How to Overcome Fear of Disappointing Others (According to Experts)

Are you someone who worries about what other people think of you? Do you often find yourself sacrificing your needs and wants to make others happy? If so, you’re not alone—many people struggle with the fear of disappointing others.

It’s natural to care about what others think of us, but sometimes this fear can hold you back from living life to the fullest. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.

According to experts, here are ways to overcome the fear of disappointing others and start living your life on your own terms:

Miriam Geiger, LMFT, LPCC

Miriam Geiger

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

We all fear disappointing others, but there may be times when it goes so far that the thought of letting down someone we care about fills us with dread. It can be so paralyzing that we’d rather not try at all than risk falling short. 

But the truth is, disappointment is a natural part of life. Everyone experiences it, whether they’re the ones being let down or doing the disappointing. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay—it’s essential for growth.

If you’re someone who often finds yourself avoiding opportunities because you’re afraid of disappointing others, know that you’re not alone. But also know that there is a way to overcome this fear. 

The key is to understand that disappointment is a natural part of life—it’s something we all experience from time to time. And while it’s not always pleasant, it’s not the end of the world either. 

By learning to accept disappointment as a part of life, you can start to let go of your fear and move forward with confidence. Here’s how: 

Acknowledge your fears

The first step to overcoming any fear is acknowledging that it exists. Once you name your fear, it will lose some of its power over you. 

So ask yourself, what are you afraid of?

  • Are you afraid of failing? 
  • Of not being good enough? 
  • Of being rejected? 

Once you identify your specific fears, you can start to work on addressing them. 

For example, if you’re afraid of failing, list all the times you’ve failed in the past and what the result was. Chances are, you survived and even learned from your mistakes. 

Related: Overcoming Fear of Failure

If you’re afraid of not being good enough, remind yourself that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and that you are just as worthy as anyone else. 

Related: How to Feel Good Enough

If you’re afraid of rejection, remind yourself that not everyone will like or accept you, but that’s okay. You don’t need everyone’s approval to be happy and successful. 

Remember that the other people in your life can survive being disappointed by you. If they can’t, that is not a reflection of your value but more about their own issues.

Understand where your fears are coming from 

After identifying your fears, take some time to reflect on where they might be coming from. Often, our fears are rooted in past experiences or traumas that we haven’t fully addressed. 

For example, if you’re afraid of being rejected, it might be because you were rejected in the past and haven’t fully processed those feelings yet.

Processing past experiences and traumas are important in overcoming fears of disappointing others. In order to move on, you need to understand what happened and why it was difficult for you. 

This can be done through therapy, talking to friends, or writing in a journal. Once you’ve processed the experience, you’ll be in a better place to deal with any associated fears. 

Instead of just believing the fear, you’ll be able to see it from a more objective point of view.

Challenge your beliefs about disappointment  

One of the main reasons we are afraid to disappoint people is because we believe that disappointment is bad—that it’s something to be avoided at all costs.

But what if we reframe our thinking around disappointment? What if, instead of seeing it as bad, we saw it as an opportunity to learn and grow? By changing our beliefs about disappointment, we can reduce our fear of it and open ourselves up to new possibilities. 

Disappointment can be an opportunity to know something isn’t working or maybe we need more support. It can also be an opportunity for forgiveness and even a chance to have a good-natured laugh at ourselves for being imperfect humans.

Related: What Is Forgiveness and Why Is It Important?

It’s important to remember that disappointing others is not the same as being a disappointment. 

Successful people often have taken risks and made choices that others don’t agree with. And while they may have faced some setbacks along the way, they eventually achieved their goals. 

Give yourself permission to disappoint others 

Once you’ve challenged your beliefs about disappointment, it’s time to permit yourself to fail. This means accepting that disappointment is a natural part of life and that it’s okay if things don’t always go as planned. 

Fear can be a helpful emotion. However, fear of disappointing others can also be debilitating, leading us to miss out on opportunities or make poor decisions. When we allow fear to control us, we usually do worse, not better. 

This is because worrying causes us to focus on negative possibilities rather than positive ones. As a result, we are more likely to make mistakes or overlook important details. 

When you give yourself permission to fail and possibly disappoint someone, you take away the power that your fear has over you and open yourself up to new opportunities for growth.

Remember to extend some compassion towards yourself

One of the best ways to overcome any fear is to practice self-compassion. This means being kind and understanding towards yourself—even when things don’t go as planned. 

When we’re compassionate towards ourselves, we’re more likely to assume that others will do the same. So next time you feel afraid of disappointing others, remember to extend some compassion towards yourself. 

Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t focus on all of your shortcomings. This kind of negative self-talk only makes things worse. 

Instead of criticizing yourself, try to treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would show to a friend. By being more compassionate towards yourself, you’ll find it easier to let go of your fears and move on.

Becca Smith, LPC

Becca Smith

Chief Clinical Officer, Basepoint Academy

The truth is that disappointments stem from people’s expectations and perceptions. So, when it comes to the fear of disappointing others, remember that you cannot control their expectations or reactions. 

Instead, focus on setting personal boundaries and making decisions that align with your values and beliefs. Below, I’ve detailed some tips for overcoming this fear:

Begin by identifying the root of your fear

Is it due to past experiences or a feeling of not being good enough? Are you constantly seeking validation from others? 

Once you have identified the root, challenge your negative thoughts and reframe them into more positive and empowering ones. Remind yourself that you are worthy and capable of making mistakes and learning from them.

Practice assertiveness and set boundaries

This may involve saying no to others or standing up for yourself in difficult situations. It is not your responsibility to meet everyone’s expectations, so prioritize your needs and what is best for you. 

Peacefully communicate your boundaries and stick to them, even if it means disappointing others. For example, if a family member consistently expects you to attend every event, explain that taking care of your mental health is essential and you need to take breaks from socializing.

