The Fear of Other People’s Opinions (FOPO) is the fear, worry, and anxiety that result from overthinking what others think or say about us. FOPO is one of those fears that stops many of us from moving toward our goals, dreams and aspirations. We make every move based on the perception of how others would perceive or receive it. FOPO can be crippling, and in the age of social media, the fear of being cancelled by the mob makes this fear more debilitating. The reality is that no one is thinking about you, as everyone is also trying to figure it out. As the saying goes, “In your 20s, you care what everyone thinks about you; in your 40s, you stop giving a shit what anyone thinks, and in your 60s, you realize that no one was thinking about you in the first place.”
I lost my mum in 2019 after her battle with cancer, and it was one of the most painful and stressful periods of my entire life. One of the most important lessons that her untimely death taught me is the gift of life and losing the fear of other people’s opinions. Everybody dies, but the sad reality is that most of us would not live our lives while we are here. We lead a life of quiet desperation, tip-toeing towards our graves, not making waves or living life on our terms as a result of our fear of what others would think or say about us.
Australian palliative caregiver Bronnie Ware documented the top regrets of her dying patients and the number one regret of the dying she realized was, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” In her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing 1, Bronnie writes about the top five regrets of the dying and on top of the list is the regret of not being more courageous. She observed:
The regret of not having lived a life true to themselves was the most common one of all. It was also the one that caused the most frustration, as the client’s realisation came too late. They say though that we do more to avoid pain than we do to gain pleasure. So it is when the pain becomes too much that we finally find the courage to make changes. Until then, the pain within me was just continuing to fester until it did reach a breaking point.
We are all fairly malleable, bendable creatures really. While we have the choice to think for ourselves and have free will to live the way our hearts guide us, our environment has a huge effect on us all, particularly until we start choosing life from a more conscious perspective.
The Spotlight Effect
The Spotlight effect was coined by American psychologist Thomas Gilovich and colleagues in their paper that appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2 They demonstrated that we overestimate how much others note our actions and appearance. In one study, participants who were asked to don a T-shirt depicting a flattering or potentially embarrassing image overestimated the number of observers who could recall what was pictured on the shirt. In a second study, participants in a group discussion overestimated how prominent their positive and negative utterances were to their fellow discussants. Further study by Gilovich and Co. provides evidence supporting an anchoring-and-adjustment interpretation of the spotlight effect. In particular, people appear to anchor on their own rich phenomenological experience and then adjust–insufficiently–to take into account the perspective of others.
Everyone thinks that the world revolves around them. You are thinking about you and your own interests all day, every day. It can be challenging to forget that others are challenging to forget that others are not thinking about us with such intensity; they are thinking about themselves.
The spotlight effect is what happens when we imagine that our lives are performative, or “on display” for others to consume. We remember the last two or three embarrassing things we have done and imagine that others are thinking about them actively as well. Can you recall the last two or three embarrassing things someone else did? Of course you can’t. Because you aren’t paying attention. Spotlighting gives us the false impression that the world is all about us, when it is not.
Daily Calm with Tamara Levitt – Alleviating Worrying
Each time we recall a situation from the past or anticipate a scenario in the future, we experience an imagined scene as if it were really happening. Sometimes we start judging and reacting to these mental images, playing out in our mind what we could have done differently or how to avoid an unwanted outcome – this is worry.
If we worry a lot, it can become a habit. Our entire view of life can become distorted by negativity bias, a tendency to focus on what might be wrong with almost any scenario.
Three kind of experience
Mental Imagery of events from the past or future.
Anxious thoughts about these events
Bodily sensations of anxiety and agitation.
“Worries and tensions are like birds. We cannot stop them from flying near us, but we can certainly stop them from making a nest in our minds.”
Daily Jay with Jay Shetty – Effective Praise
We often focus on the energy that went into something instead of whether the effort was effective. We tend to celebrate the people who sweat, who contributes maximum effort. In other words, we praise perspiration but just because someone is doing a lot that doesn’t mean they are doing what is needed.
A false growth mindset occurs when we provide indiscriminate praise, where they think they are learning and growing but they are not. Hardwork simply for hardwork sake can’t get you anything but tired.
To focus on positive feedback, focus on what moved the needle instead of how hard someone push.
Daily Trip with Jeff Warren – Imagination
- James Corden ON: Work-Life Balance, Family Struggles, & The REAL Reason He Left Late-Night
All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.