It’s no secret that our world emphasizes perfection and success.
No one wants to fail or look stupid in front of their peers.
However, a fear of looking stupid or foolish is a major barrier to personal growth.
The dread of making mistakes, displaying vulnerability, or looking stupid can stifle creativity and connection in the classroom, workplace, or other social settings.
The thing is, everyone has felt clueless or made mistakes because they didn’t know something. It’s normal and it’s necessary.
Why is it necessary? Because finding solutions for your mistakes helps to build problem-solving skills, gives you valuable wisdom, and grows your resilience.
Making mistakes is a good thing, which is fortunate since we all make them. And that’s why we’re going to explore some ways for you to overcome your fear of looking stupid.
It’s likely to be a slow, uncomfortable journey, but once you can walk confidently into your discomfort, the world opens up to you.
That may seem like a grand statement, but just think about how many opportunities you missed out on in the past because you were afraid of looking stupid.
Was it the chance to learn something? To grow? A lost opportunity that’ll never come back around?
The ability to embrace and move through your fear can take you to places you wouldn’t expect.
So, what are some ways you can overcome your fear of looking stupid?
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you to do things, say things, take chances, or just be yourself without being afraid of looking stupid. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
1. Shift your focus to the results.
Shifting your focus to the result of what you’re trying to do is a powerful strategy for overcoming the fear of looking foolish.
In doing so, you concentrate on the positive outcome instead of dwelling on the negative judgment of others.
Remember: you are working toward an accomplishment of some sort. You’re not there to impress other people with exceptional skill. And even if you are, exceptionally skilled people still have bad days where their skill doesn’t measure up.
Concentrate on what you want to achieve and the progress you make through your effort.
Set clear goals and milestones to help remind you that yes, you are doing a good job and you are moving toward your final goal.
Goal-setting focuses you on the thing you are trying to accomplish rather than avoiding failure, or rather avoiding looking stupid.
2. Challenge negative thoughts you’re having.
Challenging negative thoughts is a cognitive-behavioral technique that can be helpful in overcoming the fear of looking stupid.
The fear itself often stems from distorted perceptions and assumptions about yourself, other people, and potential consequences.
Actively challenging these perceptions can help you gain a more realistic perspective, separating rational from irrational thoughts.
Identify what your fear is specifically. Consider the fear. Are the outcomes you’re imagining realistic? What evidence supports or contradicts those beliefs?
Chances are, your fear is not the most realistic outcome. So, what would be a more realistic outcome?
Restructure your internal narrative from negative to positive by challenging your thoughts and replacing them.
Instead of, “Everyone will think I’m stupid,” think “No one knows everything. I’m learning something new!”
3. Embrace your imperfections.
Everyone makes mistakes. No one is perfect. And you’ll find greater success when you embrace your imperfections.
By embracing your imperfections, you pull them closer to you so you can learn them well, learn to love them, and work through them.
People who try to distance themselves from their imperfections have a much harder time knowing how to healthily navigate them.
Your imperfections round out the unique person that is you. You have strengths, you have weaknesses, you have hopes, and you have fears.
By accepting that you are imperfect, you won’t worry so much what other people think about you, how you might look doing something, or what might happen if you make a mistake.
4. Build your overall confidence.
Confidence plays an important role in overcoming fear. You may be afraid of one thing, but you may know that you excel at some other thing.
For example, you may be confident in making decisions, but you avoid admitting when you’re wrong because you think that will make you look stupid.
The problem is that you are going to be wrong sooner or later. You can’t make perfect judgment calls all the time.
Here’s where you can focus on your overall confidence to make acceptance that much easier.
Try looking at all the things you’ve succeeded at, whether large or small. Remind yourself of these things when self-doubt creeps in.
Think of the times when you didn’t know the answer, but you went out and found it.
A world of information is at your fingertips. Someone, somewhere has undoubtedly experienced your problem and solved it.
Sometimes the smartest thing to do is turn to someone more knowledgeable, own up to being wrong, and ask for help—even if it’s Google you’re asking.
5. Embrace making a mistake as a learning opportunity.
Instead of lamenting over a problem or challenge that arises, try to look at it as a way to grow and make yourself better.
It’s not as hard of a process as you might imagine.
Make the mistake, own up to the mistake, fix the mistake however you can. Then, analyze the mistake to determine what went wrong and where.
Also consider how you can improve in the future. How can you avoid making that mistake again? What would have made it easier to recover from the mistake?
