It's natural to be concerned and worried, but when we allow the fear of disappointing others to take over, we're simply banging our heads against the wall.
Society appears to have glorified this feeling as something positive because it means you care, but the fear of disappointing others can be a powerful negative emotion that can eat away at your own happiness.
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This article will walk you through six steps to help you overcome your fear of disappointing others.
1. Recognize that you will never be enough (In the Eyes of Others)
This may sound harsh, but it is important to remember that if your goal is to please everyone, you will fail. Even if you act exactly (as you believe is) correct, there will always be people who have different perspectives and ideas about how things should be. The notion that you can please everyone is, unfortunately, irrational, as it is simply impossible.
Strangers, family, and friends all have different perspectives on what is right and wrong. Their ideas of good behavior may be somewhat similar, or extremely dissimilar – in the end, it doesn't matter, because they will never completely align, which means you will always fail and disappoint someone.
Mark Manson describes our differences as humans as follows:
“The question is not whether we evaluate ourselves in comparison to others; rather, the question is how we measure ourselves.”
So, to summarize this theory: Everything from success to happiness (and, in this case, what is wrong or right) is measured differently. We have different values, so we measure things using our own (different) metrics.
We like the idea of perfection, but once we realize we're not even close, and we'll never be enough in everyone's eyes, we can start growing and letting go of the fear.
2. Experiment with stepping outside of your comfort zone
A comfort zone is nice and cozy, but it inhibits growth. We can never move forward or go further if we remain still – which is exactly what you do in your comfort zone. You're frozen in a frozen moment that you're all too familiar with.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be extremely frightening at times, but it is sometimes the only way to overcome fear.
Begin with something small. It could be a task you've been putting off because the thought of this scenario makes you feel uneasy. It could 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 enrolling in a fitness class that you don't think you're fit for.
We all started with baby steps at some point.
Even if you just push yourself to do one small thing, you will feel a huge sense of relief and strength, because nine times out of ten, it is never as scary or uncomfortable as we had imagined in our heads. You'll want to challenge yourself more and more once you've felt how good it feels to overcome your fears, no matter how big or small.
If you're still wondering whether it's necessary to step outside of your comfort zone, here's your answer.
3. Examine Your Behavior
Sometimes we need to take a step back and look in the mirror. Why are you reacting this way? What is the source of your apprehension? Do you worry about it, and if so, why?
A closer look is beneficial. If you want another (and professional) perspective, therapy can be a great option, or you can try to go back and look at your past yourself.
The fear of disappointing others is very common, but that doesn't mean it isn't a trait we have developed as a result of our childhood, trauma, or past relationships. The way we react to others often reveals more about ourselves than about them.
The attachment theory can explain one example of our behavior toward others:
”The basic premise is that when it comes to intimacy and commitment, we are not all the same. Instead, we all have a fairly consistent ‘attachment style…' This, according to the theory, is largely due to our upbringing. However, it can be influenced later in life by our adult relationships, seeing a psychologist, or experiencing trauma.”
While this attachment theory is based on romantic relationships and how we respond to intimacy and commitment, it is still very useful when trying to understand why you are afraid of disappointing others.
The attachment theory describes various attachment styles that are related to our upbringing. It's fairly easy to place yourself if you look closely at the different styles and how the types react in different situations. This will allow you to gain a better understanding of yourself, as well as why you react the way you do and where your fear stems from.
4. Establish Boundaries
It is critical to establish boundaries in your life, particularly emotional boundaries. Don't let others misinterpret your kindness as a sign of weakness.
If you're reading this, you're probably interested in pleasing those around you. Which is unquestionably a good thing. You want to make people happy and enjoy helping others, but if you always act this way toward everyone, you'll run into people who will take advantage of you at some point.
Examine the various relationships in your life and learn to set boundaries: Better Boundaries: How to Take Control of Your Life
5. Don't Try to Interpret Other People's Reactions
The reason why someone reacts or acts in a certain way toward you may not even be about you. You may be afraid of saying no to someone because you are concerned about their reaction, but how do you know the reaction you will receive is based solely on you and not on other factors?
Let's say someone invites you to a party and you're afraid of declining because it will disappoint them – how do you know this? Maybe you're telling yourself that because you know this person, you know they'll react negatively, or you've seen them react in a certain way to another person who said no, but none of this has anything to do with you and whether or not you're disappointing them.
The person may react angry or upset to the outside world simply because that is how this person reacts to news that does not align with their plan (but this does not imply that they dislike you). Or the person may appear upset because they don't want to jump up and down in delight after you just told them you weren't going to show up.
Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D. explains it this way:
“Personalization sounds something like this: If I don't get what I want, it means I'm 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 fail to consider the numerous situational factors that had nothing to do with you.”
Don't overthink situations or personalize people's reactions to your actions. Your actions should be guided by your values and what you know.
6. Examine Your Own Values
If you want to let go of the fear of disappointing others, you must first figure out who you are. What are your core beliefs? What do you want to be known for? Are you behaving in accordance with who you want to be, and if not, what can you do to change that?
Our own core values are difficult to fully comprehend. It takes time and is an ongoing process because we (hopefully) never stop moving and growing. We change over time; we grow, and our minds do as well.
But if we don't take the time to get to know ourselves, reconsider our values, and understand what we want for ourselves, we'll succumb to the pressure of what others think of us and be easily influenced by their opinion of us.
If you want to better understand your own values, read this article: Knowing My Values has filled a long-existing void in my life.
Fear can be frightening and overwhelming, so we must be able to rely on our gut instinct.
The more at ease and satisfied you are with your own actions, the easier it will be to let go of stress and fear of disappointing others.
People may not be pleased with your actions in the end, but you will be.
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