Sarah Boyd


The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation

The Mind Hack To Overcome The Fear of Others Opinions

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Starting a business;

putting yourself forward for a leadership promotion;

launching a website;

These events are enough to induce anxiety & fear into the best of us.

It requires great courage to stand in the face of others potential disapproval & say “This is who I am”.

Image credit @jshnaa

Image credit @jshnaa

We all crave acceptance from others, it’s built into our DNA. We want to be loved, liked & esteemed. We want to matter.

But when we’re moving forward and living our biggest life, we are regularly confronted with the risk that others may not like us or what we are doing. 

We’re terrified of their judgements, wondering “what will ______ think of me?” or “everyone is going to think I’m full of myself if I do ________”.


For many, the fear can become so crippling that we completely shrink our lives in order to run away.

We can loose clients, never make a viable financial living from our business, or miss leadership promotions… all because we are living our lives in a way that is shackled to this fear that controls our lives.


I am convinced that in matters of leadership & entrepreneurship, the fear of potential  disapproval or rejection from others, is one of the biggest hurdle that most face in living out their full potential. 

And psychologically it makes sense…




Whether it is a public speech, a sales conversation to convert a new client, or a new website launch; the stress of a situation that may cause social disapproval can be debilitatingly stressful.

In her work on ‘Presence’, Amy Cuddy suggests that this stress, caused by a threat to our self can be one of the biggest hurdles to brining our biggest, most competent self to the table.

Studies have shown that when we are entering a situation that risks rejection or judgement we have a huge spike of cortisol (stress hormone) in our blood.



When we experience judgement or rejection from others, the primary emotion that surfaces is shame.

Shame is one of the strongest emotions we can experience – it pushes us to run away & hide through any means possible.

In her work on shame, Brene Brown says that “many of us will spend our entire lives trying to slog through the shame swampland to get to a place where we can give ourselves permission to both be imperfect and to believe we are enough.”

Shame can rise in ANY situation. It doesn’t have to be a complete failure of moral integrity, we can have shame rise in any type of success & failure, rejection, our appearance, or our finances.



Our brain is wired to avoid pain & move towards pleasure.

In an interesting study, Naomi Eisenberger found that when they did brain scans of individuals who were excluded or rejected from a group activity, the same areas of their brain lit up as when they were in physical pain.

Our brain cannot tell the difference between physical pain & social pain.

So as much as you would avoid putting your body in a situation that would cause physical pain, it makes sense how strongly we want to avoid any type of situation that risks this judgement & rejection.




1 Affirm Your Personal Values

In her book “Presence”, Amy Cuddy references a study by Creswell & Sherman showing that affirming one’s personal values before an upcoming stressful moment that may cause social disapproval, can literally change the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in your blood.

The activity given was to choose some core values that are really important to you (family, friends, service, faith, working hard, creativity, health… etc) and then do a short written reflection:

Value _____________

This is why I believe its important _______________________

This is a time I believe this value has helped me in my life________________________

The amazing thing is that even when the core values chosen have absolutely nothing to do with the performance in the upcoming stressful situation, this exercise still significantly reduced people’s stress, allowing them to perform to the best of their abilities.



2 Question The Story You’re Telling Yourself

No matter what happens in our life, it is the meaning we place upon the events that matter.

You can view the same situation as the end of your career, or a learning experience that we broaden your perspective.

You can view the same situation as meaning that you personally are a complete failure, or that you haven’t quite learnt the formula for success yet, but if you don’t give up you’ll find it.

Meaning creates our reality. 


3 Own Your Story

According to Brene Brown, shame needs three things to grow – secrecy, silence and judgement.

By owning our stories & sharing them with trusted individuals who have proven to respond with empathy, we can break the power of shame over our lives. 

So find your trusted handful of people & share your story with them.



4 Find Something More Painful

Because your brain’s strong desire to move away from pain is built into your physiology, you cannot fight against it, but instead you need to trick it.

You need to find something that you find MORE scary or MORE painful than that what you are currently afraid of.

This happened for me personally when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had unconsciously lived my life almost completely controlled by other people’s opinions. It had stopped me from stepping out towards the dreams I had in my heart. But the confrontation that my life could end one day without having at least given something a go, was much more scary for me than anything else.



Overcoming the fear of people’s judgements & disapproval is an ongoing work for all of us. It requires us to choose courage every day to bring our biggest self to the table & live our most authentic lives.

But we must choose this everyday, or else we will live our lives shrinking, small, cynical, frustrated at our lives and the lack of potential we are living out.

Your life & the change you want to make in the world is just too important.  

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The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation.