Fear of disappointing others

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Louise Hay


Fear of disappointing others

We all feel the need to be accepted and recognized. However, we cannot pay any price to meet the expectations of others.

Last update: July 26, 2022

Let's think for a moment about the decisions for our life: where to live, what job to do and your sentimental situation. How did we get to where we are today? At best we have listened to our needs, our desires and our preferences. Still, many people end up building their reality based on what others expect of them. The fear of disappointment is stronger than we think.

We certainly know someone who wanted to be an artist and ended up studying economics or someone who stays in a relationship just out of fear of change.

Probably ourselves we dedicate time to activities and people that do not feed us or do not attract us. Why do we go against our very essence?

What's behind the fear of disappointing others?

If you feel identified with any of the above situations, you should know that they are common. In reality we are neither crazy nor masochists, there are valid reasons that lead us to want to please others. Identifying them can help us achieve that freedom that we have denied ourselves for years.


Guilt is a very powerful emotion that can end up directing our lives if we don't learn to manage it. It manifests itself in family relationships, so we can feel that we are in debt with the family.

Our parents gave us life, they nurtured us, looked after us and accompanied us; we can therefore feel that they have infinite power over us.

Going against one's will by choosing a particular career, a particular partner or simply choosing not to live near them can be understood as demonstrations of disloyalty.

Nobody wants to feel like an ungrateful or selfish person, and in our desire to repay the debt we end up mortgaging our existence.


Along with guilt, shame is one of the self-conscious emotions, so called because their purpose is to allow us to develop a sense of self and live in society keeping in mind the reactions of others towards us.

The problem arises when, far from achieving this goal under our control, they end up being the directors of our lives.

In this case, the shame can occur when we feel we are not responding to the expectations of others. If I am considered intelligent, I will be terrified of failing. If they expect me to have a stable life, it will be difficult for me to try to change jobs.

And if my environment dictates that starting a family is the only viable path, I will be ashamed until I can fulfill that mandate.

Fear of abandonment

The fear of disappointing others often hides the fear of being abandoned. It is established in childhood, when we are totally dependent on adults and we think we have to please them so that they do not deprive us of their affection and leave us, because our survival literally depends on it.

Many adults continue to feed this irrational belief; they experience a very intense fear of not achieving the goals that others have set for them; be they family, friends, partners or co-workers.

Saying "no" carries the risk of upsetting the other and this is intolerable. Therefore, they do not hesitate to abandon themselves to minimize the risk that others will abandon them.

How to overcome the fear of disappointing others?

The fear of disappointment does not come out of nowhere, but is forged throughout history as an evolutionary element. Living in society e managing relationships is essential to maintaining our support circle. However, we can re-educate ourselves about it to overcome the fear of disappointing others.

First of all, we reflect on our true obligations. Relationships only make us grow when we feel free. Free to change, to stay, to talk, share and even set limits.

Although relationships are necessary and beneficial, paradoxically they become healthier and more constructive as we learn to set boundaries. We therefore keep in mind that respecting, loving and honoring others will never happen by abandoning or ignoring ourselves.

Secondly, it is important to ask ourselves what we want for us. Others may direct us to our qualities or our weakest points, but the last word on our decisions is up to us. In the long run, dissonance with the expectations of others is far less harmful than dissonance with one's own desires.

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