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Explorations and Reflections

on awakening the true self 

  • Writer's pictureMick Scott

What Does This Fear Cost You?

We're all afraid of looking bad to some extent.

It’s why we don’t raise our hand when we have an answer or an idea.

It's why we don't speak up when we don't understand.

It’s why we pretty ourselves up in dress, in tone, and in topic to fit someone else’s idea of appropriate or acceptable or cool.

It’s why we people please.

A fear of looking bad is even one of the drivers behind how we parent - we often want our kids to behave, dress, or choose in certain ways so they don't make us look bad!

So what’s behind this fear of looking bad?

The source of our fear of looking bad is the source of all of our fears: insecure thinking about ourselves.

We question our own likability, our own attractiveness, our own intelligence, our own coolness, our own creativity, our own worthiness, and our own capability.

Inside, we judge ourselves, and we're afraid of others judging us too.

There's a payoff to this fear of looking bad: it keeps us playing small, it helps us avoid being wrong, it keeps us safe (at least we think it does), and it gets us off the hook for making a difference in the conversations and areas of life that matter to us.

There's also a real cost to this fear of looking bad: our aliveness, our authentic connection with others, our peace of mind, our self-expression, and our empowerment.

We constrain who it is we can be in our lives in order to avoid looking bad.

And we sell out on what matters to us. We sell out on our values. We sell out on what's right. We sell out on the people we love, and we sell out our own integrity.

This is one of the fundamental, default ways of being for humans. We are fundamentally afraid of looking bad, and we fundamentally desire to look good.

So how do we break free?

This is longer-term work, not exactly for a 5-minute blog read - my clients break through this fear in meaningful ways during our one-on-one or group work.

Here's a start though:

Our fear of looking bad is a fear of being judged. How do we know that others are judging us?

We're judging them!

She’s too tall, he’s too bald, her jokes aren’t funny, he’s ugly, she’s arrogant, his tie is too short, her makeup is too thick...

The judgments flow and flow and flow. 

We try to make ourselves taller by cutting down others.

Therefore, one technique to break free from the shackles of a fear of looking bad is to fall in love with others. Instead of judging, wish them well. Instead of talking behind their backs, acknowledge them for something good. Instead of focusing only on the negatives about them, bring attention to their positives.

In fact, one of the most powerful techniques I've found to leave behind my default ways of being: be intentional.

The machinery of human being will always have some survival-based mechanism ready to kick in. Disrupt its ability to kick in by being intentional in all things.

Be intentional in why and how you engage with others. Be intentional in how you speak and treat yourself.

The title of this post is not worded great. It would be more accurate to ask the question this way: "What does giving in to this fear cost you?"

Because we're human, we're going to bump up against the fear of looking bad. There are so many valuable, important, and impactful reasons to step through that fear into intentional action.

Start now.

With love and gratitude. 🙏❤️

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