The Fear of Looking Stupid


Fear of Looking Stupid

NO ONE likes to look stupid. And it keeps us from trying new things or exploring those crazy ideas and dreams that we have been carrying around. The trick, of course, is getting to the place where you don’t care what other people think of you. And that’s easier said than done.

It’s not as simple as telling yourself to just do it. Comedian, entrepreneur, and author of The Art of Making Sh!t Up, Norm Laviolette says the way to get to that place is to slowly step into it as you would train for a marathon. You wouldn’t just run a marathon. You would start with short runs and gradually build up.

Maybe you don’t immediately hit the open mic stage, but rather you sign up for an improv class. That’s all, just sign up. You don’t even have to commit in your mind to go, just execute the simplest first step, which is signing up. You don’t even need to tell anyone! Then once you do that, force yourself to go to the first class. No commitments after that.

What you will find is that you now have put yourself in a situation where “looking stupid” isn’t perceived as stupid at all, and what you are doing is actually the new normal. Sure, you are taking a risk by being in an improv class. But ultimately it is a very mitigated risk, because the entire environment is set up in such a way that everyone is facing that risk together.

Since everybody is facing the prospect of potentially looking stupid, ultimately no one does. As this new normal starts to feel more and more comfortable, you start to rewire your brain and how it perceives what is considered “stupid looking.”

You can apply this to anything. And it is infinitely easier when we realize that other people are not thinking about us as much as we think they are. What are they thinking about? Themselves. Feel liberated yet? We are the ones that give people permission to hold us back from being creative and trying new things.

And then there are those who cast doubt when we tell them what we are up to. Laviolette says you need to take control of the conversation.

I have found that making a strong declarative statement along the lines of “So, I’m doing X now,” tends to stop other people from offering overly negative judgments about what it is I’m doing. It is easy for people to point out why you shouldn’t begin something, but it is much more difficult for people to tell you why you should stop doing something, especially if you follow up with the reason why you like doing it. Even the biggest blowhard tends to not want to crush someone else’s good vibes.

The declarative statement takes the power of judgment away from the responder. Once you state what it is you are doing, most people tend to shrug their shoulders and think to themselves, “I guess she is doing that now.” They may approve or disapprove, but ultimately if they see that you are already committed, they tend to move on to other subjects.

The fear of looking stupid is all in our heads. When we step out, we grow.

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