much it means to me that you’ve subscribed to this podcast, that you’re listening to this podcast, that you’re able to take some things from it and to be able to apply it in your life. Not only because it means a lot to me because this is the work that I’m doing, but also because. I hope and pray that the things that I am putting out into the world are making a difference. And so, the fact that you’re here today and you come back week after week tells me that something is working. So, it’s, it’s like a very spiritual, almost affirmation, a confirmation of the things that I’m putting out into the world. So, I hope you know that, and I really love and appreciate you. So today we are talking about the, what will people think of me fear? And I find that when I’m coaching clients, when they finally figure out what that purpose is and what they want to move forward on it, this is one of the top fears that come up. So, it’s really fascinating that. Regardless of who it is, regardless of what the dream is, we all have this same fear. Isn’t that fascinating? And so, I wanted to talk about this today and how we actually go about resolving it and share a little bit about how I have resolved this fear in a lot of ways. So, you’ll know this episode is for you is if you’ve ever had the thought, what will people think of me? Or if you recognize that you go to post and then you’re worried about who’s reading the post. So, when you decide to move forward on your dream, you have to start other accounts. And so, it’s other people outside of your family that are reading it, or you’re just very uncomfortable putting yourself out there. You’ll also know that this is for you is if you have thought or have ever had the thought who am I to think I could do this and there’s like a lot of self-doubt that’s also built into this fear or if it feels a little off brand towards other things you’ve been doing. Maybe there’s you’re just being posting about your kids and now you’re posting about mental health or maybe. You are going back to school, and you start posting your floral designs when you’ve never posted anything before, and it just feels off brand to you. And the last one is if you’ve ever had one comment throw you completely off. And then suddenly you feel like you either need to fight back or you completely shut down over this one comment. It could be from a family member, a friend, even a husband or a total stranger. So, these are all examples that I see a lot in my coaching that people have experienced when they come against their what will people think of me fear. Now, I think it’s like I mentioned before, we all have this internal gauge for this fear because of the brains that we have. Our brains are programmed to keep us safe. That is our basic instincts kicking in. So, when this fear comes in, our immediate reaction is we are going to be cast out of the community. Therefore, be alone, therefore not have shelter and food and all of those things. It just feels horrible and life threatening to our brain. So, when we are going online, it’s, it’s like, you know, let me back up. Even a couple decades ago, you might have had this fear because there might be a newspaper that comes out with an article or a church community. That still exists, but now you have online where everybody has a camera and can whip it out at any time, and millions of people can see it. So suddenly, what we were striving for, you know, staying within a community, maybe had been a couple hundred people, maybe just your town in the newspaper. But now it’s millions across the globe have access. So clearly your brain is doing whatever it can to keep you safe and to keep you from being cast out of the world. But when you think about it in those terms, it sounds outrageous, right? Like. There is no way you will never not be cast out when you are looking at the entire population. But your body doesn’t know that, and your body is the one responding to this. So even though logically you may have some other thoughts, physically you are having a different reaction. So, it’s important to recognize what is happening inside of your body and address that as you move towards your purpose. So, I wanted to share a little bit of my experience, like when I. Well, I would say for me, I had always had this thought and I didn’t do a lot of things I wanted to do because of this fear. And I think the first time I recognized it was when I was in college. I had played the French horn all during junior high and high school. And then I went on to college. I was not the best player, and I knew that I wasn’t. The best player I was adequate, and I now believe and now understand my brain on why that is. I do believe I’m dyslexic. I do believe that when I have sensory processing disorder. So, when I’m stressed, when there’s a lot of noise, it’s harder for me to read. It’s harder for me to watch the music anyway at the time. It made a very significant challenge when anytime the tempo, the tempo picked up in the music, and I couldn’t play fast. I remember telling a friend, it looks like the notes are moving. I don’t know why the notes are moving. Do your notes move when you get nervous? I didn’t know what it was. And so, you know, I never did anything with it. Anyway, that’s, you know, sidetrack coming back. When I got to college, I was playing in the marching band, but there was also like the, the university level symphony. And I would have loved to be in there, but they accepted nobody into the marching band at the time. And I was able to get a scholarship for it because again, I said I was adequate. Like they needed people. I had an instrument they needed. I performed well enough. And so, I was able to join, and I had a blast. I had to learn a new instrument. It’s called a mellophone. It’s like an oversized trumpet. So, it’s a marching French horn, and it just allows you to be able to hold the instrument easier when you’re marching. So that was a big challenge, but I really wished that I continued to play the French horn. And so, I knew I would have to try out for the symphony, and I refused to, and I. I just, I couldn’t, I like the fear of messing up or failing of people feeling bad for me. It wasn’t just like, who does she think she is? It’s like, oh my gosh, she’s horrible. Like, like that thought of