Community,  Self Talk

When You Fear What Others Think

For most of my life, I suffered from PTSD and one of my biggest triggers was disapproval from others. It wasn’t until my late 40s that I realized how emotionally crippled this made me. I was 45 before I got the help I needed through a mental health professional. As I got better in this area of my life, I became bolder in my writing. I stopped worrying about what others thought. 

This blog post is hardly a cure-all (in fact, if anxiety is ruling your life, please see a mental health professional). But it will give some suggestions on how to weaken the fear of others’ approval. 

Work up the courage to tell one person about your writing. (If you don’t have anyone in real life to help you with this, join our Facebook group and tell us! We’d love it!) 

Watch where your mind is going. You can replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Once I realized how negative I spoke to myself, I tried to make a conscious habit to stop. The more I practiced this, the easier it became. 

Focus on writing about the things that make you happy. Writing can be therapeutic. In addition to writing out what’s causing you pain, you can also “lose yourself” in a story. The work of creativity often dislodges the fear of others and you’ll feel better after your done. (Even just 10 minutes of writing can be effective!) 

Distinguish between being embarrassed and being ashamed. Ask yourself what it is you’re worried about someone saying about your writing. Are you worried someone will mock you? Or are you afraid your specific ideas are stupid? Consider the specifics of what it is you fear: Embarrassment? Shame? Then write for 10 minutes about why you think this.

Look at others who have creative hobbies. Perhaps even ask them why they still practice their art if others thought badly of them. Make a note of where they get their courage. Write about this conversation for 10 minutes and ask why can’t you be just as courageous?

Admit that this fear isn’t helping — it has the potential of harming you. This could be a tough move but write about the damage that fear has caused you in the past. Then write about the times that you were especially brave and how that made you feel.

Pay attention if you are hyper-focused one little flaw or mistake. We all fail. WE ALL FAIL. And if you dare not go forward because you think that your typos or sentence fragments or comma abuse makes you a bad writer, then you haven’t met many editors lately. (They get paid to fix the mistakes all writers make. Catch that? All.) 

“Practice” being confident. Even if you aren’t. Back when I was riding with the training wheels of my new confident life, I would pretend that I was fearless. I would “act” as nothing bothered me like I didn’t have a care in the world like there was nothing that could harm me. I have to say that I really liked this feeling! I found that it didn’t take much for me to kick those training wheels off and to be confident all the time. 

Practice spontaneity. Every once in awhile, do something unexpected, something unlike what you would normally do, like sing out loud at work. Or, wear something a little garish, or dye your hair. When you are finished doing it, pay attention to what others say. More than likely, they will notice less than you think they will. And those that applaud your efforts? They should be your new best friends.

Stand like Wonder Woman. This is not a joke. Try it. It works. 

I truly believe that my success in overcoming this fear was part of the benefits of therapy, part of removing abusive people out of my life, and part of me seeing how destructive fear can be. It feels so good to just be myself and not worry about what others are thinking. 

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.