Why Am I So Afraid of Being Myself?
The fear of making a fool out of yourself is one of the most common fears people have.
- Why am I afraid of looking foolish?
- Why do I care if other people think less of me?
- Why can’t I just let my guard down and be myself?
These are all valid questions. The truth is, your fear might never go away completely, but there are ways to make it so you don’t feel as scared or embarrassed when you mess up while in public.
As a general rule, social anxiety is the reason why you are afraid to make a fool of yourself. People with social anxiety have intense fear or anxiety around other people because of a fear of being judged or embarrassing themselves in some way.
In this article we will discuss some helpful tips for overcoming your anxiety about making a fool out of yourself.
(*Note: We all know social anxiety can be hard to manage. This book on Amazon is the best I have found to deal directly with the problem.)
What Is the Fear of Making a Fool of Yourself?
Fear of being embarrassed comes down to what we call “self-presentation.” It’s our protective mechanism that evolved to avoid premature death from being eaten by predators.
Imagine if you were working in a job where your boss got all up in your business yelling at you and shouting at you or calling you an idiot for mistakes, even though there were other people around.
Imagine if this happened everyday.
You would feel exhausted, humiliated, and hate walking into work every day. You would have increased feelings of insecurity which can also trigger anxiety and the freeze response.
This is what it’s like to live with social anxiety. Your perception is that the world is like that angry boss, and it sets you up to feel afraid of making a fool of yourself, no matter what you do.
Why Do People Have the Fear of Making a Fool of Themselves?
Some people can’t handle any sort of criticism and will avoid anything that could result in their being ridiculed or embarrassed.
They may not be sure of themselves or may feel inferior to those around them. People like this tend to do everything possible when faced with embarrassment–rewrite history, deny responsibility, blame someone else–to keep from being embarrassed further.
Some people’s fears of appearing foolish are also likely the result of early life experiences that led to feeling ridiculed or humiliated. When put in a situation with the potential for it to happen again, the old memories are triggered, leading to the inability to relax or not care so much.
How Does the Fear of Making a Fool of Yourself Affect You?
When you are anxious about what others will think, it causes you to engage in behaviors that reduce your anxiety.
This can sometimes mean compensatory behaviors like lying or avoiding rather than speaking up or facing challenges head-on.
Free Training: "Conversation Advice for Overthinkers"
Check out this free training offered by the experts at Social Pro Now!
- How to use "Conversational Threading" to avoid awkward silence
- The proven way to get past boring small talk
- Instantly beat self-consciousness with the "OFC-method"
- Busting the myth that you have to get a "more interesting life" to be more interesting"
The anxious person is often less effective at communicating and is less accepted by those around them.
This reinforces the importance of working on getting over this fear. It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy that the fear of being a fool kind of turns you into one.
How Do you Get Over the Fear of Making a Fool of Yourself?
Making a fool of yourself is just part of being human. The more you care about what people think, the more dependent on them you’ll be for how fulfilled and happy you feel.
In essence, it’s letting other people decide how happy you will be. Do you really want to hand over the source of your happiness to other people?
The best thing to do is conquer your fear by taking action anyway and then seeing what happens when you do the thing you are most afraid of.
This is also known as exposure therapy or “social mishap therapy” as discussed by Ed Barton in his Youtube video about this topic.
In Ed’s video that you can view below, he describes how he gets over this fear of making a fool of himself by deliberately doing the things he fears.
- If he is afraid of rejection, then he would deliberately ask a stranger for a large sum of money in order to get them to say no.
- If he is afraid to be the center of attention, then he would lie down in the middle of a busy street for several minutes so that people stare at him.
- If he is afraid of inconveniencing others, he would return an item to the store for no good reason.
The point of all of this is to show his brain that nothing catastrophic happens if he does actually make a fool of himself.
How Do You Get Over Making a Fool of Yourself?
What other people think about you is not your problem. The only thing that matters is what YOU think of yourself and what YOU project to the world.
I know what you’re thinking though: it’s one thing to know intellectually that you shouldn’t care what other people think. It’s quite another to just let it go.
In fact, the old advice to “just not care what people think” is really a terrible thing to say to anyone with social anxiety.
It’s like, gee why didn’t I think of that before? I’ll just stop caring if I do something awkward or people react badly to something I’ve done.
I know that you desperately want to be liked and accepted, and making a fool of yourself seems like one step closer to certain social alienation.
But here’s the thing: being human means making mistakes. And caring about how you come across to others is completely human.
So the next time you do make a fool of yourself, don’t ignore it. Acknowledge it and let others know that you can find the humor in a situation.
For example, if you do something that’s particularly embarrassing, share what happened with your friends. Chances are they were thinking about it too… and now you’ve given them the permission to tease you about it together!
Even if you are more reserved, finding humor in a mistake can help keep things from getting too serious or self-conscious. Plus, laughing at yourself shows others that you’re able to recognize what went wrong without taking it too seriously. Which can help others feel safer when they do make a mistake themselves.
Why Am I So Afraid of Being Myself?
Humans are social animals with an innate need to associate and belong, a trait that has been strengthened through evolution. Therefore, it’s only natural for humans to want to be accepted by the masses – which is where the fear of being yourself comes in.
From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes perfect sense why we might feel so drawn toward social acceptance. One’s ability to survive and put food on the table would depend upon their ability to work and get along with others if they were living in cave times.
Some of that fear may come from the inaccurate notion that other people can only like you if you’re being who you think they want you to be.
However, when someone comes across as genuine or puts their authentic self out there, people actually feel good about themselves because they’ve been able to connect with them on a deeper level.
So while it’s true that not everyone will call you up a month later and want to be friends, the right people will be drawn to you when you are being yourself.
Related Posts about the Fear of Judgment
- 5 Tips to Manage the Fear of Being Judged
- 41 Things to Never Say to a Person with Social Anxiety
- 14 Inspiring TED Talks about Social Anxiety