This is Why You’re Afraid
This is Why You’re Afraid:
The scariest part about this life is that it will pass by whether you choose to participate in it or not. You can chase dreams or settle, you can work on something you love or something you hate, you can freeze due to fear or act in spite of it – the time will pass all the same.
Lately, I’ve had many conversations through text, over coffee, via Zoom about the pursuit of ambitions, and one thing comes up over and over again. It’s the same thing that stops most people from doing what they really want to do. It’s the same thing which used to stop me from genuinely being myself.
Every single person mentioned that they were afraid of what other people thought.
Some of them said they wouldn’t do the thing because they didn’t want to be judged. Others said they could never do the thing because of what genuine strangers would say and think.
There seems to be a genuine fear of the opinions of people we do not know. We’re afraid of this hypothetical. It feels like it might stem from social media – because now everyone can see everything you do, and so this extends the bounds of judgement.
But that’s only a symptom of a more embedded issue. No opinion, or number of opinions, can affect you if you successfully internalize your sense of value. However, many people seek their value externally, through the validation they receive from other people, and I think this is where the real issue lies.
If there is something you wish to do, and your locus of value is internal – meaning that you only look to your own opinion of yourself for validation – then the words of other people, especially strangers, will mean very little to you. When your own opinion is the only one that matters, then what you decide to do will only be validated by what you think of your own behaviour.
On the other hand, you will be petrified to do anything when your locus of value is external to yourself. You will fear the fallout regardless of any decision you make. Because it is impossible to gain approval from everyone, and because we tend to only focus on the negative feedback, you will be miserable even if a single person reacts negatively to what you are doing when you outsource your self-worth.
Taking risks is part of life. You get rewarded more for taking reasonable risks than you do for taking none at all. It is natural to fear judgement, but it is irrational to be petrified by it. If you are afraid of the potential of judgement, you’ll always play it safe.
People who do not know you will judge you harshly in singular moments. Then they will move on and forget about you moments later.
Nobody is thinking about you as much as you believe they are.
How often do you think about me or anyone else? How often do you sit in your room and waste your precious minutes thinking judgemental things about me? And even if you do, I will never know, and so it is irrational for me to even care to begin with. But the chances are, you don’t do this. Rather, you sit and think about yourself, and how the situations you find yourself in is affecting you. And this is what everyone does – wee think about ourselves far more frequently than we think about other people. So if you’re worried that people are judging you, Occam’s Razor would suggest they are not.
Life is going to pass by no matter what you do. Don’t let the fleeting thoughts of judgemental people you will never truly know be the reason between you living your life and you simply existing.
It’s easy to exist, and to go through the motions. It’s also very easy to live. The only thing stopping you from doing the latter is your fear.
I also write a Substack