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  • Writer's pictureKaitlin Henze

Is FOPO hindering your goal achievement?

Your first thought may be "What is FOPO?"

If you have never heard of this sly relative of FOMO, get ready to be slapped in the face with something you have likely experienced countless times...

FOPO or "Fear Of People's Opinions" was coined by Michael Gervais in a 2019 HBR Article. Michael argues that the anxious anticipation we experience before, during, and after social events is mostly due to what we believe other people might think of us. If you have found yourself feeling anxious about any of the following it is likely that you have experienced FOPO.

👕What you wear - Do I look good in the eyes of others?

😕What you say - Do I sound intelligent in the eyes of others?

🕺🏻What you do - Will I fit in and belong with others?

I am guessing all of you have had these fears at some point in life. It stems from our natural human desire for security and acceptance. The challenge is that constant FOPO can limit our abilities and prevent us from achieving our full potential.

How does this happen?

FOPO holds us back in three primary ways:

  1. By focusing on what other people think, we have less time and energy to listen to our own intuition. This means we make decisions in an effort to control the thoughts of others vs. what is aligned to our values and purpose. This almost guarantees disappointment because we can't control the thoughts of others, and we are more likely to choose something that will not help us flourish.

  2. We hold ourselves back. This may be not sharing a brilliant idea that we are afraid others will think is stupid, not taking a risk to try a new activity, saying yes to something in order to impress others when we really want to say no. It can manifest in many forms!

  3. It breeds insecurity and doubt. If we base our self-worth on other people's opinions and praise, we soon start believing what they think of us rather than what we know is true of ourselves. We begin to crave external validation to build our self-worth, and when we do not receive this, we begin to think we are worthless and can give up all together 😩

This has shown up in my life in so many ways. I have taken jobs that I did not want because I thought others would find me impressive. I have ordered a drink at networking events because I feared that people would think I was weird if I just wanted water. I have chosen to hide my passion for leading guided meditations, breathing exercises, and compassion practices as part of my business because I thought executives would not take my seriously...this list goes on and on!

The great news is that I have made an intentional effort to combat FOPO in my life and you can too! Michael Gervais came out with a great book last year that I highly recommend for anyone who has the interest in reading more about this subject.

And for the cliff notes version will share the three strategies that have helped me overcome FOPO and actually achieve my goals:

  1. Shift from worrying about what people think to caring about people. Show interest in other humans, ask more about their reactions, and try to show up in a way that allows you to learn about someone.

  2. Focus on what you can control. Rather than trying to control other people's thoughts and reactions, understand that other people cannot "make us feel" anything. Each of us react based on our own emotional history and beliefs. No matter what you do, other people will react based on what is inside of them. This frees us from the huge burden of trying to orchestrate people's reactions.

  3. Make a short list of people whose opinions really matter to you. These are people that intimately know you and whom you can trust to provide an honest opinion out of care for you. Select the 6-8 people that meet this criterion and keep that list somewhere visible. Now let go of the opinions of everyone else!

This is all much easier said than done, and the FOPO monster will continue to show up when you are feeling particularly insecure and vulnerable. When it does, be mindful of that voice, remember the ways that it can hinder your success, and intentionally choose not to be ruled by its thoughts!

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