It’s completely normal to care and worry, but once we allow the fear of disappointing others to take over, we’re simply hitting our own head against the wall.
Somewhere along the way, society seems to have glorified this feeling to be something positive as it means you care, but the fear of disappointing others can be a powerful negative emotion that can eat away from your own happiness.
This article takes you through 6 steps that will help you conquer the fear of disappointing others.
1. Accept You’ll Never Be Enough (In the Eyes of Others)
This may sound harsh, but it’s important to remember that if your goal is to please everyone – then you’re setting yourself up to fail. Even if you act exactly (how you think is) right, there will always be people with different perspectives and views on how things should be. The idea that you can please everyone is unfortunately delusional, because it’s simply impossible.
Strangers, family, and friends all have different ideas about what’s wrong or right. Their idea of good behavior might be somewhat close to each other, or really really far away from each other – in the end it doesn’t matter, because they will never completely align with each other which means you will always fail and disappoint someone.
Mark Manson explains our differences as humans like this:
So, to sum up this theory: We measure everything from success to happiness (and in this case what’s wrong or right) completely different. We have different values, which means we measure things according to own (different) metrics.
We like the idea of perfection, but as soon as we realize we’re most definitely not anywhere near that, and we won’t ever be enough in everyone’s eyes, then you can start growing and letting go of the fear.
2. Really Push Yourself out of Your Comfort Zone
A comfort zone is nice and comfy, but it stands in the way of growth. We can’t ever move forward and go further, if we stand still – and that’s exactly what you do in your comfort zone. You’re standing still in a frozen moment that you’re familiar with and know all too well.
Sometimes the only way to conquer fear is through pushing yourself into uncomfortable situations, but it can of course be extremely scary to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
Start out with something small. It can be a task that you’ve been putting off, because the whole idea of this scenario makes you feel uncomfortable. It can be anything from telling your partner something that’s been on your mind (but you’re afraid of their reaction or letting them down) to taking a fitness class that you feel you aren’t fit enough to take.
We all started out with baby steps once.
Even when you just push yourself to do one little thing, you’ll be left with a big relief and feel much stronger, because nine out of ten times it’s never as scary or uncomfortable as we had imagined in our head. After you’ve felt how good it feels to conquer you fears – big or small – you’ll automatically want to challenge yourself more and more.
If you’re still wondering if it’s necessary to step out of your comfort zone, here’s the answer for you.
3. Analyze Your Behavior
Sometimes we need to take a step back and take a look at ourselves. Why are your reaction like this? Where does your fear come from? Do you get anxious about it and why?
It helps to take a deeper look. Therapy can be a great option if you want another (and professional) perspective, or you can try to go back and look at your past yourself.
The fear of disappointing others is very normal, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not a trait in ourselves that has been created because of our childhood, a trauma, or past relationships. The way we react to others is often more about ourselves than them.
One example of our behavior towards others can be explained through the attachment theory:
”The basic premise is that we’re not all the same when it comes to intimacy and commitment. Instead, we each have a relatively consistent ‘attachment style… This, the theory claims, is largely down to our upbringing. But it can also be influenced in later life by our adult relationships, seeing a psychologist or suffering trauma.”
While this attachment theory takes premise in romantic relationships and how we react to intimacy and commitment, the theory is still very useful when you’re trying to understand why you have a fear of disappointing others around you.
The attachment theory has different attachment styles that relates back to our upbringing. If you take a closer look at the different styles and how the types react in situations, it’s fairly easy to place yourself. This will help you get a better understanding of yourself, as well as why you react a certain way, and where this fear comes from.
4. Set up Boundaries
It’s important to set up boundaries in your life, especially emotional boundaries. Don’t let people mistake your kindness for weakness.
If you’re reading this, then you’re most likely interested in pleasing people around you. Which is definitely not a bad thing. You want to make people happy and you enjoy helping others, but if you’re always acting this way towards everyone, then you’ll come across people who’ll take advantage of it at one point.
Take a look at the different relationships in your life and learn to set up boundaries: How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries
5. Don’t Personalize People’s Reactions
The reason why someone reacts or acts towards you in a certain way may often not even be about you. You may be fearful of saying no to someone, because you fear their reaction, but how do you know the reaction you’ll get it based on you and not other factors?
Let’s say a person invites you to a party and you’re afraid of saying no, because it would disappoint them – how do you actually know this? Maybe you’re telling yourself that you know this person and therefore you know they’ll react negatively, or you’ve seen them react a certain way towards another person that said no, but maybe none of this had anything to do with you and whether or not you’re disappointing them.
The person might react angry or upset to the outside world simply because that’s how this person reacts to news that don’t align with their plan (but this doesn’t mean they think anything negatively about you). Or the person might seem upset, because they don’t want to jump up and down of joy after you just told them you weren’t showing up.
Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D explains it like this:
“Personalization sounds like this: If I don’t get what I want it means I am not good enough and don’t deserve it. When you overly personalize a disappointment, you make it about who you are as a person and do not take into account the many situational factors that had nothing to do with you”.
Don’t (over) analyze situations and personalize people’s reactions to your actions. Base your actions on your values and what you know.
6. Revaluate Your Own Values
If you want to let go of the fear of disappointing others, then you need to figure out who you are exactly first. What are your values? What do you want to stand for? Are you acting accordingly to who you want to be – and if not – what can you do to change this?
Our own core values are tricky to figure out completely. It takes time and it’s a never-ending process, because we (hopefully) don’t ever stop moving and growing. We change over time; we grow and so does our mind.
But if we don’t take the necessary time to get to know ourselves, revaluate our values, and understand what we want for ourselves, then we’ll fall into the pressure of what others think and we’ll get easily effected by their opinion of us.