Break Free From The Fear Of What “They” Might Think Of You
Have you ever held yourself back from doing something you wanted to do? Of course! We all have. But what exactly stopped you?
Were you concerned about how other people might react? Were you worried about judgement? Ridicule?
Holding yourself back based on what “they” might think is one of the most powerful ways to stay stuck in shyness. Join Dr. Aziz as he blows a hole through what “they” will think and teaches you how to step up and be more of who you are in the world.
Click below to hear this episode!
Are You Worried About Other’s Judgments?
Hey, welcome to this week’s episode of Shrink for the Shy Guy. Today we’re going to be getting into the core fear that holds so many of us back when it comes to putting ourselves out there, speaking up, being free, doing whatever it is that you want to do in your life what you should be doing if you weren’t held back by any sort of fear or self doubt. Whatever that thing is, there’s a force that’s stopping you. And that force is what they will think and “they” is in quotations here. What they’re going to think of me?
In fact that’s what the name of the show is called Who Cares What They Think. And by the end of the show you’re going to have sense of learning how to let go that fear and how to really be guided by your own internal force rather than outside forces and what you fear other people are going to judge you about. So before we get into that, check out the show on my website ShrinkForTheShyGuy.com because if you go there, not only you can get the show notes and get the transcripts for the show but you can also send me a voicemail directly through the website for free, goes into my inbox and then I can listen to your message and respond to your questions here on the show.
In fact I’m going to be answering a question in a bit on the show that is that’s how someone got a hold on me. You can also call the show hotline at 206-338-3176 and leave a message and I can hear it. Ask me a question, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to respond in the upcoming podcast. This way I’m getting a sense of what you, that’s right, you really want to learn. I’ll respond to your questions absolutely. You can also follow this show for updates at Twitter, go to ShyGuyShrink on Twitter that’s ShyGuyShrink, you can follow the show there and of course Facebook at facebook.com/shrinkfortheshyguy.
So, this big inhibiting force what will they think? Do you do that in your mind? Do you consciously ask yourself what are they going to think or maybe just comes across as attention in your body or a desire to go do something but then stopping yourself feeling restricted? Maybe going so far as to imagine what they’re going to think. You just have this like force field around you that’s keeping you inhibited. And it can inhibit everything, right? It can inhibit not just what you go do if you’re going to go, say dance or sing your apply for that job or whatever.
That’s the big stuff. But it can inhibit how you move. It can inhibit how much you gesture when you talk. What facial expressions you allow yourself to have. I was working with one guy who his face looked like it was sort of frozen in stone. he looked like a statue. And so I said that to him, I said, my friend you look like a statue. And I got into this statue pose just to tease him and play with him and break his pattern a little bit. And sure enough, he smiled in that moment but his smile was kind of tight and restricted.
And there’s so much inhibition in his body because, what are they going to think if I get too wacky with my energy, if I’m too big, if I gesture a lot, if I smile too much. I use my face in the wrong way then they’re going to judge me. And it comes across in all areas, right? Creative endeavors like singing and dancing, sports, even just sharing your thoughts and feelings, sharing what you think like, wow I think you’re really beautiful or I disagree with what you’re saying or you’re losing me in this conversation, let’s talk about something else.
Fear Of Judgment Turns Into Self-Imposed Limits
All that stuff becomes off limits because hey, they might judge you. And I was really struck by the power of this and how early starts in our lives. Not too long ago, I was driving back from somewhere in Southern Oregon with my wife and little baby and we stopped at the park and she could feed him and we took him out of the car because he doesn’t like long stretches. He’s like six months old. And we’re sitting in this beautiful park. It’s a bright sunny day, green grass as far as the eye can see, trees, blue sky and good weather in Oregon when it’s nice, it’s just incredible.
And down way across the other side of the field, I saw a couple of kids playing baseball with their dad. And they were taking turns pitching and their dad was hitting it. And one of the kids was pitching to the other kid at one point. And they’re maybe like I don’t know 10, 11 years old maybe even younger, maybe eight or nine. And one of them threw a pitch and it didn’t even reach the other kid. It just like flubbed into under the ground like two feet in front of him. You know, just ordinary mistake.