You learn from the mistake, you grow, and you’re less likely to do the same thing in the future.
So, look at every mistake as a learning opportunity. When you don’t know something or when you make a wrong turn, it’s simply a way to grow your knowledge and skills or improve upon your plans.
6. Set realistic goals and expectations.
You may feel you look stupid when you’re failing at what you set out to do.
One way to reduce that risk is to ensure you have realistic goals and expectations.
How do you do that? Try to use the simple, popular SMART system. You set Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Time-focused goals.
Instead of saying, “I want to lose 50 pounds,” you’d say, “I’m going to eat fewer calories per day, every day, until I lose 50 pounds.” Now you have a specific goal that you can meet every day, that will lead you to losing that weight.
Furthermore, your goals or journey to your goals don’t have to be perfect.
Let’s say you don’t think you can stick to the schedule for your weight loss goal seven days a week. Cool. Can you do it six days a week, five days, hell, even four days?
A little is better than nothing. And a little is a good way to start anyway because jumping straight into the deep end of the pool doesn’t work for most.
Small steps are easier to accomplish and will still get you to the finish line. It might take longer, but it’ll get you there.
And because small steps are more manageable, you should feel more confident and less afraid of looking foolish when taking them.
7. Visualize your success.
To visualize your success is to strip away some of the influence of your fear.
In many cases, when you’re afraid of looking stupid, you are likely thinking about everything that can go wrong in that situation. A “what if” is rarely positive unless you make it positive.
Instead of dwelling on negative “what if” thoughts, shift your focus to success.
What will success look like? What will the steps to success look like? How can you accomplish the success that you’re looking for?
This isn’t just a casual thought exercise. You need to sit down, take a few minutes, and try to envision the scene.
By doing that, you’ll help make the path to success clearer, while mitigating possibilities for mistakes that could cause you to feel stupid.
8. Seek constructive feedback from people you trust.
Constructive feedback is a powerful tool if you let it be.
The important thing is to seek constructive feedback from someone you trust to give good, honest feedback.
It’s not helpful to be told “That’s great!” or “That sucks!” It may feel good to hear that they think it’s great, but it doesn’t help you improve what you’re doing.
“That sucks” is equally useless as constructive criticism. Now, if someone can tell you why it sucks? That’s constructive criticism.
One big issue with constructive criticism is that you must be able to separate criticism about the thing from criticism about you. Try not to get offended when someone corrects you or shows you a better way of doing something.
If you struggle with that, then you’ll need to find a way to overcome your need to always be right. Instead, focus on the fact that the criticism is not a judgment of your character, but rather a suggestion on how to improve your work.
You can reduce the negative feelings and fears by being proactive and asking for feedback at a time when you are mentally prepared for it.
Instead of engaging on someone else’s terms, you’re engaging on your own, which improves your ability to manage the emotions that might come from receiving the feedback.
9. Practice self-compassion and kindness.
Are you kind to yourself? Are you able to speak to yourself with gentleness and embrace your shortcomings?
If you can, it’ll be easier for you to bounce back from a setback.
Let’s say you put yourself out there and do a thing—you get up there and you make a mistake.
What happens next? What’s your internal dialogue? What do you tell yourself in those moments?
Do you tear yourself down for being wrong, stupid, or incompetent?
Your self-esteem and self-worth greatly influence your internal dialogue. If you can like yourself more and feel worthy of good things, you will treat yourself with kindness when you fail at something or make an error.
This will greatly reduce your fear of looking stupid because you know you won’t beat yourself up if you get something wrong in front of others.
Of course, sometimes a person’s internal dialogue actually comes from an external place. Instead of your words, maybe it’s the words of an abusive parent or romantic partner that you hear echoing in your mind.
Make sure it’s not their unkind, loveless words echoing in your mind.
10. Remember, you’re not alone.
You are not alone. It doesn’t matter what you are going through, what you’re trying to overcome, what challenges are ahead of you.
There are people the world over who have struggled with speaking up in front of others, people who are afraid of looking stupid, and people who have lost opportunities because of those fears.
If you’re struggling and you don’t feel like you can overcome it by yourself, you may wish to consider looking into success-oriented communities, support groups, or even talking to a therapist.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
The fear of looking stupid is a problem that can be managed and overcome with some work.
Eventually, you’ll be able to take the leap of faith and do the thing that scares you in the knowledge that you’ll be able to handle anything that arises from it.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.