people could think that about me was so all consuming. So, I didn’t pursue what I actually wanted to pursue. Now, this pattern has continued for many years. And it wasn’t until I was like starting my coaching business as a woman in her thirties, in late thirties at that, where I was able to see that, oh, this is something that I have believed my entire life. And it’s not true. It’s a fear that. That literally every single person has at some point in their life. And I had let this fear stop me from doing so much of what I truly wanted to do with my life. So, I will say that this fear doesn’t go away, but now I recognize when it shows up and I recognize the steps to move forward. So, it no longer holds me back. It is more something like. If it were a kid in the car, it’s not climbing over the seat, trying to grab the steering wheel. It’s like sitting, reading a book in the back, like, you know, once in a while saying, are we there yet? And then going back and like hermiting. So that’s kind of how this, this. So, there’s a couple different things, like I mentioned, that when you are addressing this fear, it’s going to show up in a couple different flavors within your brain. So, the first way that I see this a lot is, is kind of like what I described for myself, that. You’re going to try and you’re going to fail, and people will see that failure will feel very public. So that’s one version of what will people think of me? They will think of me as a failure. The next one is like if you try and you do a horrible job or like people will feel embarrassed for me, like I’m going to embarrass myself. What will people think of me? They’re going to be embarrassed for me. So that’s another flavor of it. The next is if you try something and you look stupid, I remember the first time I really saw this flavor was when I started trying reels for the first time. Now I, we’ve talked about this before. I very much just. And more of an introverted person. And I kept reading about how reels were getting more views and that could bring people to my business. And I was like, I got to do some reels. And so, I danced on a reel. I was like, I have refused to take it down because I want to show myself that like, I was no longer held back by this fear of what will people think of me? Like I did something stupid or something I thought was stupid and I lived. through the experience. So that’s a different flavor of like, I’m going to look stupid. And again, people are going to be embarrassed about me. Okay. And then the last flavor that I see, and I’m sure there’s other iterations. I want you to think about this, you know, in your own brain, but the last iteration So, um, what you’re going to try something people and you won’t know enough and you’ll look ignorant or somebody will have a different opinion than you and they’ll disagree with you. And there’s this fear of like, what will people think of me? They’ll think of me as incompetent or that I know nothing or I, I shouldn’t be doing this. And I, I can’t remember if I’ve shared this on the podcast before, but this was like, this still is like one of my biggest fears about like what people will think of me. They’ll think of me as incapable, incompetent, and you know, if you ever studied the Enneagrams, I am an Enneagram five and that’s like my deepest internal fear that I’ll be incapable. And it’s just kind of fascinating to me to see how often this thought shows up. But when I was moving forward in my business, because I was no longer held back by these fears, I had to confront this very early on. And for me, like when I decided to become a life coach there. There weren’t, there weren’t a lot of options as far as schools go. There aren’t any master programs yet. I believe all of that’s coming and it’s an unregulated industry right now. Again, I believe that’s also coming where there will be more regulations. And so, it was very challenging for me. This is what I decided to do instead of pursuing a master’s program at the time, because it didn’t exist. And so, as I was pursuing this, I had this. Fear that I was going to be like thought of as incompetent because I didn’t have those letters next to my name. And I really, really struggled with that to the point where I finally had somebody. It was like I was brand new in my business. I had somebody that was interested in my program. And I started sharing about the program over email because I didn’t. I had free consultation calls at the time she was just asking questions. I was answering the questions and she came back and asked me like, “How dare you? You are a fraud”. You are like, I saved the email because I knew someday, I would want to go back and see how far I’ve come. Like I was so debilitated by her response. Like you are ridiculous. You shouldn’t be doing this. She lashed out like she didn’t just give me negative feedback or no, thank you. She lashed out and attacked me. Now, I don’t know what was going on in this woman. I’ve never, I don’t remember her name. I’ve never met her. This was all online and I don’t know what, you know, I always try and give people the benefit of the doubt. And I am grateful that the universe brought that experience to me very early on because I had to really confront this deep fear that I have of like, what will people think of me? My very worst-case scenario just happened, and somebody thinks I’m incompetent and incapable and I shouldn’t be doing this and that I’m a fraud. Now, I am so grateful that that experience happened. No, I don’t think we should go around attacking people so they can have life lessons, but I am grateful that this happened in my own life so that I could confront this fear very early on. And so, when I’m talking about this fear, I want you to know that this is real and this will create a very nervous system, physical reaction in your body. I had the worst pit in my stomach. I felt like I was going to throw up. I couldn’t even tell my husband what happened. I was so embarrassed and filled with shame and just thinking like how I like paralyzed for a couple of days before I could even communicate it to my husband. And so, I want you to recognize if this has happened to you in the past and you’ve had those physical experiences. It’s okay. We’ve all been there. But what happens at this point is if you don’t work through that, it will be like a hot stove where your brain was like, oh, you did that once and this bad thing happened. Don’t ever do it again. We’d like to gently invite you to work towards this in some way so that you can help teach your brain and comfort your nervous system as you move forward. So, at this point, I wanted to give you a couple steps on how you can work through this. And the best thing you can do is to first work through this mentally. And then. physically. They’re kind of like going back and forth. So, both of these are going to go back and forth between those two things as we, as we talk about this. And I will say that developing this skill will be a lifelong ability for you. There will continue to be times when this fear comes up. It will be some other different flavor. It will happen. And you can live through it. I promise. So, it’s not a one and done like life lesson. It’s a skill that you keep practicing this skill as you’re moving forward. So the first thing I wanted to mention is when you’re, when you’re working on the skill of working through the fear, the first thing is emotional resiliency. Now, emotional resiliency is I can feel, and process emotion and it won’t kill me. I say that like, because in the middle of a very big one, it will feel like you’re going to die. Now, if once you start feeling that, if you get to the spot where you start scrolling on your phone, you, you know, go online, you start buying a bunch of clothes, you start over drinking, you start Like, I know when I’m feeling a lot of like shame filled emotions, I want to snuggle my kids because that’s my safe place. So suddenly I watch, I’m like watching tons of movies and letting them have all this electronic time because I’m feeling emotions and I’m using them to buffer against it and to feel better for a time. So, what I really had to do was start recognizing that when I feel these emotions, there is a timetable. The more that you practice emotional resiliency, the more you process your emotions, you’ll start learning your timetable for your emotions. I know if it’s like a really big, deep, embarrassed, shame filled experience. I’m going to be deep in it for about four or five days, then I can talk about it, and I can start working through it logically, but I have to feel it first physically. So that’s just to give you an example. You can go back, you know, to some of my earlier episodes where I talk about processing emotions and how to develop that emotional resiliency. So the next one is I want you to actually answer like the fear. What will people think of me? Okay. Well, what will they think of you? Okay. And just allow yourself to answer it. And that’s why I really spent, you know, the first intro where I spent some time, like, I think they’ll think I’m a failure. They’ll think I’m stupid. They’ll be embarrassed for me. They’ll think I’m incompetent. All of these things. I had to really get clear on what it was that. I was afraid people would think of me and then it got really interesting. Okay. So, we’re going to keep going. So, answer the question. The next one is to ask yourself, well, how many people will think that about you? And I remember the first time I asked myself this, I’m like, Oh, how many people would? And my brain was like, everyone. I was like, okay, no, I actually want a number. Tell me how many everyone is. And my brain was like, a thousand people or three. I was like, you know, I’m having these conversations with myself, and I invite you to do the same. Because when you actually ask and just pause, your brain will answer you. And what it says is so interesting. It’s like dealing with a child, like an irrational child. So, at this point I was like, okay, well let’s go with a thousand. Okay. You think a thousand people. Okay. So, thousands of people are going to think that I’m incompetent. And so, I just paused for a second. I’m like, okay, well, how many of those people do I actually care about their opinion? And that one was interesting because at that point, my first thought was. I care about all their opinions. And then I thought, you know, there’s a lot of people in this world that can have whatever thoughts they want. Like there are so many people I don’t like in this world. And it’s okay if I’m not for them either. And then I really sat with it, and I was like, oh, there’s probably, you know, A solid two or three people, those thousands that I actually care about what they think. You know, maybe it’s friends, maybe it’s family. And then I stopped for a second and then I asked myself, am I willing to give up my dream for three people? That’s where it really sunk in. Are you willing to give up your dream? For this person, whoever you’re afraid of, like what the people, you know, the people will think of you, I want you to really ask your brain, how many people, and are you willing to give up your dream for that number of people or for that person? So, once I got there, that’s when I had the biggest, like relief from this fear of like, no, actually, I respect these people. And I will not stop because I know in my body, God is calling me here. And I know in my body, as I’m being called here, that God will take care of the rest. So, I invite you to go through this activity again, practice your emotional resiliency, ask yourself and answer. What will they think of you? Whatever those people are, ask yourself, how many people will think of that? Then, ask how many of those people do you care about their opinion? And then the last one is, are you willing to give up your dream for that person or those few people? All right, there you have it. And if you’re ever to a point where you’re like, you know, I actually want some help working through these fears, especially this one, because you see this as such a deeply ingrained pattern in your life. Go down to the show notes. You can click a link where it says, work with me. You know, there’s my website and it says, work with me, work with Lara. You can click on that and schedule a free consultation, and I am so excited to help you navigate this road. Have a wonderful day. Thank you for listening. Please share, review, and subscribe to this podcast so that together we can live life on purpose.

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