How to deal with the fear of 'What will THEY think'
We, as humans, are hardwired to care about what others think. We are hardwired to look for approval and acceptance because without approval and acceptance there is no belonging, as Brene Brown says- without belonging there is always suffering. And back in the olden days without belonging there was definite death (no tribe, no security= eaten by a bear). Now that we no longer need to pretend that we are different and we do not feel that way let’s delve a little deeper into this fear and look at some practical ways we can deal with it
Welcome to our #motivationmonday
As you know we have a boutique in the west of Ireland and over the years we have dressed a lot of women. We love helping women pick out outfits, whether it’s for a special occasion or for work. We have a good few years of experience now and often we recommend garments to our customers, based on their body time and colouring that they might never pick of the rail themselves. We had loads of success stories where women are amazed at how great they look when they step out of the fitting room, they feel great, their confidence takes a huge leap, they buy the outfit and walk out of the shop with a huge smile on their faces looking forward to the day when they will be able to wear their new purchase. However, more often than we would like to see women step out of the fitting room, they look great, they admit they look great but they are too scared to commit. They want to take pictures and send them to their friends, they want to come back with their sisters or their daughters, and they ask if they can bring it back if their husbands don’t like it…. Do you recognize yourself in any of the scenarios? It’s ok if you do, it's normal. This is what we call ‘fear of what will THEY think’. By ‘THEY’ we mean- sisters, friends, spouses, work colleagues, etc etc
It is normal because we, as humans, are hardwired to care about what others think. We are hardwired to look for approval and acceptance because without approval and acceptance there is no belonging, as Brene Brown says- without belonging there is always suffering. And back in the olden days without belonging there was definite death (no tribe, no security= eaten by a bear). Don’t believe people who say that they do not give a s**t about what others think. That is neurologically impossible and not true. The best we can hope and aim for is not caring about what certain people think. Those ‘certain people’ include but are not limited to:
People on social media that you have not seen in years and have no real connection to
So-called friends who do not enrich your life and only make you feel crap about yourself
People who never take any risks but always reserve the right to shred to pieces those who do
People who are ‘always right’
This is obviously easier said than done. You can tell yourself all you want that you don’t care about those people’s opinion when you post a picture of yourself all dressed up on social media, whose disapproval you are fearing the most? You know your near ones and dear ones will ‘like’ it, what about the rest of the world? What will THEY think?
Now that we no longer need to pretend that we are different and we do not feel that way let’s delve a little deeper into this fear and look at some practical ways, we can deal with it
Understand that this fear comes from your survival instinct. It’s what life coaches call RESISTANCE. When we try to step out of our comfort zone, in any area of our lives, the survival instinct kicks in. Our subconscious mind thinks:
- Hang on a second! That’s new! We never tried this before, we do not know what results we might expect from this endeavor, therefore, it must be not safe. RETREAT!!!!! Back to our old baggy black trousers and supermarket blouse. It's not much but at least we know exactly where we stand and what we might expect! Back to our comfort zone!
What happens then is your subconscious mind starts throwing up all these fears and doubts in order to stop you from leaving your comfort zone, the safety of familiarity- the good old you.
If you decided to ditch old, unflattering style and step into your light with something that looks good and makes you feel pretty again, don’t let those fears stop you. Acknowledge them and accept them for what they are- resistance to change. It is absolutely normal and you are safe to proceed. If you wish you could even thank your subconscious mind for looking out for you and trying to keep you safe, but you are good, you look smashing and you’ve got this!
Keep your focus on the results
Instead of jumping into the rabbit hole with the doubts and fears about what will other people think, concentrate on how this new look makes you feel about you. You know that feeling when you step out of the fitting room and look at yourself in the big mirror and suddenly you feel couple inches taller. You lift your head, straighten your back and you do a little twirl to see yourself from every angle. A little smile creeps in and you feel light as a butterfly. Maybe you want to do a little dance. That’s it! That is the feeling you need to hold on to. Every time you find yourself doubting your choice and allowing the fear of other people’s opinion creeping in change your thought pattern. Concentrate on the positive feeling you had when you were wearing that outfit, raise your spirit and proceed. You’ve got this! Your opinion of you is the most important! If you feel that you look good you will look good, because there is nothing more beautiful than a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and her clothes- a confident woman!
Confidence always follows
The truth about confidence is that it never leads- it follows. Confidence is not something we are born with, it is something we learn, practice and work on- it is a skill. That means that you can learn it too. Have you heard the saying- jump and the safety net will appear? It might sound a bit woo woo but it is actually based and real research. We must take the leap of faith first in order to gain confidence. Not the other way around. We get more confident with practice. Think back to when you started driving. You had to get in the car and start, slowly with good guidance, but you had to start. Think back to the day when you took the car out on your own for the first time! How confident did you feel? I know I lost a couple of pounds in sweat alone by the time I reached my school car park. Now, 20 years later, I don’t even think about it. Driving is in my blood, it's automatic, it’s a skill I worked on and perfected until it became part of me. Confidence in your appearance works the same way. Take the leap! Wear that outfit that is ‘so different from what you normally wear’ and the confidence to wear more of them will follow. Trust me, before you know it, the ‘new stylish you’, will no longer be ‘new’, it will be who you are and how everyone knows you. Getting dressed in the morning, or shopping will be easy, no sweat required!
If you are still unconvinced let's deal with it like pros. In her book ‘How to be yourself: Quiet your inner critic and rise above social anxiety” Ellen Hendriksen, Ph. D. recommends 3 step process in dealing with such fears to deflate the anxiety about the unknown and rationalize your way out of it.
1. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen
2. Ask yourself how likely it is that the worst thing will happen
3. Think, how you might deal with it if the worst thing did happen
Let’s look at an example. You choose a wonderful dress for your companies Christmas party. You think it is beautiful and elegant and kind of sexy, but it is very different from the usual, cap sleeve, knee-length dark colour, blend in the crowd type of dress you normally wear. As the date of the party is getting closer and closer the old pattern of thought starts up again. You start worrying about what your colleagues will think. What will all those glamorous colleagues say when they see you- will they start whispering behind your back? Will they say- look at her! What is she wearing? Who does she think she is? Who is she trying to impress? What about your boss- will you lose credibility with the management because serious professionals do not ‘waste’ their time caring about how they look! And down the rabbit hole, we go. Before you know it, you are returning your beautiful new dress to the store and digging out your last year’s dress hoping no one remembers it (which they probably don’t) So before you rush back to the store for full cash refund let’s do the exercise below:
1. The worst thing that could happen is all of the above- criticism from colleagues, becoming center of evening gossips, losing credibility with management
2. The likelihood that all of the above will happen! Quite slim! Think about it! Most people will be too busy chatting and having fun or networking to pay much attention to what you are wearing. In general, people are most concerned with their own issues and their own agendas give anyone else more than a glance and a nod. Remind yourself that mean girls pointing fingers and whispering only really happens in bad Hollywood movies. This is the real world. However, if you do look as amazing if you originally felt (and you probably do because the initial reaction is normally intuitive and correct) remember this:
“Dress shabbily and they will remember the dress, dress impeccably and they will remember the woman” Coco Channel
3. Let’s say it did happen, the room went totally silent when you walked in and everyone’s eyes were on you! What could you do to deal with such a situation? Possible solutions:
- Arrange to meet a friend in the lobby so you can walk in together
- Keep your phone in one hand. That way you can diffuse the anxiety by distracting your old unconfident self by scrolling through Facebook feed while you walk to your table avoiding direct eye contact
- Read our blog post on ‘How to accept compliments’
- Hit the dance floor. You will raise your endorphin (happiness hormone) levels and avoid answering too many questions about your stunning dress.
- Have a glass of champagne (a little Dutch courage never hurt anyone. The keyword here being ‘a little’)
Go armed with all or some of these solutions feel confident that should the worst-case scenario happen you have a decent way to deal with it. Now go on, have fun and trust me when I say, it does get easier with practice.