Focus on your growth and progress, not others’ perceptions or opinions of you

Instead of trying to meet the expectations of others, focus on improving yourself and becoming the best version of yourself. 

Set personal goals and take steps towards achieving them, regardless of what others think or say. This may involve setting personal goals, learning new skills, and embracing mistakes as opportunities for growth. 

Remember that you are in control of your own actions and decisions and ultimately responsible for your happiness and well-being. Do not let the fear of disappointing others hold you back from living your best life.

Related: 40+ Top Fears That Hold People Back in Life

Focus on self-acceptance and self-compassion

Instead of constantly seeking external validation, practice loving and accepting yourself for who you are. Remember that mistakes and failures are a natural part of life, and it is okay not to be perfect all the time. 

As you overcome the fear of disappointing others, be gentle and forgiving with yourself. Surround yourself with supportive and understanding individuals who will encourage and uplift you on your journey. 

Seek out those who accept and love you for your authentic self without any expectations or conditions.

Seek professional help if necessary

Suppose the fear of disappointing others significantly impacts your daily life and mental well-being, for example, causing severe anxiety or depression. In that case, it may be helpful to seek professional support. 

A therapist or counselor can provide personalized guidance and resources to help you work through and overcome this fear. Therapy can also be a safe space to process and work through any underlying issues or concerns related to this fear. 

I’ve worked with teens who struggle to meet their parent’s expectations, and I’ve seen immense growth and progress when they begin setting boundaries and prioritizing their own needs and well-being. 

Naturally, this process entails some disappointment from others. But once we’re firmly rooted in self-love and acceptance, we can confidently handle any disappointment that may arise. 

Remember, it is your life to live, and you deserve to prioritize your mental health and happiness above others’ expectations.

Ellie Borden, BA, RP, CPP

Ellie Borden

Registered Psychotherapist | Certified Life Coach | Clinical Director, Mind By Design®

The fear of disappointing others is something that many of us feel from time to time. While this can be a normal experience, it becomes a problem when it paralyzes us into inaction. 

Sometimes, fear can be a powerful motivator to accomplish certain necessary feats, such as a rush of adrenaline in a threatening situation activating our fight-or-flight response. 

Overcoming your fears and using that as a means to fuel yourself in achieving your goals is far more optimal. 

If you find yourself gripped by the fear of disappointing others, here are some strategies you may wish to try.

Remember that disappointing others is difficult to avoid

An important fact to remember is that disappointing others is difficult to avoid. At some point in our lives, we will disappoint someone and be disappointed in others. 

It is impossible to please all people all the time. Accepting the fact that you are only human and that you will occasionally make mistakes is nothing to be ashamed of.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help

Furthermore, there is also nothing wrong with asking for help. Perfectionists are often loathed to ask for help, but this is a poor strategy for not trying to disappoint others. 

Reach out to others when you need a hand, and don’t always feel like you have to go it alone—even having someone to talk to about your problems can significantly benefit you. 

If you are uncomfortable asking for assistance with what you must do, at least you can speak to someone about your fears or sense of being overburdened. 

A therapist or life coach can lend a compassionate ear to allow you to get some things off your chest, and they can also help you strategize to maximize your efficiency.

Speak to the actual person you are so fearful of disappointing

Finally, don’t be afraid to speak to the actual person you are so fearful of disappointing. 

Many times, we project unreasonable expectations of ourselves onto others. The person you fear disappointing may want the best for you, and their care for you makes it difficult to truly disappoint them. 

Other times, people genuinely place unrealistic demands on us. In this case, it can help to have a frank discussion with them. Asserting yourself is far preferable to living in fear, and a mental health professional can teach you these skills, a practice known as assertiveness training

This can sometimes mean finding other options, such as getting a new job or reassessing your relationships.

Remember to have faith in yourself

There is more to you than you may know, and while the problems that beset you may often appear insurmountable, you can rise to the occasion. Accept your strengths and limitations, reach out to others when needed, and never fear standing up for yourself or speaking your mind.

Leslyn Kantner, LPC, NCC

Leslyn Kantner

Licensed Professional Counselor

Investigate the “why” in your behaviors

As a young girl, I recall feeling more concerned about disappointing my father than igniting his anger. Disappointment seemed like a much larger burden to overcome. 

What is disappointment? Of course, we all know that disappointment is the emotional result of letting someone down or failing to meet their expectations.

What’s interesting about this is that, in so many cases, we are unaware of the expectations someone may have of us. Many of our expectations lie just below the surface of our awareness. 

For example, we may experience disappointment that my partner didn’t put their dirty cup in the dishwasher; after all, doesn’t everyone know to do that? Other times, someone else’s expectations may exceed our personal capacity to fulfill them.

We develop a fear of disappointing someone when meeting a person’s expectations is tethered to feeling loved or wanted by them. As a child, this happens when we fail to meet our parents’ expectations and get punished. 

The more severe the punishment, the more afraid we may be to make mistakes. If we don’t do the homework on a group project and everyone receives a bad grade on the assignment because of our failing, we’re likely to feel ashamed or be shamed for not meeting those expectations. 

A person’s reaction to even small disappointments say, we forget to take out the trash, can reinforce the positive or negative message we internally create about what it means to disappoint someone.

The reality of disappointment

I don’t believe there’s a living soul that can prevent disappointment. One may even go so far as to say that it is simply a natural part of life because we can’t possibly fulfill the vision everyone crosses our path may have for us.

In her book “Untamed,” author Glennon Doyle insists, Your job, throughout your entire life, is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing yourself.

When we are working on becoming our most authentic selves, it’s likely to look different than the vision someone else may have of us, and that’s OK. 

