The New Fear: Beware of FOPO

There’s a new kind of fear rearing its head these days.

Actually, that’s not completely true. The fear has been around for…well, forever. But the acronym that describes it is new.

Actually, that might not even be completely true. But I just recently learned about it, so it’s new to me.  And it’s really important.

It’s FOPO. Fear of Other People’s Opinions.

Now FOPO is not to be confused with its distant cousin FOMO, which describes a different kind of fear (and which we discussed a while ago).

FOPO is different. Some, like me, say it’s dangerous.

Don’t think FOPO is a problem for you? Stick with me.

FOPO is insidious and pervasive. Once you start paying attention – really paying attention – you might find yourself super surprised at how much other people’s opinions (or anticipated opinions) slither and wind their way around your thoughts and choices.


Because ultimately – and I don’t care who you are – you want to be liked. We all want to be liked.

Heck, there’s a universal sign in our social media – and real life – that was designed to clearly indicate when we’re liked.

Or not.

We want people’s opinions about us to fall on the good side. The smart side. The attractive side. The got-it-together side.

Just some of the areas where FOPO might be hiding in the background (or yelling in the foreground) and influencing our decisions on a given day are:

  • The outfit we choose
  • The food we eat
  • The way we act at work…and go about our work
  • Our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube posts
  • Our exercise decisions
  • Whether we use an Apple or an Android or nothing
  • Who we bring into our circles…and who we keep out
  • How we speak and write to others
  • The places we live, traveling we do, cars we drive, hobbies we engage in…

…the blog posts we write.

That’s right. I’ve got FOPO going on right now. As I write these very words, I want you to like them.

I also, by the way, want you to like my books and my presentations and my MagicWrap project. (I actually really, really want you to like my MagicWrap project.)

Your opinion matters. Of course it does. FOPO is quite natural to us humans.

After all, our earliest selves evolved in groups where people relied on each other for food and warmth and life. Get banished from our group and we could die.

And while the approval stakes might not be quite so high anymore, they still exist. Which isn’t necessarily a problem.

Even making decisions based on other people’s (anticipated) opinions isn’t a problem…when it jibes with who we are. When it influences us somewhat but doesn’t take us away from our true selves.

The problem comes when FOPO causes us to make decisions that go against our own authentic grains. To stray away from what and how we really want to be and do and wear and talk because other people’s opinions eclipse everything else.

The scary message, when we let this happen, is that what other people think of us doesn’t just matter…but that it matters way more than what we think of ourselves. It means that what we want isn’t that important. That we don’t trust ourselves to go through life the right way without confirmation from others.  Which is SO sad and terrible.

Plus, not being true to who we are feels gross. We feel uncomfortable in our own skin. We become sad and itchy and angry as our true selves – our best selves – try to emerge and are held back.

We might become inauthentic. Fake. Which not only feels terrible but is also completely transparent to everybody else.

Think about when you’ve made a choice that didn’t suit you – a job or a friendship or a hobby or an outfit. Maybe it was something you outgrew but stayed in because of FOPO.

How did it feel? How did you feel?

Beware of FOPO. Not because the fear itself is wrong, but because it could lead you to live a life you don’t want to live. To be someone you don’t want to be. To dishonor the awesome individual you are.

Beware of FOPO. Recognize it, then have the courage – the courage – to make decisions that are true to you anyway. To know that you might still crave approval, but to not allow it to be everything.

Let your best self emerge. Let those who appreciate it come along for the ride.

Wear the outfit that you love best, find the work you like best. Write and speak and sing and post to social media in a way that’s true to you.

Write a blog post that’s true to you.

Even if other people don’t like it.

(Though I still hope you do. And that’s okay.)

PS: Thanks to Travis Rigel Lukas Hornung for the thumbs down shot, and to Ben Brown for the eerily familiar-faced thumbs up shot.


16 responses to “The New Fear: Beware of FOPO”

  1. Doug Hegebarth Avatar
    Doug Hegebarth

    Hope the Magic Wrap project is going well – they went over extremely well with my family.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      So great to hear, Doug! Thank you!!

  2. Patricia Costa Avatar
    Patricia Costa

    Thank you Deirdre for a great breakdown of people pleasing. It certainly can affect all we do and we can’t be ourselves which can be wonderful !

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      That’s exactly what it is, Patty…people pleasing! Thanks for giving the post a read and for your great comment. It definitely is worth it to figure out how to be ourselves!

  3. Samantha Goldstein Avatar
    Samantha Goldstein

    So wise, my friend. You know this has been on my mind.
    This sentence really resonated: “The scary message, when we let this happen, is that what other people think of us doesn’t just matter…but that it matters way more than what we think of ourselves.” Thank you for really crystallizing the heart of the matter. I adore you and will be shopping for more Magic Wraps very soon!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Thanks so much, Sam…I’m so grateful for your support, and for reading my posts so thoughtfully. Glad this resonated for you! I adore you back and am excited about more MW orders…we’re just about to put in another order to our manufacturer for more (including lattes!)

  4. Kevin Cadieux Avatar
    Kevin Cadieux

    I really, really like you, your blog and your Magic wrap project!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Thanks Cadieux – that’s (obviously) what I like to hear! 🙂

  5. Meg Avatar

    “Let those who appreciate it (me being my authentic self), come along for the ride.” Yaaaassss!!!
    You have such a way of taking a cliche and helping me apply it to my own life, therefore making it hit deep.
    Love my MagicWrap!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      You know, I actually added that line at the very last minute – during my last revision – because it felt like it needed to be said. So glad it resonated with you!!!! Thanks for the great comment…and for loving MagicWrap!

  6. julia Avatar

    I enjoyed reading this and your examples. You are such a relatable writer and I appreciate learning about FOPO and how it can zap us of our authenticity–thanks!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Thanks very much, Julia…I so appreciate your kind words. Here’s to less zapping!

  7. Dr. Jim Jones Avatar

    Well, I know I am late in this process but a seminar one day and then read the blog. It was excellent. I am amazed at the candid conversation in a nice way. It is refreshing.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Thanks so much, Jim – I really appreciate your taking the time to read this and comment. It’s been a pleasure to get to know you a bit from afar!

  8. Dr. Jim Jones Avatar

    I am fairly sure I will continue to stay in touch. I believe you have a great deal to offer and if I can get this nonprofit turned around to a point we look more connected to the community, I would love to have you present to our group. We will celebrate our 50th year next year and our founder is still alive. What an absolute joy to get her input and sharing about how she moved The Reading Group through the challenges of making a difference in the lives of our thousands of students.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      Wow – what an amazing way to mark your 50th anniversary! I would love to work with you in the future whenever the time is right – in the meantime, please do stay in touch!