Got FOWOT (Fear of What Others Think)?

Hi and hello!

Do you have FOWOT? Fear of what others think? (Yep, I made FOWOT up. You know how North Americans just love our acronyms.)

If you fear what others think, you’re like lots of other introverts. My recent study of 53 introverts showed that many introverts prize freedom and intimacy. And the term 'freedom' meant free from fear of what others, especially their loved ones, thought.

Respondents replied that they valued "spiritual and heartfelt connection" and "deep connection with a select few people daily." Another wrote, "freedom for sure is at the top for me. Without freedom, everything else feels constricting and limiting." They described intimacy and freedom as follows:

INTIMACY

 family, love, deep daily connection, friendships, peaceful relationships

FREEDOM

free from the pressure or fear of others' opinions, freedom to be yourself, to live your life calling without constraints

Intimacy and freedom. Sounds great! And it makes sense.

Yet sometimes intimacy and freedom clash.

If you’re an introvert, you know that introverts love other people. We don’t dislike humans and human interaction. We just don’t want to be engulfed in a flood of noisy, meaningless talk all the time. We tend to pour ourselves deeply into a few close relationships.

Hence the love of intimacy. Not just someone random to chat with, but a deep, emotionally-intimate connection. Close relationships are important to the introvert. And peaceful ones, as most introverts don't love conflict.

We also have the ability to hold various perspectives simultaneously. Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, points out that introverts are occupied with their inner world. Introverts “focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them” while “extroverts plunge into the events themselves.” (Quiet, 10)

Introverts have colourful inner worlds. We're rarely bored! We can get overwhelmed with a thousand thoughts and ideas in our busy minds, like Crin the Creative Introvert below, who is standing next to an extrovert.

This is a gift. Our fertile minds allow us to hold multiple perspectives. We can easily see what others might feel and think. 

Well, that’s good.

But it’s also the source of the clash of the two values, freedom and intimacy.

If we’re awash in consideration of how our choices will impact others, especially those we love, how do we get clarity, peace and confidence to move forward and be true to ourselves?

Respondents articulated this clash of intimacy & freedom:

I value freedom, trying to honour it, but I feel guilty most of the time.
Love...of myself, my family, and my friends. I think I do a pretty good job, but not in that order. I usually come last, but I'm working on that too!
Freedom...more than ever before in my life I am letting situations grow without being pushed...which is freeing but I feel mega-opposition from most of the people around me.

Do you identify with this? I know I can’t think clearly with half a dozen voices giving their opinion. These voices may be in real life, or in my mind --- I imagine what they will say.

One introvert captured it perfectly: 

My family and loved ones are my topmost value, but alongside that, I value the freedom to be me and to really not give two hoots about what others think of me and what I am doing.

Are you ready to “not give two hoots”? To get free of your FOWOT, fear of what others think? No matter how much you love your people . . . to be free to live authentically, confidently? 

Maybe it’s time to say, to them or to the voices in your head: “I love you, but shush.” 

What do you think?

Share your thoughts, if you’d be so kind; 

Let us know what’s on your mind; 

What'd this article spark for you?

Join us, getting clear and true!

A massive thank-you to all the creative introverts who participated in my survey and research!

Waving from the woods,

Coach Corri