Here are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Know yourself. Seek to differentiate your ‘shoulds’ (which are expectations) from external influence versus the ones that coincide with your own core values.
  2. Notice your intentions. Investigate the ‘why’ in your behaviors. Validate yourself and the reason you’ve made the decision(s) you’ve made or that you’re making. Be sure that your intention matches your core values.
  3. Focus on authenticity. The point of our existence is to engage with and honor our truest selves. 

Learning to lean into the discomfort of disappointment can be difficult, especially if we’ve developed people-pleasing behavior patterns. 

Remind yourself of the inevitability of disappointment and move through the tips outlined to prioritize the actions you’re inclined toward. Remember to choose the ones that align with your most authentic self.

Jared Heathman, MD

Jared Heathman

Psychiatrist, Active Ketamine

Evaluate your boundaries and ask yourself how you can realistically strengthen them

What is the underlying need? Fear of disappointing others can lead to people-pleasing behaviors. It feels impossible to say no, even when you know it would be better for you to do so. 

When someone is upset, dismissive, or irritable, you tend to believe it’s because of something you did or failed to do. You may feel deeply uncomfortable with anyone else’s discomfort. 

In fact, you will do anything that you can to alleviate other people’s discomfort, even to your own detriment. This could mean accepting disrespectful behaviors, overextending yourself, and other harmful behaviors. 

These behaviors could stem from a deep need for connection or acceptance. You may believe that if you do everything for others, you will be “good enough” to be loved and accepted. In this line of thinking, rejection is to be avoided at all costs. 

Further education: It may be valuable to learn about Dr. Stephen Karpman’s Drama Triangle. Karpman proposes a model of unhealthy social interaction that includes the roles of the Rescuer, the Persecutor, and the Victim. 

A rescuer, for example, takes power by taking on responsibilities for the victim. A breakdown of each of the roles and how they interact with each other can be found in Lynne Forrest’s videos.

How can I help myself create change? Creating boundaries for yourself is another crucial step to overcoming the fear of disappointing others. 

Boundaries are ways that we communicate our needs to others, and according to Nedra Glover Tawwab, we do this through behaviors as well as verbally and nonverbally

Boundaries can be rigid, like a huge brick wall, porous, like a line in the sand, or healthy (something in the middle). Those with people-pleasing tendencies may find themselves with porous boundaries or boundaries that others are allowed to cross often and easily. 

Familiarize yourself with the types of boundaries, such as physical, emotional, and time boundaries. Evaluate your boundaries and ask yourself how you can realistically strengthen them to create meaningful change. 

Elizabeth Chiang, M.D. Ph.D.

Elizabeth Chiang

Physician and Life Coach, Grow Your Wealthy Mindset

Remind yourself of your values and take action based on your values, not the values of others

When you are thinking about disappointing others, first look at yourself. Are you disappointing yourself? Because that is the real opinion that matters. 

What are your values? They may not be the same values as the others you try not to disappoint. Remind yourself of your values and take action based on your values, not the values of others.  

Ask yourself, why do you fear disappointing this person? 

  • Is the person your boss, and you are worried about getting fired? 
  • Is this person your parent, and you are concerned about feeling shame? 
  • Is this person a friend, and you’re worried about losing their friendship? 

Then switch places with this person. If you were in their position, how would you feel? How would you react? Often we are harder on ourselves than we would ever treat other people. 

Some people say FEAR is “False Evidence Appearing Real.” 

Take stock of the situation. Could that be true in this case? If we disappoint our boss, would we actually get fired? It probably depends on how we disappointed the boss. 

If it’s not something in our job description, then it shouldn’t affect our employment. After all, if your boss made an inappropriate request, not complying may disappoint, but depending on the situation, another feeling other than fear may come up. It could be anger or resentment. 

Your fear comes from some thought you are having. Find that thought and examine it. Be curious about it. Look at it from different angles. 

Heather Wilson, LCSW, LCADC, CCTP

Heather Wilson

Executive Director, Epiphany Wellness

Write down your thoughts and feelings about disappointing others

Letting other people down is often scarier than being disappointed by other people. The feeling of disappointing someone, especially someone we love or admire, can be devastating. 

We might feel that these people think less of us and don’t trust us anymore. As a result, our self-esteem and self-worth are affected. 

How do we not let the fear of disappointing others keep us from living our lives? While the fear might never be completely eliminated from our psyche, it is possible to overcome the fear of disappointing others enough that it’s no longer debilitating.

Acknowledge the fear. Writing down your thoughts and feelings about disappointing others might be helpful. Journaling can be a valuable tool for understanding and exploring your emotions.

Examine your expectations

  • Why are you afraid of disappointing others? 
  • What do you think will happen if you do disappoint them? 
  • Are your expectations realistic? 

Often, we are the ones who put the most amount of pressure on ourselves to be perfect

But consider this: do you expect perfection from others the way you expect it from yourself? The answer is likely no because we know that people make mistakes. Give yourself the same amount of compassion and understanding because you are only human.

Communicate with others

If you’re worried about letting someone down, tell the person what your concerns are. This way, they can understand where you’re coming from and might be more forgiving if you make a mistake. Further, they can provide the tools and guidance you need to succeed in your task.

Set realistic goals

When we set our sights too high, we’re more likely to be disappointed in ourselves when we don’t reach them. So instead, start small and gradually increase the difficulty of your goals as you become more confident in your abilities.

Related: 22 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important for Success

Dr. Bryan Bruno

Bryan Bruno

Founder and Medical Director, Mid City TMS

Fear of disappointing others is very real. When you want to be a success or make others proud of you, you’ll likely put in a lot of effort to make them happy. 

Low self-esteem and insecurity are big factors in why someone may feel the fear of disappointing others. Here are some things that may help you overcome the fear of disappointing others. 