And the kid who was holding the bat like puts both his hand up in the air and said what was that? And the kid who done the pitch, you could tell even from really far away, I could see that he like, his shoulders slumped a little bit because attention to people’s body language, right? His shoulder slumped a little bit and he just kind of looked a little deflated and he said, it was a bad pitch, okay? And he’s kind of defending himself, kind of feeling bad about himself. But isn’t that that’s where we’re all worried about, right, is doing something, and someone stopping and saying, excuse me what the hell is that?
You call that dancing? You call that singing? You call that, you know, whatever your chosen profession is, you call that lawyering? You know, whatever it is that you’re worried about showing yourself fully. You call that, you know, how dare you express those feelings. You are attracted to me? Oh my god. Get away from me. Right, that’s what we’re fearing. They are going to judge us. And so what does this lead to? Well this fear leads to what I call the ever shrinking comfort zone.
So that means and I’m sure you’ve this in previous episodes, I’ll give you the 10 second version if you haven’t, your comfort zone is everything you do that feels comfortable. The way you move, the way you talk, what you do, where you go, how you drive to work, what you eat, how much you put yourself out there, it’s your comfort zone. And when you got to do something that’s outside of the comfort zone like maybe walk up and talk to a stranger that you never talked to before or go to a job interview or give a public talk or something, and you feel anxious.
And so when you’re really worried about what they are going think of you and you’re really controlled by this fear? And here’s what happens. You start to avoid the activities that could bring on judgment. So you won’t sing, you won’t dance, you won’t go talk to that person you’re attracted to, you won’t use your voice in compelling ways. You might start to become more of a monotone. Yes I don’t want to express anything that will make people judge me. You won’t make that joke. You won’t be spontaneous and just do something, say something, be a certain way.
And so what happens, is your comfort zone shrinks and shrinks and shrinks and you start to be able to do less and less and fewer and fewer behaviors and then life just sucks. Trust me I’m speaking from personal experience and there’s a point where my life was so constricted, it consisted of going — I was on college that time, UC Santa Barbara, going to class, not interacting with anyone in my classes, just taking notes, going home, playing maybe three or four hours of computer games, War Craft III was a favorite at that time.
Hanging out with my roommate who was a good buddy so at least I had a friend, hey, watching some TV, going to bed and then going to the gym, doing it again, that was my zone. So dancing, talking to new people and making new friends, going to parties, meeting women. No, none of that. All because I was afraid of what are they going to think? So right now in your life how are you inhibiting yourself because you are afraid of what are they going to think. That’s why I’m telling you stories and bringing this up in this first segment so you really get associated to how limited your life can be if you’re controlled by this fear.
So pay attention in your life as you’re listening where am I holding myself back because of what they might think of me? And sometimes it’s not obvious, right? You don’t actually walk around in your head thinking, what are they going to think? You’re just like dance, no I don’t want to, no thanks. No not my thing. Not interested in it. Go apply of that job. No, no, it probably wouldn’t work out anyway so I don’t want to do it, right? You just quickly discount it. So here’s what I want you to do is start paying attention to where you’re doing that and underneath, is there a fear about what they going to think?
So think on that, we’re going to take a brief break and we’re going to get back to getting more into this fear, how it’s controlling your life, how you can to start to break free of it and ultimately how you can go after what you want and be unrestricted by this concern. Talk to you in a second.
Ask The Shrink
Hey welcome back. Now we’re going to get into a question that I received via the website, via the hotline remember, 206-338-3176. Call, leave me a message, I love to hear it. And there’s question in the show that I can answer or maybe just how the show has impacted you, any progress you’re making, I just love hearing that other people out there are learning what I learned and changing their lives for the better. It fills me up with joy and it’s honestly why I do all these stuff.
So leave me a message on hotline 206-338-3176. I got a message the other day from a guy named Anzal and here is what it is I’m just going to, I wrote it down word for word and he said, “Dr. Aziz, I lose confidence and become nervous while meeting people, sometimes even my friends. I always think in my mind whether they’re mocking or teasing me. And then suddenly my face becomes nervous and my thoughts go to other things and I get really distracted. Could you please advise me on how to overcome this, Anzal.”
