Friday Fundamentals #2: Make a Fool of Yourself.

How do you address a fear of public speaking (glossophobia)? Well, you could start practicing in front of a mirror. You could then start speaking to someone you trust, behind a closed door. Perhaps after that you could progress to a few family members and friends. Practice this religiously and maybe one day you will find yourself speaking confidently in front of a crowd of hundreds. The solution, really, is simple: you expose yourself to your fear. You face it. You conquer it. 

How do you address a fear of strangers (xenophobia)? Similarly, it requires nothing but exposure: meeting new people as often as possible, until your brain and body come to a funny realization: “Maybe this isn’t even that bad…”¬†This is a technique commonly used in a therapeutic practice known as exposure therapy – and it works.

What We’re All Afraid Of

Though you may not be afraid of public speaking or strangers, it is likely that we all share one fear in common: the fear of embarrassment. Humans are hard-wired to avoid public ridicule – it would do nothing but hurt their status in their social circle, rendering them less likely to establish relationships (both platonic and romantic). This is why we experience those fight-or-flight symptoms whenever there is the prospect of embarrassment on the horizon. Your heart is racing and your palms are sweaty because of thousands of years of evolutionary and social learning. And yet, there is a way we can conquer it.

How do you address a fear of embarrassment and public ridicule (katagelophobia)? Simply put, you make a fool of yourself. You put yourself in positions where the risks of embarrassment, judgement and criticism are high. You tell the bad joke when it comes to your head and let people ridicule you for it. You dance your heart out in front of everybody even though you look like an uncoordinated monkey. You sing your favourite song when it comes on, at the top of your lungs, even though you couldn’t hit a note if your life depended on it. You do these things to expose yourself to the fear. You do these things to conquer the fear. Because, at the end of the day, you might just realize, “Hey, this isn’t that bad!”

“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost

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