Extend compassion to yourself

If a coworker declined to help you because they were too busy, you likely wouldn’t think anything of it, and you’d move on. Extend that same courtesy to yourself. If you’re too busy to help others, understand that people will likely not take it personally. 

Remember that you are not responsible for others’ emotions

Above all else, you cannot control how other people feel. You can control your behavior, but how other people feel and interpret that behavior is not up to you. Therefore, you should release yourself from all responsibility for their emotions. 

Related: How to Not Care What People Think

Consider therapy and find out what your options are

Your desire to please others may be from something in your past that you aren’t aware of. Therapy can uncover these situations and help you move past them.

Anxiety can play a large role in your fear of disappointing others. If you find this fear interrupts your daily life, talk to a doctor and find out what your options are. 

Simone Koger

Simone Koger

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate | Grief Counselor | Owner, Koger Counseling PLLC

Check-in with yourself; how is your self-love? 

Worries of disappointment can be related to your narratives around self-worth. If your self-worth and self-love are low, it can lead to you seeking validation from others. When self-worth and self-love are in a healthier balance, that leads to feeling more secure. 

Sometimes when a person tends to be a people pleaser (putting others constantly before themselves), this starts to create a narrative of fearfulness that everyone in your life will abandon you. So the stakes are much higher regarding disappointing someone if your self-love and self-worth are low. 

If this is the case, check in with yourself. See on this scale from zero to 10 (Beyoncé level) where you currently are and where you hope to be. Start implementing small skills to build your self to self relationship. 

What is actually in your control? 

Sometimes when there is a fear of disappointment, if you reflect on what is within your power and what is not, you find if your worry is “valid.” 

What I mean by valid is that not all worries are true. Many come from the creative energy of our minds, trying to control the uncontrollable. 

For example, if you try your best on a project and have a fear of disappointing your boss, you can’t actually control their emotion or response to your work. You can only control how you hope to present yourself, how you prepare, and what you bring to the table. 

Laurence J. Stybel, Ed.D.

Larry Stybel

Licensed Cognitive Behavior Psychologist | Co-Founder and President, Stybel Peabody Associates, Inc.

Change how you talk to yourself

Highly conscientious people under stress tend to ruminate. Rumination is self-talk featuring the word “You.” 

For example, “You made stupid errors in this report. Your boss will never trust you again,” or “I disappointed my friend. She will never invite me for golf outings again.

When you constantly refer to yourself, you are stimulating a part of your brain associated with depression. 

The result is a negative cycle. The more you ruminate using self-reference, the more depressed you get. The more depressed you get, the more you ruminate.

Self-distancing is a well-researched technique to teach yourself to speak to yourself as though a third party is sitting in your mind. This third party should be calm and supportive. The focus should not be on the “now” pain but on the future. 

For example: 

“Mary, you did make mistakes in that report you turned in. And you have resubmitted a corrected version. Mary, two years from today, your boss may or may not remember the event at all. There is even a likelihood that your boss will appreciate that you had the courage to admit you were wrong two years ago.”

Martha Teater, LMFT

Martha Teater

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Mental Health Trainer, Choosing Therapy

Think about what might be behind the fear of disappointing others.

  • What thoughts come up for you?
  • Are you afraid the person will be angry with you?
  • Is there fear of the person pulling away or abandoning you?

Consider your communication patterns

You could work on being clearer and more direct in how you communicate with others. Your fear of people’s responses may keep you tentative about what you say, and you may find yourself tiptoeing around people.

Try to sort through your personal history of being rejected or causing disappointment

What were your experiences in your family growing up? How did your parents or caregivers respond to you when they were disappointed with you?

Review your level of self-confidence and self-esteem

Do you feel strong and capable? If not, how do you usually see yourself? Do you feel like you mess up a lot? You may believe you aren’t as good as others, which makes it harder to feel self-assured and worthy.

It’s possible that you may have some catastrophic thinking

This is when you assume that the worst possible thing that could happen will happen and that you won’t be able to handle it. When you develop that kind of thinking, you can end up feeling inadequate and helpless, which does nothing to improve your confidence.

Related: The 32 Best Books on Confidence and Self-Esteem to Read in 2022

Naama Zusman

Naama Zusman

Life and Career Coach

Face up to what is actually going on

The costs of people pleasing: In my time as a coach, I’ve seen so many clients not acting on their desires and great ideas for fear of what others would think of them. 

  • They stay in a relationship they are no longer happy in because their parents think, “he’s such a great guy.” 
  • They stay in a job that is no longer satisfying because “you’re crazy to leave such a good job.” 
  • They won’t advance in their careers because they are afraid to speak their truth and hide their brilliance, too. 
  • They don’t start that passion project because they are afraid of being laughed at. 
  • They don’t launch their business because they are afraid of people judging them because “who do you think you are?” 

When how we see ourselves is greatly dependent on how other people see us, we tend to edit ourselves, lessen parts of who we are, and hold back on opportunities. We limit our capacity to grow, evolve, and experience our life to the fullest.

Many of my clients confide that they worry about what others will think of the choices they wish to make. 

The truth is, when it comes to judgment, we are typically our toughest critics. We fool ourselves into worrying because if we worry long enough, we will have an answer that will satisfy everyone. But worry rarely improves the outcome because we haven’t stopped judging ourselves. 

By avoiding making the choice that will please us, we also miss the opportunity to develop the strength, trust, and resilience we need to stand in our own truth.

We tell ourselves that we’re scared of what other people would think of us (which feels so real!), but what it really boils down to is being scared of ourselves, of our own inner critic and self-judgment. The reality is that we’re unlikely to be judged for our life choices or how we express ourselves. 

If anything, “our people” will actually find our truth inspiring. When we do something scary such as following our heart (whether it’s leaving a good job, ending a relationship with a great partner, or expressing ourselves fully in our life), we inevitably experience fear and doubt for the exact reason we’re doing something different. 