So Anzal, yes this is a really common problem, in fact it relates directly what this show is about, which is what do they think, what are they going to think of me? And that is what you’re going to when you get nervous around people. And you are concluding and assuming like many of us when we’re shy or anxious that people are going to criticize, judge, mock or tease you. And my guess is in your case Anzal and many of people listening and in my case as well that you might have experienced a lot of this at one point in your life, maybe when you were kid, maybe when you were in middle school, something where you got a lot of this teasing or mocking or judging.
So it’s started to show you in your mind, in your identity, that that’s how people are going to treat you. And these experiences can be really painful and shape us. Well they don’t have to be permanent. And we can’t shift them and it’s like that’s what I help people do all day long. So let’s, let me give you a few things to work with and you can learn how to break free of this. And I think anyone listening can relate to this fear, what if people are going to mock or judge me? So first, the first thing to break free is we have to identify specifically what you imagine they are mocking you for.
We usually don’t go in this far, right? We usually get this into the next step. We’re like, ah they’re going to make fun of m, not going to do it. We never investigate, we never examine, we never explore. So really go into this, in your mind and if you’re listen along to this and you take a situation that just like Anzal’s that applies in your life. Maybe just start in conversation with people you don’t know, maybe it’s walking over and creating an interaction with someone you’re really attracted to. Maybe it’s dancing, maybe it’s singing, maybe it’s putting your art out there and maybe it is going for that job, maybe it’s starting your own business. Whatever it is where you are holding yourself back because you are afraid people are going to criticize, judge, mock or tease you.
If you are a human being on this planet then I’m sure you can think of one area where that’s happening for you. And then ask yourself, what do I imagine specifically, how are they going to mock me? What are they going to comment on? Are they going to mock your clothes, your voice, your appearance, your inexperience, your emotional state like your nervousness, your lack of skill? Really identify it and then write each of these things down on a sheet of paper. So if you’re listening right now, I’d say pause the radio broadcast here.
That’s the beauty of this stuff is you can pause it, right? Go get yourself a sheet of paper, open up a file in your computer. Now, if you’re driving you can’t do that, just do this in your head but it’s much, much, much powerful and effective if you get down on a sheet of paper. Because if is just swimming your head it’s kind of disorienting after while, you’re like where was that thing? What, who, where am I? So once you got this thing down on a sheet of paper, get really specific. They’re going to judge. They’re going to think my voice sounds nasally.
They’re going to think that my shoulders are too slumped. They’re going to see that I’m nervous and they’re going to think I’m weak. Really just find out the specific things you think they’re going to judge you on. Write it down on a paper and step two is to realize that no matter what happen to you in the past, even if someone have told you this many times and really did criticize you when you were kid or even a week ago, right now realize that these judgments are your own judgments about yourself.
Even though you imagine now is what they are going to think? You never really know what people are thinking. And often we just imagine that other people being critical we assume that they’re disapproving of us. But really what we’re doing is we have our judgments and then we’re doing what psychologist called projecting it out onto others. So we imagine it’s in their brains. But it’s really not. And it’s our own judgment. And there’s an ancient African proverb that I learned from Les Brown, it says, “If there is no enemy within, then the enemy without can do you no harm.”
So even though if someone does judge you, if you’re not really judging yourself, it just brushes right up, right? Let’s say you’re walking on the street and some little kid came to you and said you know, “You have pink hair. You have pink hair” and the laughing run off. And let’s say you didn’t have pink hair, you have brown hair. You kind of be like, what a little weirdo, right? So if you are not critical of your pink hair for example then you’re not going to be impacted by. But if you were judging yourself and you’re really susceptible to any judgments of others and you make up a bunch of stuff and put it on other people’s mind.
So in other words, we have to learn how to work with each of these criticisms from our inside of ourselves. So for each thing that you wrote down, practice, challenging it. Simple as that practice challenging it. So let’s say you want to start a conversation with woman and you wrote and thought to yourself, ah I’m terrible, I’m so inexperienced with women, I don’t know what I’m doing, right. And then that thought makes you feel embarrassed or ashamed or nervous. Well how would you challenge that?
Just whatever comes to mind, well, the first thing might be, we;; hey, I’m working on my confidence. This is a process and I’m here to get more experienced and I got to start somewhere eventually I’ll get better. You see how I respond to that? So identify the current criticism and maybe it’s my shoulders are too slumped. My body looks too awkward. How would you respond to that? Think about it for a minute. How would you respond to that? Here’s something that’s fascinating, we always don’t have to fight these thoughts and come up with alternatives.
We can use something called the acceptance paradox which we talked about in the last episode. So if the thought is, man my shoulders are so slumped and I’m unattractive because of it. We’re like well, I have played my fair share videos and so maybe it’s affecting my body but, you know, I’m working on my posture, thanks to the training I got from Dr. Aziz in confidence unleashed. And I am going to just do the best I can with what I got. Right. And so you don’t have to necessarily discount these things.
So for example I used to be really critical of my own appearance especially around the area of my eyes. I thought it looked, I had too much pigmentation and looked to dark. And so instead of saying, no there’s nothing different about my eyes and I just be like, yeah, you know, I have a little more pigmentation than the average white person because I have half Pakistani heritage. But you know what, with that scheme of things, that’s not really going to affect the results that I get in conversations, it’s not kind of make people like me any less.
So regardless of how you respond, the most important thing to do is to respond to each of these criticisms. That’s how you start to deal with this concern. And if you want to go even deeper, you can use something the called the feared fantasy which I love. It’s a really powerful role play. Given the interest of time in the show, I can’t get into it now. But if you get a copy of my book The Solution of Social Anxiety, there’s a whole section in there on how to do the feared fantasy, how to enlist a friend to help do it with you, how to do it in a journal and it involves dialoguing with an imaginary critic who says all these terrible things to you.
And you get chance to practice responding. And every time I’ve done this with someone, we end up laughing at the end because you realize how absurd it would be if someone were to be that critical of a strangers or someone that they don’t know that well. So we’re going to get in the next segment into how to use stuff to really break free of this fear, of what they are going to think of you. So stay tuned we’re going to get back in this one moment and you’re going to learn how to break free.
How To Break Free From The Fear Of What Others Will Think
So you’ve identified, okay there are these areas where I’m holding myself back and I’m worried about what they are going to think. You got clear on what specifically they are going to of you. And maybe you started to realize that a lot of that is your own internal self criticism and that other people are not nearly as judgmental as we are with ourselves. And isn’t that true, isn’t it that every one has a lot harsher with themselves than they are with other people?
But let’s take that one step further. Let me offer you this, who gives a shit what they think? And think about that. I mean I’m not saying in general you don’t care about what anyone thinks of you but that they, that small subset of people who’s going to be really harsh, really judgmental, they’re going to criticize you for everything you do and try. Who are those people that will really judge you? Think about that for a minute. Let’s say you want to do dance. I’ve had a number of clients who are shy and restricted in a way and they wanted me to start dancing more.
And so let’s say you were to just to start dancing somewhere at a party, at the club, in the bar, wherever. And someone in their mind, let’s just say it wasn’t all projection, right? Let’s say someone in their mind actually turn around and look to you and thought, man that guy is loser, look at those stupid dance moves. He looks so awkward and stiff. Man he’s got no rhythm. What a complete and total loser? Okay first of all, what percentage of people are like that guy, that hypothetical guy?
I mean in our minds we think it’s 100% of people but honestly, really who’s going to be that obsessed and critical of someone else? Maybe 10% of the population at best, right? And what’s going on for that person that they need to criticize you and judge you and bury you to feel slightly a better about themselves? That person is miserable. They’re small, they’re restricted. They are so restricted on their own lives. You think that person who’s judging you that much is going to let themselves go out there and dance? Hell no.
They’re completely restricted. They’re stuck in their life. And they’re miserable about it. And they want to just bring every one else down to their level. And this is maybe the bottom 10% of the population, maybe even less. And the question is, do you want to guide your life, base your decisions about what you do and do not do and how you express your true self in the world based upon what the most miserable, unhappy bottom 10% of the population thinks? I certainly hope not. I know I don’t want to.
