Are you afraid of people looking at you?

45817583 21330fb328 m Are you afraid of people looking at you?Recently I have had a number of presentation coaching clients who have avoided making presentations because they suffered from an acute fear of being looked  or judged.

The technical name for the fear of people looking at you is Scopophobia and can be a very debilitating.  Whilst some cases need specialist 1:1 therapy, many people find that simple techniques like the one I will share in this post can make a big difference.

First you have to understand what causes your “scopophobia ”

Phobias are the result of exaggerated thought process, often triggered by an early negative experience.  These patterns get “locked in” causing an emotional chain reaction.   One thought triggers another, and that thoughts triggers the next until those thoughts become extremely exaggerated, causing phobias and anxieties.

I’m going to share one sufferer’s thought process, just so you understand the sort of thing that used to go on in her mind when a phobic reaction is created and what she did to resolve it.

Here’s a typical example of thinking that can trigger anxiety about people looking at you:
As I’m about to give a presentation , I feel like when I’m about to get in a huge, scary roller coaster. I’m aware of the people looking at me and how people react to every action I make. As soon as I make a mistake no matter how small the mistake is or was, my mind will exaggerate it and that’s when the chain reaction of thoughts begins.

“As the negative thoughts are triggered, now I’m more aware of my surroundings and ultra aware of everything I do. How I am standing, how fast my heart is beating, the tremor in my hands and the churning in my stomach. These thoughts trigger other physical reactions and ramp up my anxiety.”

Soon my mind is flooded with dozens of thoughts and explanations that make me lose concentration. My concentration levels become so low that a lot of times is almost and impossible to speak without hesitation or going blank.”

“If this goes on it will become hard for me to pay attention or to think straight. it will also trigger other physical and mental reactions like, severe nervousness, the need to escape the situation, shaking, blushing, and numbness of my body. The chain reaction of thoughts repeats itself, until I’m out of the presentation.”.

In this case what triggers the scopophobia are the exaggerated thoughts of people looking at her and thinking negatively about her and her apparent awkwardness when in reality most of the time they don’t even notice it.

One solution for scopophobia:
To eliminate the fear of people looking at you, you have to  either change your thought processes or eliminate what triggers those thoughts. The lady in the above example chose to eliminate the triggers.

To stop looking awkward she created a second personality, a personality that she assumed when she had to give a presentation.

For example she described to me how she chose a role model (a TV character in her case) who, she believed, had the confidence and social skills that she aspired to.

When she wanted to appear confident in a presentation, or other situation where she felt people were looking at her, she would imagine what her “role model” would do if they were in her place. How would they stand, move, speak, and react?

By copying how that person behaved  (but not what they would say) she was able to project more confidence than she initially felt and as a result her anxiety started to subside automatically.

This is just one of a number of techniques that can be applied when your fear of people looking at you is stopping you get your message across and perhaps holding you back from a new job or promotion.

If you have found your own solution to the problem of scopophobia please share it with us by leaving a comment below.

If you found this technique helpful please use the social buttons to share it with your friends you never know who else has the same problem around people looking at you.

 

 Are you afraid of people looking at you?

About 

Gavin Meikle is "The Communication Doctor" and his mission is to change the way the world communicates for good.

He runs workshops and courses as well as 1:1 mentoring programmes, helping business owners, managers and executives achieve personal and professional success.

Gavin is based in Hampshire in the UK.

4 Responses to Are you afraid of people looking at you?

  1. Late reaction, but here it goes: I’ve had (and still have) sociophobia for over two years. I don’t exactly know what triggered it but I do know I couldn’t stand the thought of people looking at me, being in closed rooms or social gatherings I couldn’t immediately leave. The result was that I started to sweat until I got soaked and thus the fear became even worse to the point where I started having these panic attacks.
    Well, I always lived by the philosophy that, to overcome a problem, you have to analyse it from deep within. So I started searching the web for tons of information, started reading books, went to therapy (although I quit that soon). I became a non-licensed expert on the matter. I meticulously bult in buffer zones to have a safe point. For instance: I bought shoes with zip fastening so I could directly loosen them to cool off and always wore cotton clothing (which helps not to get sweaty that fast).
    These self-obtained insights in combination with benzodiazepines I took, helped me to get through the days. (I must warn those who read this: I knew how to handle benzodiazepines over a long period of time and also because I had already taken some sleeping pills over the years. Always make sure to build in at least 3 off days a week- otherwise you’ll get addicted pretty fast. Take caution there! I know what I’m talking about, I once got addicted to sleeping pills due to underestimation).
    I know what pyschologists tend to say: if you get stuck in these ‘safety routines’ you are unlikely to resolve your anxiety. But very often psychologists only advise from what they’ve read in their books, I’m not saying you shouldn’t take them seriously. I’d just like to point out that any person can react differently to a given mehod.
    Anyway; over time I got so familiar with the signals that possibly could cause a panic build-up or attack and I learned to master the situations. In that way I truly started to regain confidence: I forced myself to stay in these situations more often (I knew I had buffers) and the fear started to decrease. Now I can safely say that the fear doesn’t dictate my every move any longer.
    The best part is, I did it all by myself. No therapy and believe me: I was in a severe condition, even thought of suicide every single day…

    I still keep a pack of benzodiazepines with me, just in case. But when I do take them (once a month or so) I feel like I might have well done without them. The only downside of my ‘recovery’ is that I kind of miss my ‘situation’ of fear… How odd that may sound, one tends to become hooked to these routines caused by your anxiety. It makes for a predictable life but puts your life on a hold.

    I hope that some can find relieve in reading this. Sincerely.

    • Hello Maarten
      Thanks for sharing your personal journey and experiences of this debilitating condition. I am pleased to hear that your perseverance has paid off. I am sure that your story will give others hope too.

  2. I personally think that I could get over it, but the way everyone describes it just isn’t for me. I cant find a way to get over it properly, just like my fear of heights. I actually had to go up somewhere high but the thingis im afraid ill fall

    • Thanks for sharing your comment. This can indeed be a challenging condition. It may be that you could benefit from seeing a pyschologist or an NLP practitioner. There are a number of techniques for dealing with this type of thing 1:1 including the NLP Fast Phobia Cure. Gavin

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