What often scares us is not the worries, questions, and judgments of others; what scares us is that they’ll confirm the fear we hold within. 

Others’ fears and judgments often mirror our own fears and judgments about ourselves. In his book, “The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz writes, Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” 

The truth is people live in their own minds; they are focused on their own challenges and issues. If someone has the time or energy to think negatively about us, it’s only because our spoken truth triggers their own unspoken truth.

Many of us, subconsciously (it’s an instinctual protective mechanism), use the fear of others’ opinions as a reason not to do what we want to do in the world. What we really need to do is face up to what is actually going on. 

How to work through the fear of what other people think?

Write out your aspirations, longings, dreams, desires, and choices you wish to make

Write out your aspirations, longings, dreams and desires, choices you wish to make, or things you wish to express that you worry about letting people down. 

Look at each of them and ask yourself, “Where am I judging this as being wrong?” or “where am I not yet embracing this part of myself?” 

Next, ask yourself: 

  • “What would it look like if I validated myself first?” 
  • “What would I do differently if I didn’t need other people’s approval?” 

There’s great liberation in developing immunity to other people’s judgments and opinions and, even more so, in letting go of your own self-judgment. So long as you’re judging yourself, you’ll always fear being judged by others.

Know the costs of people-pleasing

As human beings, we learn, grow, and work as part of society. We learn how to behave in this world alongside societal norms and expectations, society’s beliefs, and societal values. 

In this process, we learn how to please others to fit in and belong. The question is: At what cost? Knowing the costs of people-pleasing, particularly the cost to our own energy and fulfillment, is key. And no matter what we decide to do, we can always begin by being honest with ourselves. 

When you notice yourself being stuck, paralyzed by other people’s expectations, take a deep breath and ask yourself: Who am I trying to please? And at what cost?”

Pleasing others means we meet external expectations and don’t let other people down. But someone has to pay the price. And that someone is often you. 

May you always be more loyal to your dreams than your fears of letting others down.

Christy Piper

Christy Piper

Coach and Speaker | Author, “Girl, You Deserve More

Focus on winning

The fear of disappointing others is a real fear. We are social, and since the beginning of time, our very survival depended on being productive members of our tribes. People who excelled were well-liked and got favor from others. So it’s natural to want to do well.

Instead of focusing on your fear of not disappointing others, how about focusing on winning? We usually get more of what we focus on. So if we focus on the negative side, that’s more likely to happen.

It helps to give yourself a pep talk. Tell yourself nice things about yourself that are true. Taking concrete steps to prepare also makes a huge difference.

Here are some key strategies:

Look at past wins

Take an inventory of the past times you’ve succeeded. If you have been a winner before, you can do it again. You can write these down or speak them aloud to yourself or another person.

Prepare for it

Think about what would help you pass the test, win, or whatever it is you must do. 

  • If you can study to learn more ahead of time, do that. 
  • In the case of a physical fitness test, work out more now. 
  • If you must present something to others, recite it ahead of time. Make cue cards or a speech outline.


This is a small action you can do throughout your day. But it can make a huge difference. The act of smiling increases feelings of positivity. This has been proven by science. Getting smiles back from others also primes you for success. It feels like others approve of you and is encouraging you.

Visualize yourself winning

Picturing what it looks like to win can make a huge difference. Many professional athlete champions speak about how they visualize winning first. Imagine what it looks and feels like to win in your mind and body as if it’s already happened.

Believe you can succeed

You must believe you can succeed. No one else can do this part for you. If you believe with confidence that something will happen, you open the door for it to happen.

Realize if you fail, you can try again

You should put your best effort forward on the first try. But do realize there are other options. In almost every case, you can try again and win. Many successful people talk about their trail of past mistakes they made before succeeding. 

Often, persistence is a huge part of achieving your goal. You may have to wait a little longer, request a rematch, or get creative to find another path. But realizing this may take away some of the anxiety.

Be the one who must live with your choices

You should want to succeed for yourself more than anyone else. It feels good to get compliments and for others to recognize your success. But at the end of the day, you are the one who must live with your choices, consequences, and results. No one else will.

Spend time around people who are positive and want to see you succeed

It’s essential to spend time around people who are positive and want to see you succeed. Those who are jealous, negative, and overly critical can hinder you. 

The company you keep affects your mindset a lot. If you’re surrounded by very negative people, it can make you fail when you should’ve succeeded. 

Being around toxic people can infect you. They likely don’t have your best interests at heart, regardless of what they say. They are unhappy and likely to take their anger out on you about anything. 

Even if they can’t criticize you this time, they will find something else to make you feel bad about. Their praise or criticism is not dependent on this event—even if you feel like it is.

Who are you disappointing? They aren’t thinking about you as much as you think. Most people are so busy thinking about their own lives, mistakes, and failures. 

No matter how much you think others are thinking about you, they are probably not. So rest assured, whether you succeed or mess up, people will only spend a short time thinking about it.

Toxic people may bring up your failures whenever they can. But again, even if you win at this event, they will find something else to criticize you about.

Are you more afraid of disappointing yourself or others?

It’s important to surround yourself with people who appreciate you for you. Including those who honor your choices. If you are afraid of disappointing others but not yourself, this could signify that you were pushed into something you usually wouldn’t choose to do.

If this is true, do you actually want to do it? Or would you rather do something else? This isn’t an excuse to wimp out now. But if this choice is committing you to a long contract, it is a good reason to rethink whether you actually want to do it.

However, if this is a small event you must do, or that doesn’t take you down the wrong path long term, just do it. Get it over with as soon as possible. Once you do, a weight will be lifted from your shoulders. You will feel relieved not to have to worry about it anymore.