So think about this, I was talking about this with a client, he was going to a friend of his who was having a party at this club called Holistine here in Portland which is a dance club and they got electronic music and so fort and he never really gone in anything like that because he was worried about dancing, right, people are going to judge me. He’d only danced once to his life. And just like me I don’t know if you know my story but I didn’t dance for 10 years because of some of criticism I got in the middle school. And so he was there and he’s worried about, you know, — so we did the same process and session like what are the specific things, whether they going to think I have no rhythm, they’re going to think I’m off beat. I was like, okay well think about that for a minute. You’re in this club in Holistine like any need club and any places in the world that has a lot of people in it. It’s packed. Think about that in electronic music scene, right?
And if you’ve never been to it, just imagine like a big concert where instead of some playing instruments there is a DJ who is up on high and everyone is sort of worshipping him for delivering bass. And so you’re standing there, if it’s crowded, you’re packed in. It’s kind of dark, maybe there are some lights flickering and some blazers going on. And everyone is sort of facing the DJ and some people are not but for the most part everyone is going to face him forward and everyone is kind of dancing and doing their thing.
And so let’s say you go there, and you start bobbing around to the music. Every one around you is kind of bobbing around too. Now, is there going to be a guy who’s like six people over from you, who is like wait a minute everyone, everyone stop what you’re doing. Look at that guy six people over. He’s slightly off the beat. I mean come on, right? I mean how absurd. First of all, it’s never going to happen and secondly, well how absurd and pathetic it is? It doesn’t someone’s doing it, that is what someone is judging you for.
So the key here is you realize that this stuff, you don’t want to base your life based upon these small subset and miserable people. But the reality is you probably rarely going to encounter someone like that. The reality is it’s just all in on your mind. It’s your own self-criticism, it’s you’re inner critic that’s trying to prevent you from doing something that might lead to you feeling embarrassed or hurt or rejected. And what you got to do is the way out is through and that brings us to your actions step for today.
Actions step is to just do it. Fuck it. Just do it, find that one thing that you are inhibiting yourself on because of what they will think and then just take the plunge, take a deep breath in, find your courage, dig deep and just do it. And then do another thing. And then do another thing. If you’re worried it’s going to be embarrassing, do it anyway, that’s great because it’s embarrassment inoculation. If you’re worried that you’re going to get rejected, that’s great because if you get rejected, that’s rejection practice. You learn how to strengthen yourself and handle it and grow.
You can’t lose. The only way you can lose is by inhibiting and not trying. So if you want to go dance somewhere, go dance. Wiggle your arms. Get crazy. Realize that it is all in your head. It’s all in your mind that no one is going to be judging you in the way that you think that they’re going to judge you. And so the only way to really convince yourself of that and see that that’s true and that’s just me saying that to try to inspire you but it’s actually the reality that you will experience because you got to practice as you got to go try it, you got to do it on your own.
So that’s your action step, is find that one thing that you’ve been holding back on because of what they are going to think and then do it. And if you’re like, oh I can’t, it’s what are they going to think. Find that courage. Dig deep. What kind of life do you want to live? Do you want to be able to dance, sing, express yourself, be who you are, live the life that you’re meant to live, give what you’re meant to give, live out your purpose here or do you want to be eek by trying to not displease anyone and just satisfy lowest come denominator miserable people and just, you know, eek through life?
God I hope not. And if you’re listening to this show and if you’ve made it this far then I know deep down inside you don’t want that for yourself that you want to live fully, brightly and be all of yourself. So take that risk preferably immediately after listening to this show because the faster you take action, the more you’re going to get that result. So take that action. Do that thing that you’ve been holding back because you’re afraid of what other people are going to think and let me know the results.
Send me a message through the website ShrinkForTheShyGuy.com, I love to hear about how it goes for you. You can also email me at as well. So thank you so much for listening. I’m excited to share with you more in the next episode, we’re going to get in to something that’s build on this which I call the world is a friendly place. And we’re going to learn about some of your assumptions about what you think of a strangers and people you don’t know very well. And just how off those assumptions might be.
Until we speak again. May you have the courage to be who you are, and to KNOW that you awesome.
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