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Rampant Obsession with FOPO: Fear of Other People’s Opinions…Of Us!
Madelaine Claire Weiss, LICSW, MBA, BCC -- MIndOverMatters Madelaine Claire Weiss, LICSW, MBA, BCC -- MIndOverMatters
Washington, DC
Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Rampant Obsession with FOPO: Fear of Other People’s Opinions…Of Us!

How much do you think about what other people think? Sounds silly almost, but a lot of people are practically addicted to approval from others, so they think about what they think a lot. Michael Gervais calls it FOPO or fear of other people's opinion—opinions of us!

From My New Book: "Getting to G.R.E.A.T.: 5-Step-Strategy for Work and Life"

It is a common misperception that "Hell is other people" means that other people are hell and we should avoid their toxicity. What Sartre really meant, in his own words, is this: "Into whatever I say about myself someone else's judgment always enters. Into whatever I feel within myself someone else's judgment enters. . . . But that does not at all mean that one cannot have relations with other people. It simply brings out the capital importance of all other people"

But Why Do We Care So Much What They Think?

Well, for one thing, it is about our very survival! That's why we care. Back in the day, millions of years ago when the modern human brain was forming, social connection and reputation already other people thought of each other mattered—a lot—so much that now this normal human characteristic of ours is probably stuck in the brain and our being for good.

In Civilization and Our Discontents, Freud talked about the need to keep up with society's rules and regulations. Caring about what other people think about how we live helps us to behave in ways that help us to reap the many benefits of group acceptance, even if, and especially if, it does take the fun out of our instinctual drives sometimes.

So, that's it folks. Here to stay and a plus if we get why it's there, so we can accept that's it's there and quit wasting any more time and energy trying to convince ourselves and others that it shouldn't be. 

It is not only okay to care what other people think—it is outright human. Caring about what other people think has not only helped us to survive and to thrive for millions of years, it is right here helping us now. Let's just own it already so we can manage it for good.

Live With It? Manage it? How?

  • What to do when we find ourselves thinking too much about what other people think about us and our kin? (Yeah, it applies for kin too). First we breathe. How to Power Breathe is on the pulldown on my website in the "Complimentary…" box. We use this 30 second exercise to put the higher brain (not the reptilian brain) in charge.
  • Then, with our executive functioning ready, willing, able to serve us, we ask ourselves: "Is there something to be done here" So, for example, I hear lots of coaches advising that people should love themselves just the way they are and simply ignore what other people may be saying or thinking. This makes me cringe.
  • Instead, what if we realized that the reason so-and-so's words stung as much as they did might be because we know it's true. Or, to take that even further, consider this fabulous quote from Philosopher Charles Horton Cooley:

I am not who you think I am;

I am not who I think I am;

I am who I think you think I am.

So, it all comes down to what we think ourselves about ourselves, no big surprise, and it is very often a good idea to take a good hard look at that before just blowing off without consideration what 'other people think'.

Practice, practice, practice…and see what you find.

Author BIO:

Madelaine Claire Weiss (LICSW, MBA, BCC) is a Harvard Trained Licensed Psychotherapist, Mindset Expert, and Board-Certified Executive, Career, Life Coach who helps people master their minds so they can maintain and enjoy satisfaction and success in all areas of their lives. She is a co-author in the Handbook of Stressful Transitions Across the Lifespan, and author of the  "Getting to G.R.E.A.T. 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life"

Madelaine is a former group mental health practice administrative director, a corporate chief organizational development officer, and associate director of the Anatomical Gift Program at Harvard Medical School where she spoke before the Joint Committee on the Status of Women. As a corporate trainer, Madelaine designed and delivered programs for such diverse organizations as Harvard Medical School, Legal Services Corporation, and AARP.

She has been featured on NBC, Fox TV, Bold TV, many podcasts, including Major, Lindsey, & Africa's Erasing the Stigma; has written for Thrive Global, Authority Magazine's Editors List, UpJourney, My Perfect Financial Advisor; and conducted webinars for the American Bar Association, Harvard Law School Alumni Association-MA, and MedSense via GenieCast. 

What People are Saying about Getting to G.R.E.A.T

"A marvelous book! Packed with wisdom, wit, and heartfelt honesty, Getting to Great reveals a practical roadmap to make the most of your time on this planet. It needs to be read by the masses, and the masses will be all the better for it" 

-Daniel L. Shapiro, PhD, Director, Harvard International Negotiation Program and author, Negotiating the Nonnegotiable

"Getting to Great is a wonderful, readable, usable and thoughtful book with concrete strategies and examples for how to improve one's personal and work life, even when that effort seems daunting. The author's clear writing style and sense of humor make this a book both to read and re-read"

-Karen Gross, author of Trauma Doesn't Stop at the School Door, former college president and Senior Policy Advisor to the US Department of Education\

"Getting to G.R.E.A.T. is a gift to the cluttered mind. Through stories and research, Madelaine takes on the swirl of purpose, ambition, meaning, and fear that fills up our minds—and offers a simple path for sorting it all out"

-Brett Jenks, President and CEO, Rare, a global conservation organization

"Getting to Great is a deep dive into life, revealing not just how and why we are wired, but how and why we wire ourselves. This new work is warm and insightful, rooted in science, and brimming with real-life stories, friendly exercises and a generous dose of follow-up resources. Madelaine Weiss delivers a wise and witty game plan for nailing happiness and success in life and work. An eye-opening read!"

-Madelyn R. Appelbaum, Co-author, Stress-Free Performance Appraisals


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