Chelsea Austin

Chelsea Austin

Writer | Speaker | Certified Life Coach

Meet yourself where your feelings are

The first thing to do when any kind of feelings come up around disappointment is to acknowledge them and try not to beat yourself up for having them. 

Of course, you want to make your family, friends, boss, teachers, or co-workers proud. That makes absolute sense, and it’s okay that those feelings are coming up for you!

However, being afraid of disappointing someone else is not only loaded with fear and anxiety; it can often come with secondary emotions like being frustrated that you’re feeling fear or anxiety. That just adds more to your plate. 

If you can look at what you’re feeling, recognize that it’s allowed, and give yourself the space to move through it—you’re on your way to feeling a lot better and less concerned about disappointing someone else. Or, at a minimum, you will get to a place where you can accept that you might disappoint someone, and that’s okay

Remember that you have no control over how anyone else feels

Take it from a person who loves control; it’s hard to accept the idea that we cannot control anyone else, especially when it comes to their feelings. 

When we begin to recognize that we are only responsible for our feelings, it can start to ease the fear around other individuals’ reactions to our actions. 

If someone is disappointed, it has much less to do with you and more to do with them and how they see the world. It’s not our job to be dancing monkeys constantly trying to make everyone else happy. That balancing act is exhausting. 

Take some deep breaths and remember other people’s feelings are theirs to manage, as yours is yours to manage. 

Ask yourself how you feel about the action you’ve taken or are considering taking

Are you proud of what you’re about to do? Your approval is the only approval you need to move forward. That matters most. It may not always feel as good to move forward without validation and approval from the outside world. 

But if your fear of disappointing someone else is feeling bigger than the action you want to take, ask yourself how badly you want to do the thing and how moving forward makes you feel. 

Ask yourself what you would do if the person you’re afraid of disappointing weren’t in the picture. Or what if they actually weren’t disappointed but super proud? 

Figure out how you feel about the action first; if it’s something you want and you’re proud to move forward, then go for it. The rest of the world’s opinions are not as important as your own about what you’re doing. 

People will always have an opinion about who you are, what you do, and how you go about life. But there’s no one way to do it. The sooner we can let go of the fear and anxiety about what everyone else will think and who we might disappoint and start living what, in our hearts, feels the most right, we become free

It may not be easy, it rarely is, but the more you can stand in your truth and what you believe in, the sooner the fear of disappointing others will melt away. 

Or, at a minimum, you’ll be able to move through it because your excitement and passion regarding moving forward will eclipse your fear of disappointing someone else. 

Related: Why Is Passion Important for Success in Life?

Tiffany Zehara

Tiffany Zehara

Growth and Revenue Liaison | Problematic Rehabilitation and Conflict Resolution Specialist | Podcast Host, Humanitarian Entrepreneur

Know your value, and the rest will fall into place

Demands are being placed on us all day, each day. If we allow it, the expectations of others can become crippling. We can become addicted to measuring our value and worthiness based on the opinions of others. 

Often, we are not taught how to build our own sense of self and stand firm in who and what we want. 

How do we know ourselves? 

Russian actor and director, Konstantin Stanislavsky, had a method when he was working with actors to help immerse themselves in their character. While great in acting, these questions are easily transferable to fully discovering who each of us is as a unique, important character in our life. 

Ask yourself: 

  • “Who am I?” This is a great way to create your own labels for how you want to define yourself, not letting others define you. You are the creator of your life.
  • “Why am I here?”
  • “What lights you up? How do you envision making the world a better place?”
  • “What do I want?”
  • “What are the dreams you have in your heart? What do you want to achieve?”
  • “Why do I want it?” Success, security, wealth, and abundance mean different things to different people. How do you define these terms?
  • “How will I get what I want?”
  • “What are the actionable steps you need to take to realize your dreams?”
  • “What must I overcome to get what I want?”
  • “Are there financial barriers?”
  • “How can you be resourceful to achieve what you want?”
  • “Are you unsure of what steps to actually take?”
  • “Who can you turn to that could positively support you?”
  • “Even if they are not in your current sphere, who do you see out in the world that has accomplished what you have and what lessons can you learn from them?”

We are in a constant society of go, go, go, where doing more equals being “better,” with productivity and accomplishments carrying more weight in society. There is not enough silence in our current lives. People are so busy that they become strangers, not only to one another but to themselves.

Get quiet. Be still. Listen. Even if just for a few minutes each day. There is a small, still voice within each of us, whispering and guiding us. It tells each of us how important and loved we are just by being ourselves. 

When we learn to listen and trust, when we see that our worthiness and value are not tied up in how much we can accomplish and who we can impress, we can step out of the vicious cycle of allowing others’ thoughts and opinions of us which influence how we think and feel about ourselves. 

At the end of the day, we need to be able to look in the mirror and be happy with the person we are, knowing we did our best today just by being us.

Angelie Kapoor

Angelie Kapoor

Career and Leadership Coach | Founder, Oversight Global, LLC

Be aware of the fear and challenge your assumptions

We all have a fear of disappointing others. Whether it’s our boss, friends, or family, we don’t want to let them down. This fear can be paralyzing and can prevent us from doing what we really want to do.

The first and key step to overcoming this fear is to become aware of it. Notice when you’re feeling anxious about disappointing someone. What are you assuming will happen if you do disappoint them? Chances are, your assumptions are far worse than reality.

Once you become aware of your fear, start challenging your assumptions. Are you really going to lose your job if you make a mistake at work? Is your friend really going to stop talking to you if you cancel plans? 

When you start to question your assumptions, you’ll see that they’re not as black-and-white as you thought.

The next time you feel anxious about disappointing someone, take a deep breath and remind yourself that it’s not the end of the world. You can handle whatever comes your way.

