#68: How to make authentic choices when you have FOPO (fear of people’s opinions)

Sep 07, 2023
Kirsten Parker
#68: How to make authentic choices when you have FOPO (fear of people’s opinions)

How do you tell the difference between "being polite / professional / etc" vs. making an inauthentic choice out of fear of people's opinions? 

Short answer? You either feel in charge of your decision or you don't. 

Even if the choice LOOKS the same (i.e...you agree to meet your weirdest family members in Vegas for Thanksgiving)...

Your decision's motivation impacts the energy it takes to follow-through, your mood & mindset, your sense of agency, the experience you have. 

In short, knowing if your choice to pack your sunscreen & book the flight is AUTHENTIC or not is a huge factor in your well-being, self-concept and (importantly) future decisions. 

This episode walks you all the way through a decision, so you can see what it's like to  maybe want to make someone happy, maybe not wanna piss someone else off, and maybe be unsure of what you authentically wanna do.

You'll see what questions to ask, how to know where you stand, and end up with a decision you feel in charge of and totally trust. 

We in the Decision Masters Community are all about powerful, authentic, self-honoring decisions. 

Powerful: You feel in charge of them

Authentic: They’re aligned with what you want – You know & like your reasons

Self-honoring: They honor today’s truth (your boundaries, your capacity, your needs)

FOPO (fear of people’s opinions) gets oh-so-in-the-way of this.

We make inauthentic decisions when we disregard what we want in an attempt to make people happy. 

We say we like things we don’t (sure I’d love to spend my birthday at the rodeo…if that’s what’ll make the family happy, let’s get our boots on)

We agree to do things we don’t want to (take over hosting duties for the book club, plus hours of extra admin work every week? Why not.)

Just to avoid someone getting offended or upset with us. 

We end up uncomfortable with our choice instead of uncomfortable with someone else’s thoughts/feelings.

So how do you tell if you’re falling victim to FOPO or just being nice, polite, responsible, a team player or something else reasonably excusable here? How do you know when you’re making an “inauthentic choice” out of fear of people’s opinions?

The key is in how much authority you feel in setting your agenda.

If you think you NEED someone to approve of or agree with your decision, in order for you to feel ok, you’re likely going to try to manipulate their reaction to be exactly what you want. 

That’s when you’re most likely to make an inauthentic choice, because the agenda is no longer “act intentionally” it’s “get this good reaction and avoid bad reactions at any cost.”

Now often, our agenda IS to just try to make some happy (or – to upset them as little as possible).

When that’s genuinely the goal, it’s an authentic choice. 

When you know you get seasick and sunburnt but your mom wants to go out on boat for her 70th birthday and you say yes, that’s not “inauthentic” if you’re consciously prioritizing doing whatever she wants ‘cause Gurl is 70 and superb and dang if you don’t just wanna see her happy all day. You don’t even have to love every second on the boat. It still gets to be an authentic choice ‘cause you were in charge of it.

So let’s use an example to really walk through this: You wanna do your own thing for the holidays but you’re super concerned your family’s gonna be mad at you.

One option is to immediately give into that fear and act on it. Swallow any desire you had to go lie on a tropical beach and resign yourself to flying to the wintery midwest next December. 

You feel jilted. Deprived. Limited.

NOT because you’re not getting exactly what you want – but because you didn’t even give yourself the option to consider it. 

You made the choice out of FOPO. The fear of people reacting negatively wasn’t real – it was something you imagined – but it was a strong enough idea that it dictated your choice.

So how could this scenario look different? Well another option is to first give yourself some dang breathing room around your desires & opinions.

If you have a fantasy about spending Christmas Eve sipping Pina Coladas walking down a beach with the lukewarm waters of the South Pacific splashing your toes - yes I’m daydreaming about Bora Bora right now not sorry – that deserves a minute of real recognition.

Separately from any time you spend on your concerns about what anyone’ll think.

Then, when you do move onto acknowledging those concerns, you can objectively consider these helpful questions:

  • What am I afraid of?
    • Sometimes this is an uncomfortable moment: “I’ll get yelled at”...“They’ll say they’re disappointed”...“Someone will cry and I’ll feel terrible”
    • Sometimes it’s a consequence: “I won’t be included next year”
    • Sometimes it’s a conclusion you’ll draw about yourself: “This will make me a horrible person”
  • What in there is true? What’s not true? What’s in your control & what’s not? 
  • How important do I think it is that other people are happy or comfortable?
  • How important do I think it is that I am happy and comfortable?
  • Is there anything I want to change about that going forward? Is this decision an opportunity to work on that change?
  • Can I make the choice I want without it meaning anything about my ______ (feelings for this person, commitment to my job, etc)?
  • If I’m afraid of their reaction, what else might happen?
    • They might not like it at first but then, like all emotions, those feelings might not last forever
    • They might love that for you
    • They might have their own entirely different expectations of this holiday season
  • Can I invite them to feel a certain way about my choice?
  • Can I survive them feeling negatively about my choice? (Am I “up for that” if it happens?)


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