What is the Biggest Fear?

It is not what you think.

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Is the biggest fear public speaking? Or is it , the fear of being judged by others or in more generic terms — the reaction of the audience?

What holds back people from giving generously? Is it “what is in it for me?” or the reaction of the receiver?

What matters most- Is it social reaction?

As we start listing all things that holds us back- there are almost always two reasons. There is always a good, socially palatable reason and if you probe further — a real honest reason. What I find interesting is that, if we dig deeper, there is a common thread among the real reasons.

The undercurrent theme can easily be tied to something we are taught early in life — one line that connects humans and animals — (wo)man is a social animal. I believe, the biggest fear is embodied in the theme — we are social animals and, possibly, the biggest real fear, tugged deep in our hearts is the unknown social reactions. The time we wait for a reaction from others is a long and lonely one- especially when the stakes are high. Why is that?

Even before we wait for the words, the unspoken language of their body speaks volumes to us, possibly more powerfully than words. Martin Luther King’s words — “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”, best exemplifies in words, what we remember most — the unspoken reactions of others. The book, Blink, by renowned author Malcolm Gladwell, is centered on the first impressions that we, humans are hardwired to make. He aptly references it as thinking without thinking.

Even within words, when I started blogging, I found the first follow-up conversations with family, friends and well-wishers very eye opening- the first meaningful conversations centered around the reaction of readers in the comments section. That piqued my curiosity.

I casually asked people how they read blogs. I found the majority’s approach interesting. Many casual readers explore the comments in detail, before venturing into the blog content per se. It is even more intriguing that they take the time to go to the bottom comment section first- a truly non-sequential approach. It reveals something innate about us as humans — we place a lot of importance in the reactions of others — we are truly social beings. In that context, the following observation could be interesting. It is about folks who buck the trend.

Some Real World Examples- Socrates, Susan Boyle and Entrepreneurs

Few years ago, a lady stood on stage and made a sensational debut on Britain’s Got Talent show. Her name — Susan Boyle. Lot has been written about why she became famous, at last count, her debut video has 222 Million hits on YouTube. Here is a representative line from her Wikipedia page, “Boyle’s initial appearance on the talent show fired public imagination when her modest stage introduction left audience, viewers and judges alike unprepared for the power and expression of her mezzo-soprano voice”. This line, like many others, talks about the perception of the world at large and how the surprise element propelled her.

What endeared me most about Susan Boyle was what came from within her — her confident gait as she walked in and the way she shared Elaine Paige’s name with utmost conviction- in essence, her intrinsic ability to elevate herself beyond the norm when it came to handling first reactions of people. Her gifted voice and her song choice were wonderful bonus.

Socrates, one of the greatest philosophers, is well remembered today. When he lived, it would have taken a lot of character to stem the tide and handle social reactions that were prevalent in his time.

What is true for Socrates is true for today’s iconoclast (freethinkers), entrepreneurs and change agents . The dynamic combination of radical content and ability to handle the social reactions that sets them in a different league. What about the rest of us?

Handling Social Reactions — Lessons from Baby Interactions

Every time, I am in a park, I find a recurring pattern. Everybody goes about their activities — some jog, some play team sports, some walk, some just soak the canvas in front of them, some keep a watchful eye on the playing kids. Their rhythms are interspersed when a stroller moves by. Most folks glance at the baby and many interact with the bundle of joy. The connection between a baby and humans is universally positive — all of us bend over, share a smile and even chuckle, irrespective of the baby’s reaction.

What is about the interaction with a baby that makes us forget our biggest fear and brings out the best in us? Could it be, without realizing it, we find babies very accepting of us?

If so, are there people we encounter in our lives whose initial reaction when they see us - eases us? Do we seek them out again and surround ourselves with such positivity in our social network? There is strength in numbers especially when it comes to overcoming our collective fear of social reactions — after all, we are human and truly social beings.

Karthik Rajan.

P.S. This article is a tribute to all positive social networkers who make world of difference by helping people like me to venture out.

Here are some:

Barry RellaFord,Trusted Advisor & Executive Coach, “We ARE social beings — who we are is in relationship — with divinity and each other. Healthy human relationships are horizontal — not tinged with superiority and rankings and polls.

I don’t read a lot of blogs and definitely don’t start with the comments of others — I like to experience the content myself and sometimes will peruse the threads that follow. I do read your posts fairly regularly, Karthik — they’re a great mix of head and heart that engage me as a whole person!”

Timi Nadela, from Houston, author and featured influencer in the Filipino American Journal, “We live in a judgemental world. I think people constantly make choices to avoid disapproval or criticism, rather than what is most valuable, effective or important. The need for approval really kills freedom. Thank you Karthik for this fantastic piece.

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Stories to fuel your mind. Theme: life’s hidden treasures in plain sight. Goal: Warm tone, solid content, crisp stories. About me: one google search away.

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