Navigating the Fear of Other People's Opinions

 
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I'm guessing that you may have heard of the phrase FOMO or the fear of missing out. Maybe it was a picture on social media or a passing comment or a celebration you couldn't make - the feeling is REAL - especially with social media at our fingertips. 

It's that anxious feeling you get when something exciting is happening somewhere else and you’re not included. Cue the wild storytelling about what it all means. 

There's another variation. FOPO. And I have a feeling you've experienced it too. Maybe even more than FOMO.

FOPO is the fear of other people's opinions, a phrase coined by Dr. Michael Gervais, sport psychologist and founder of the Finding Mastery Tribe and Finding Mastery Podcast (one of my FAVS!!).

He believes it's one of the most pervasive fears of our time. 

And, I couldn't agree more. 

I've felt it in my own life and seen it in the work I’ve done with my clients.

The fear of judgement - perceived or real - is the common denominator of so much stress + anxiety + paralysis.

Causing too many of us to dim our lights - and stay stuck in a box that’s too tight. Living our lives - striving to win over the approval of others. 

My front when I was wearing my armor — I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks.

Except, I cared deeply.

Taking off the armor and rumbling with the reality that I couldn’t earn a 100% in the approval arena was not easy for this recovering perfectionist - not because I thought I was perfect, rather because I gave myself no room to fall short of other people’s expectations. 

Ever.

What I've realized -- that level of proving + striving + earning approval from everyone is not sustainable or achievable. 

So why was I wasting so much time and energy worrying about other people’s opinions - trying to control something I couldn’t?

Long story short, I was constantly looking outside of myself to feel fulfilled. To feel worthy. If I just earned enough, achieved enough - If I just got everyone to believe I was enough, then I’d feel it.

What I know now. It simply doesn’t work that way.

For the past five years, I've been wrestling with these questions - digging into the research, reflecting on my own journey and trying to gain clarity on what the space in between the I-don't-give-a-shit-what-people-say and FOPO paralysis looks like.

So, what does the middle ground between look like? How do we get there?

The reality is,

If we cut ourselves off from all feedback, we cut ourselves off from connection + growth. 

But, if we open up too wide — we are left feeling exposed, raw, beat up, exhausted and unworthy. 


While I haven’t found any easy, straight cut answers that land us squarely in this space between, I’ve learned a lot.

About judgement, storytelling, feedback, and what’s really underneath our fears.

 
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There is power in separating who we are from what we do. 

Yes, we are responsible for our behaviors. And. We are human.

The thing is, we are going to fall short + fall. We are going to disappoint others - and fall short of their expectations.

People are going to have opinions about who we are and how we operate in the world. And, that’s just it.

Their opinions are about THEM. And how they see the world.

We will fall and fail. That doesn't mean we are failures.

We will make mistakes and bad choices. That doesn't mean we are bad. 

So, how do we stay open to connection and growth?

For me, it comes down to asking a series of questions:

Who is in the arena with me? Who has earned the right to give me feedback? What’s their motivation for sharing?

Why am I seeking their feedback?

And at the end of the day, I’ll ask myself:

Did I show up in alignment with my values?

Did I do my best? 

Taking the time to ask these questions can release the grip of FOPO. 

Truth? Sometimes the answers have been yes and my actions were still not enough.

I AM though. There's a difference. A powerful one. 

The bottom line - we're not going to make everyone happy all the time. Learning how to sift through feedback AND learning how to cope with other people's disappointment and judgement is big work.

And, it's work we don't need to do alone. 

I believe in you.

 
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I'd love for you (and your friends) to join me in a the Power of Gratitude - 30 Day Gratitude Challenge. It's free. And, I've made you a pretty badass logbook as a way of saying THANK YOU for being part of this growing community. Truly.  

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Samantha Arsenault Livingstone is an Olympic Gold Medalist, high-performance professional, transformational speaker and mother of four girls. She is the founder of Livingstone High Performance, LLC. and the Rise Free Academy. 

Samantha helps female athletes, coaches and women who lead, to cultivate the habits, mindset and skill set needed to quiet the noise and unapologetically step into their light so they can achieve AND feel fulfilled along the way.

Samantha also helps organizations, teams, and groups identify ways to support, empower, educate and equip their coaches, parents and athletes with the tools, skills and shifts needed to cultivate high-performance (achievement AND fulfillment). 


A mama of heart warrior and mama of twins, Samantha and her husband, Rob, live in the Berkshires with their four girls.