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

AJ Silberman-Moffitt

Senior Editor, Tandem

Some people exude self-confidence like it was water—a never-ending stream of belief in themselves. You look at these people, and you can’t imagine them fearing anything. After all, how could someone so confident and, well, nearly perfect, ever fear anything? They definitely don’t worry about disappointing others. 

How can you be more like them? How can you overcome a fear of disappointing others?

Get out of your head

You will probably need to get out of your own head to stop your fears from happening. Maybe you constantly are thinking about or expecting the worst to happen. 

How often has that actually been the case? Stop telling yourself something negative will happen and start thinking more about the positive.

Don’t make your response someone else’s response

Maybe you are guilty of trying to put words into someone’s mouth. You might presume how they would feel based on how you would feel if you were in that situation. 

You don’t know how other people will react—basically to anything. Don’t let your preconceived notions make you fear that you will ultimately disappoint them.

Know your limitations

John Lydgate said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” 

This is a quote that I often reference because there is so much truth to it. If you remember this quote or its meaning, it will help you realize that there might be times when someone isn’t as happy as you would like them to be, and that’s okay.

Say no when appropriate

If someone is asking you to do a task that you know you won’t be able to complete on time or in the way that they are asking for it to be done, don’t be a “yes” person. 

Don’t agree to do this task if you know full well what the outcome will be. Explain upfront that you won’t be able to do this task. This can ensure you don’t disappoint them by not getting the job done. Yes, even you saying no might cause some disappointment, but it’s better to be upfront from the get-go.

You have experienced disappointment in your life, but you went on. If you do happen to cause disappointment with someone else, they will be able to go on, as well. 

As good as your intentions are, you can’t save the world. Just do what you can, accept that you might leave someone disappointed, and you will overcome your fear before you know it.

Keva Epale

Keva Epale

Founder, Keva Epale Studio

Direct that fear to where it was created in the first place

I was a designer for over a decade and realized this fear is instilled into the profession at early stages. No matter the fields, we all face the expectations of others until a point in our lives when this state vanishes. 

Fear or anxiety surrenders to more peace in who we are: as creative beings and entrepreneurs.

The fear of disappointing others links to a lack of experience. It may be what you are currently doing as a job, activity, relationship, or conversation. In a nutshell, fear denotes a lack of confidence in who we are and what we do.

Expectation is the big word in this topic. Who states, “this is the limit,” “this is what I want,” and “how I want it to look like or to be like.

In our personal life, the expectation is determined by accepting to subdue others’ perceptions of who we should be, how we should behave, and what we should think.

The fear of not reaching someone’s expectation highlights the main solution, overcoming any fear outside of us.

Why do we accept other people’s expectations of who we are or what we ought to do? Why do we commit to it to such an extent that it creates fear of not meeting those expectations? The answer and clue to overcoming reside in taking back ownership of that fear—directing that fear to where it was created in the first place. 

That fear comes from outside and is therefore separated from who we are. That revelation gives a sense of freedom. Now we can take back full responsibility for accepting pressure and dominion from the outside world.

The ownership of that fear 

Is that fear yours? Then face why you are afraid of lacking towards others. Ask key questions on that lack, less, or gap, and get back control of your perception of competency.

Disappointment in entrepreneurship and business

In business, disappointing customers is part of the play because your product or service may not be for everyone.

If your product is related to functionality, then yes! If someone presses a button and it is expected to have a result. If it doesn’t, then yes, the customer will be disappointed. As a result, he won’t buy from you anymore.

It denotes defiance in your products, and that is in your hands. You can update and change the product or service to appeal to those who buy and need your products. You have control.

If a product or service is faulty and you are afraid of it, you will not launch. You do your due diligence to launch it as it bests. The feedback will help update and better the product’s result.

Fear cannot be the main trigger in entrepreneurship and business. You must go beyond and enter the market and why not craft space in the market? You have no other choice than to overcome or oversee fear. You do it even if it’s scary.

Disappointment in personal relationships and interactions

Emotions and relationships have more sensitive effects. It can waver people’s self-esteem if they are not received positively by others, especially for those who claim their sole identity to the exterior and people’s acceptance of them.

Do not be afraid of disappointing others; be their disappointment but don’t disappoint yourself

You will disappoint others; it is not a possibility—it is a fact. There is no cure for that other than accepting it is ok to disappoint others. That is how we grow. 

We cannot live by the rules of others all our life; time and aging will push you into ownership of your life. That positioning will encourage you to step forward and lead by example, even if people don’t get you or understand you.

The fear vanishes once you have taken back ownership. And you accepted the relieving truth: you will have to disappoint others but do not disappoint yourself. The real fear is disappointing yourself more by giving others what they expect but not what you need.

Choose yourself, and whatever comes, decide to be committed to not disappointing yourself

How do you do that? To overcome means you have had victory over. The win happens when you have decided not to surrender to others’ perceptions of who you are. Therefore, discover who you are. 

If you are doing something, give it your all, your intentional 100 % into it. You are your boss, your teacher, and your student. That helps overcome the fear, for the fear dissolves for grounded confidence.

Fear of disappointing others is not your default state. I recommend you look into your belief systems, trauma, or confidence issues and tackle them at the core.

Emily Saunders

Emily Saunders

Chief Revenue Officer, eLuxury LLC

Don’t say “yes” to everything

Don’t spread yourself too thin. Take on what you can. If you know something will lead to consternation down the road, take steps to avoid it, even if it means disappointing someone.

Saying “no” to something will save you from bigger conflicts down the road.

You will get more comfortable with saying “no” the more you do it. The more you cave in to unreasonable requests, the more your frustration will build and the tougher it will be to confront your fear of disappointing those who are close to you. That can spell doom for any relationship.

I knew a couple who wanted a puppy, and the other didn’t. A breeder had a litter of puppies; the wife wanted one of the dogs, but the husband refused. It caused some tension in the relationship, and the husband nearly caved, but he held his ground.

