Afraid of What Others Might Think

Recently I’ve been working with some people who have expressed that they have a real fear around what others might be thinking about them, or how they are perceived by others when in a group setting. It’s nerve wracking for them.
Some of them feel scared to speak up, and they do everything they can to sense what the other people might want them to say. Or, they try to figure out what they are supposed to say or how they are supposed to be. They are trying desperately to fit in, and it’s uncomfortable.
Some of them are afraid that they are going to get it wrong, or if they do say something it’s going to make everything worse. There is an inner bias that has a propensity toward negativity, without conscious awareness. A sense of lacking, or not mattering enough, of feeling unworthy.
Ultimately what can happen is they completely shut down. The experience blows their circuitry. They go blank inside, or they can stop feeling. Their body can feel lethargic or really heavy, as if their legs and arms are made of lead.
Working with people and meeting them right there in that panic, or in that pain, I begin to acknowledge what it’s like to be someone experiencing that level of overwhelm. That level of alarm and feeling so alone. Even sensing into how to be with others, how to relax and enjoy yourself. Instead there is a perpetual looping around of trying to figure it out.
I want to hold this with a lot of gentleness. I’m wondering if people who experience this way of being, if they just haven’t experienced being met right there. Being able to slow down and notice when they bring their attention to their body, where are they in their body? Many of them are up in their mind, up in their head. They aren’t able to get down into their body.
So, slowing it down even more, to be right there, where they are, in their head, without making it wrong. Because they are trying to get it right so much! Just to have acceptance where they find themselves in the now, and to be right there with them, with some gentle, warm, accompaniment.
What can begin to happen then, is like building a bridge of trust from the inside. From this place of lack, and unworthiness, and not fitting in, to begin to recognize what’s the need over here on the other side? What is the hope, or the desire, the longing of their heart? For many it’s their needing acknowledgment that they matter and that they make sense. That their experience actually makes sense. So they can begin to loosen up their throat so they can begin to express what it’s like to be them. They need a sense of belonging, which is one of the most deepest needs we have as human beings. To have a heart connection, and to know we matter, and we make sense.
As we build that strong bridge across that cavass of not knowing, then we begin to become heart connected developing curiosity and interest in order to stay engaged, rather than fearful. We are able to enjoy exploring and discovering things collaboratively with others. And, we can receive inspiration when we are there. We experience making a difference by contributing by sharing our experience in small groups or one-on-one. We can have fun as we learn to trust the process of staying heart connected with Life.
Then, instead of feeling the heaviness or the blankness of lethargy, we can experience some wonder, and some awe. And, that is a beautiful thing to experience, especially in community with others that get you, and enjoy you, and welcome you, right where you are.
So, a practice I invite you into is to notice your experience, notice what it’s like if you have the fear about, “Oh, I wonder what they are thinking about me?” Come back in to be with yourself, notice what it’s like to be in your body. Slow down, and breathe into your belly, then open up your heart connection to Life, to recognize what the need is that is underneath that. If you have that worry, “What are they thinking about me?” Maybe the need is for self-acceptance, right where you are, just as you are. Maybe the need is the freedom to express your truth and to be welcomed, to be enjoyed, and to matter.

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