Why Do We Fear What Others Think Of Us?

Disney Story

I’ve been bothered recently. Bothered about my the About Me page on my website and how I present my ‘story.’ Your equivalent may be your CV or Bio.

Mine feels a bit Disney.

Because I don’t have a typical ‘happy ending’ after the roller-coaster business ride I’ve been on, I’m concerned I may present stories in a way to make me look good. I guess that’s what we’re all conditioned to do when it comes to selling ourselves; but it’s leaving me a little dis-satisfied. I always thought I’d wait to be wholeheartedly transparent when I was in a position of ‘success’ again. I knew I’d never cope lacking vulnerability forever. It’s just not how I’m wired.

But surely not yet?

After all what fool goes about talking about the mistakes they made, when they need to put food on the table for their family.

I don’t really want to share my weaknesses and my failings, because when people share the real stuff, they make themselves vulnerable.

When I make myself vulnerable, I risk being trampled on.

But.
I.
Keep.
Reaching.
Uncomfortable.
Full.
Stops.

Gandhi was happy to be vulnerable and trampled on.
Martin Luther King was happy to be vulnerable and trampled on.
Jesus was happy to be vulnerable and trampled on.

And that’s why I’m bothered.

Three of my ‘favourite dinner guests’ would no doubt challenge me. They may say that it’s in the process of letting go; of losing your life that you find it. And even now, I realise that they probably weren’t happy to be vulnerable and trampled on. I think they were just prepared to be. The level of trampling they would have faced, puts my little old emotions in perspective.

If I had dinner with them, I think I’d draw boldness from their strength and example and rise to the challenge. I wont get dinner. But I can read their words. And I have.

And the full stops keep getting stuck at the back of my throat.

And.
It.
Bothers,
Me.

A few years ago, when I went bankrupt and lost my business, I’d have found life too raw to talk too vulnerably. I was in emotional lock down and I’d have needed people’s approval too much. I would have been writing to garner sympathy, forgiveness or simply to justify myself.

But now, I am excited to descend and let go.
To let go of the need for other people’s approval.
To let go of the need to maintain my ego.

Perhaps I’m not excited. But I’m prepared to let go and embrace vulnerability.

I could absolutely rationalise away the reasons why it’s good and important to present yourself in a certain light. I’ve been doing that for some time. People don’t need to know about your mistakes. It may affect your future work. People judge on first impressions.

Equally I could say to myself, people don’t care about my ‘About me’ page. Writing a post like this is ‘incredibly self indulgent.’ And that may well be true.

But as my friend Jacob recently pointed out; stand in the middle of your city at rush hour for 5 minutes and watch the throngs of people walking by.
They each have stuff going on in their heads.
Their stories.
Their lives.
Their struggles.
Their little corner of the world.

Others may not care about my ‘About me’ page, but they care about their own.

And I care about mine.
My story.
My life.
The life I live with my family, my friends and those around me.

And I have to be the same person wholeheartedly if I’m going to have anything to truly offer others in my thinking.

‘Don’t put your trust in walls, cause walls will only crush you when they fall’.
Ray Lamontagne

For me, I’m choosing to live lighter, more freely with open arms and a heart released from the trappings of fear.

I’ll start by re-writing my ‘About Me’ page over the coming days. And for future blog posts I’ll write what I feel will benefit other people, even if it puts me in an un-favourable light. There’ll be wisdom applied i.e. I wont write content that could hurt others or are other people’s stories to tell. But I’ll certainly choose to no longer hide behind my own shame and fear.

Excitedly I’ll stumble on with a lighter skip in my step…

So let’s get away from talking about myself and throw a few questions back at you?

Are you comfortable in your own skin? And in your online digital skin?
Are you afraid of what people think of you?
What’s the worst thing you’d hate others to know? Is there a chance that by speaking it out to the relevant people, you’d be releasing it of the power and the hold that it has over you?

I’ve not got the answers, and I’m not even sure if what I’m proposing is a good idea. But I want to let go and relax into myself more. I want to be at ease and not let fear win the battle in my life. No doubt it may still win the odd fight, but let’s limit it to that.

Fear and shame have had their day.

Full.
Stop.

You’re journey is a different one; no doubt full of your own remarkable twists and turns. Many beautiful and some painful. If you want to or feel the need to, I’d love to invite you to share and to let go.

And here in my little corner of the world, I’m deeply interested in your story, and I’d love to hear it. Regardless of whether it’s got a Disney ending or not.








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7 thoughts on “Why Do We Fear What Others Think Of Us?

  1. Love it Caleb! Really inspiring. Challenges me on areas where i need to be more ‘me’…. The fear of being accepted gets in the way so much. But i know i love people and listen to people who are totally themselves, thats who i want to be and they are the people who are always the inspirations in my life and work. A brilliant reminder. Thank you.

    • Thanks Pips. Absolutely- the need to be more ‘me’ is such a huge challenge…I love that Oscar Wilde quote- ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’ I’m really excited to throw out the fear of other people- but to live humbly and passionately and comfortably in my own skin and circumstances. You’re so right that people we find inspiring are totally themselves. Even if you disagree with their viewpoint, there’s a spirit about them that’s more than a little bit contagious! Thanks Pips x

  2. Great post. I always struggle with ‘about’ pages too. We’re told they’re important, but it’s so hard to find that balance between genuine and self-congratulatory.

    I think we all try to tweak our personal narrative so we feel like we’re coming out on top at any given moment, and I think that’s a necessary part of getting out of bed each morning. Luckily, I don’t think being comfortable with who you are and having goals and changes you’re working towards are mutually exclusive.

    • Absolutely Robin. I love the idea of holding in balance: ‘being comfortable in your own skin whilst having goals to grow and develop’. I fully agree that they’re not mutually exclusive. I’m learning not to tilt too far into one area at the expense of another. For instance becoming too ‘complacent’ (being comfortable) or becoming being too driven (having the goals).

      Clearly, they work well together, but that for me is where I find the challenge. More importantly, I’m learning to be kinder and recognise my humanity, when I do tilt to unhealthy areas of either.

      Thanks Robin- found that really helpful.

  3. I too find the ‘About Me’ page a difficult one to write. There is a question of who is it for how much do I want to reveal. For me the professional ‘About me’ page is one about my ‘act’ not necessarily my true self. I’m thankful that there are friends and family in my life that do know ‘About me’ who I don’t have to present a professional image too. Totally agree though that in all situations the ability to let go of the need to appear successful and the ability to be vulnerable and tell the full story is the key to authentic communication of yourself and your journey….

  4. Thanks Caleb. I was thinking about a similar topic the other day myself. Katie and I went to see Jill Scott perform and she sang with such truth from the depths of her soul, raw for all to see that she broke down in tears at the end of a song. I don’t know whether I could do that. I am also reminded of the classic Hemingway quote, ‘Writing is easy, just sit down with a pad and pen and bleed.’ The truly great artist were honest in a way I’m not sure I ever could. They were honest to the detriment of their lives. These are unformed thoughts, but these combined with your blog are challenging me. Thanks for sharing Caleb, I enjoy honesty.

  5. Well done! On a number of counts: for having an extremely readable blog, for posting on things that matter like this and also a big well done for posting an honest bio! If you read a thousand bios you read a thousand success stories! One would think that the attrition rate in business is zero!!!

    I have not been part of a business that has failed but I have been very, very close and of course at that point, when you have the revenue knocking on the door for £100K in unpaid PAYE, or when you’re invoicing twice per week so that the invoice factors can keep you afloat, the difference between a failed and a successful business boils down to sheer luck. For instance if you had set your business up a few years earlier you may well have ridden the storm and now be a captain of industry.

    There is an appalling amount of media sycophancy around ‘successful Entrepreneurs’ that actually is quite sickening bearing in mind the day-to-day reality of business. So they worked really hard, so what? We all do! Everyone in business should be forced to read ‘Fooled by Randomness’ by Nassim Taleb before they are allowed to operate! Rant over, 🙂 thanks for listening…

    As to how far to go opening up in our bios, the fact is that nobody (with any sense) should want to hear about the success stories. Everyone actually wants to know what to do in order ‘not to fail’ because failure, as you point out in this post, is what everyone fears. Reason is that as most of us identify with our public persona ‘failure is the worst thing that could possibly happen’. That view is normal, but of course it is also insane.

    There are a number of ‘mentors’ that have stellar success stories but when it comes down to it, success can all be accounted for by randomness, yet anyone would think from reading the media that successful people are also special people. This sort of nonsense is one of the many reasons why people hide or gloss over their failures, successful business people no less.

    There is simply not enough focus on the important thing, which is in my view, making the process of building businesses sane. It needs to be sane for the founders, the staff and the customers and most important of all, smaller businesses need to grow to help rebuild our shattered communities that the likes of Amazon, Starbucks and Tescos are busy destroying.

    I have spent a fair bit of time recently in seriously crazy corporate environments and that is absolutely not the way that business should be. After the last bout I decided to go back to my roots and work for smaller businesses where humanity operates in a tolerable way and that put as much back into the community (sometimes more) than they take out.

    The business community also needs more Calebs Caleb. So stick with it.

    I shall be speaking at a Social Media event in the next few weeks and this post has inspired me to talk about bios. How to present ourselves with humanity, humour and humility I think is essential, because the spotless online resumes are all beginning to wear a bit thin.

    Keep up the good work and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your blog.