Months later, the same breeder had a litter, and the wife ratcheted even more pressure on the husband, even recruiting family and friends to pressure him into allowing her to buy a puppy.

The puppy arrived and was a terror in the house. The husband disliked the dog and was disengaged with it. He would try to help but would get frustrated. That led to mutual resentment between the husband and wife.

The marriage disintegrated. 

Had the husband stood his ground and said emphatically, “We are never going to get a dog. That’s final.” There would have been a big display of disappointment from the wife at that moment, but it probably would have spared the couple further drama and might have salvaged the marriage.

It was all due to the husband wanting to avoid disappointing his wife. 

Sameera Sullivan

Sameera Sullivan

Relationship Expert, Sameera Sullivan Matchmakers

Permit others to feel

People are in control of their thoughts, emotions, and feelings. You have no authority over them and cannot govern them. 

Let them experience their feelings; you have nothing to do with them. They are allowed to deal with their disappointment however they choose; it is their disappointment.

Think about the costs of your fear

Every time you make a choice, you must weigh your wants against the demands of the time. You might have to decline a request from a coworker if you’re already overburdened. 

However, you might make a different choice if your best buddy needs assistance moving and you have spare time. Be mindful in all that you do.

Start by practicing in lower-stake circumstances

You don’t have to conquer your fear overnight. Start by practicing in lower-stake circumstances before making significant decisions that will impact other people even if you wouldn’t typically; try offering a coworker some constructive criticism. You may strengthen your “anti-disappointment” muscle by doing this.

April Maccario

April Maccario

Founder, AskApril

Overcoming the fear of disappointing others can sometimes be challenging. This is because aside from fear, we are also overthinking what others might react or think towards us; thus, anxiety also comes into play.

Here are some essential points to consider to help you overcome your fear of disappointing others:

Evade being heroic or messianic toward others

These complexes tend to make you feel or think that they need you for them to succeed. Achieving success is within themselves, and you can contribute only a part of it.

Feel free to make mistakes

There’s no perfect person in this world; no one doesn’t commit any mistake in their life. Consider your mistakes as something to be learned about to make you a better person.

Don’t put yourself under stress by trying to manage more than you can

Regarding what you can and cannot do, be honest with both yourself and others. Set some sensible limits for it.

Consider psychotherapy if the fear of disappointing others persists despite your best effort to overcome it. There’s nothing wrong with seeking professional help for your situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes fear of disappointing others?

Upbringing: A person’s upbringing can play a significant role in the development of the fear of disappointing others. Overly critical or demanding parents can create a mindset where an individual feels they must meet high expectations to be loved and accepted.

Social conditioning: Society often reinforces the idea that one’s worth is tied to the approval and validation of others. This can lead to a fear of disappointing others as a means to maintain social standing and acceptance.

Perfectionism: Perfectionists often hold themselves to unattainable standards and may fear disappointing others if they don’t achieve perfection. This can result in a constant cycle of stress and anxiety.

Low self-esteem: People with low self-esteem may rely heavily on external validation to feel good about themselves. This dependency can create a heightened fear of disappointing others as they seek constant reassurance and approval.

Past experiences: Previous experiences of failure, rejection, or criticism can contribute to the development of the fear of disappointing others. These experiences may have created a pattern where the individual anticipates negative consequences if they don’t meet the expectations of others.

How can I recognize when I am feeling this fear?

Recognizing the fear of disappointing others starts with self-awareness and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings. Here are some signs to look out for:

Anxiety: You may experience anxiety or stress when faced with a task or decision that could potentially disappoint someone important to you.

Overthinking: You might find yourself overanalyzing situations or potential outcomes, trying to predict how others will react or feel if you disappoint them.

Seeking reassurance: You may constantly ask others for their opinions or approval to ensure you’re not letting them down.

Procrastination: The fear of disappointing others can lead to procrastination, as you may avoid taking action to prevent potential disappointment.

Self-criticism: If you’re constantly criticizing yourself and questioning your abilities, it’s likely that you’re worried about disappointing others.

How can I manage my thoughts and feelings when I fear disappointing others?

Managing the fear of disappointing others involves acknowledging your thoughts and feelings and taking proactive steps to address them. Here are some strategies to help you cope:

Develop self-compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, as you would a friend. Remember that no one is perfect, and it’s okay to make mistakes.

Set realistic expectations: Assess your capabilities and set achievable goals. Avoid overloading yourself with tasks that may lead to failure or disappointment.

Communicate openly: Have honest conversations with those around you about your concerns and fears. This can help alleviate your anxiety and create a mutual understanding.

Focus on your values: Reflect on your personal values and prioritize actions that align with them. This will help you gain a sense of control and purpose.

Practice mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, to help you stay present and manage your fear and anxiety.

Is it possible to completely eliminate the fear of disappointing others?

While it is challenging to eliminate the fear of disappointing others completely, you can significantly reduce it. The key is to cultivate self-awareness, self-compassion, and a strong sense of self-worth. 

Understand that it is impossible to please everyone all the time, and focus on living in alignment with your values and goals. Regularly practice self-care and engage in activities that foster personal growth. 

By prioritizing your own well-being, you’ll develop greater resilience to external expectations, reducing your fear of disappointing others.

Does the fear of disappointing others subside as people age?

The fear of disappointing others may or may not subside as people age, as it largely depends on the individual’s experiences and personal growth.

Some people become more self-assured and confident in their decisions as they age, which can reduce the fear of disappointing others. They may develop a deeper understanding of their own values, boundaries, and priorities. 

However, others may still struggle with this fear if they haven’t effectively addressed the underlying causes. It’s essential to remember that personal growth and self-improvement are ongoing processes, and age alone may not guarantee a decrease in this fear.

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