Everybody has some degree of FOPA, or Fear of Other People’s Approval. We’ve become so accustomed to fitting society’s mold that we’ve stopped thinking and acting for ourselves.
But I argue that to truly make a difference and to truly live your best life, you’ve got to figure out a way to eliminate most of your FOPA. Once you do, you’ll be more comfortable taking on new challenges that may change the status quo.
Before I share a couple strategies on how to reduce or eliminate FOPA, let’s dive a little deeper into the reasons why you need to kick FOPA to the curb:
1) To maximize your potential. Instead of conforming to society’s expectations, you can take risks and try new things that you might never have done when you had lower self-esteem. One example of how FOPA negatively affected someone is a male classmate who loved to dance. But because his peers made fun of him he stopped. What a shame to never maximize your true potential because you cared so much about what other people thought.
2) To develop the confidence to stand on your own. Extreme sufferers of FOPA are unable to stand up for themselves. They are meek and timid. As a result, they tend to join cliques or be part of mobs to survive. Sometimes they use their mob to bully others to make themselves feel better. But if you are always trying to find shelter in numbers, you will never develop the confidence to be anything special.
3) To ultimately feel happier. When you aren’t afraid of what people think, you experience the freedom to do as you wish. Having freedom is one of the most important components of happiness. With confidence and happiness comes kindness. Only unhappy people hate on others.
I hope you all agree that living with FOPA is a path to a suboptimal life. FOPA not only makes us feel bad about ourselves, but it also encourages us try and make others feel bad about themselves.
It’s a vicious cycle that must be broken.
I know too many people with great business ideas who aren’t willing to even start a website out of fear of ridicule. Instead, they let other people with less creativity and a worst product prosper.
One of the best ways to conquer FOPA is to come up with a personal mantra and live it each day.
For example, my personal mantra that guides me through everything from sports, to business, to fatherhood is: Never fail due to a lack of effort because effort requires no skill. Feel free to adopt this mantra as well.
Battling It Out In Tennis
With this personal mantra, I push myself to train as hard as possible on the tennis court in order to battle at the USTA 5.0 level.
I’ve lost the majority of my matches over these past four years, but at least I’ve been willing to show up and battle. So many of my friends quit tennis once they got bumped up to 5.0 or were never available during matches because they were afraid of losing.
The losses stung less over time because I knew I’d done my best to stay in shape and work on my weaknesses. If my opponent beat me, I shook his hand and honored his victory. Then I’d ask myself what are the things I can work on to get better.
Keep On Going
My personal mantra has also helped me keep on writing on Financial Samurai 3X a week on average for the past 10 years. Every time I don’t want to write, I remind myself of my personal mantra to keep on going no matter what.
Three hours of sleep because my boy was crying? Keep on writing. Got back late from a long high school tennis match an hour’s drive away? Keep on writing. Receive a mention from a major media publication that boosts traffic and allows me to do nothing for the rest of the week? Keep on writing.
It’s extremely easy to slack off if you don’t have a boss. It’s even easier to slack off if you don’t really have to worry too much about money. This easy path towards laziness is one of my biggest fears as a father.
Taking life for granted is why I’ve come up with a real estate stealth wealth solution and am considering moving to a less diverse part of the country to reduce the chances that my boy turns into one of my unmotivated neighbors. Living at home with no direction at almost 30 years old is truly sad.
Final FOPA Conquering Strategy
Only people who truly love you spend time giving you constructive feedback on how to improve. Take their criticism to heart. In fact, ask for even more constructive criticism every chance you have.
Only people who are jealous of you keep criticizing you because they are too afraid to try themselves. The only way to make themselves feel better is to try to keep you down. They suffer the most from FOPA! Too bad they are the main reason why so many people suffer from FOPA.
Let me tell you one last way to overcome FOPA
You must experience repeated failure and pain.
For example, the reason I’m not afraid to get in a physical fight is that I’ve been in plenty of physical fights before. I loved fighting back against bullies in school, even if that meant getting suspended like I was a couple of times.
Blood on my lips tasted so good!
In middle school and high school, I took the blows and kept fighting back against my oppressors. Eventually, they stopped because they no longer wanted to get pounded into submission.
Once you know what pain feels like, you gradually lose your fear of standing up for yourself offline or online. You start caring less about what other people think. It’s the same way with money.
Once you know what losing 40% of your net worth feels like within six months that took 10 years to accumulate, you’re better able to withstand future financial hits. You also become more aware of your true risk tolerance.
Learning martial arts to break your opponent during the next altercation is akin to improving your financial acumen. The more financially educated you are, the more confidence you will have to manage your money through any part of the economic cycle. The stronger your self-defense skills, the higher you’ll hold your head up in a dark alley.
Come up with your personal mantra. Build wealth to give yourself options. Learn how to fight back with your mind and body. Fail repeatedly so you realize nothing is as scary as you had imagined.
If you do these things you will eradicate your Fear Of Other People’s Approval and eventually succeed in your goals.
Readers, what is your personal mantra you tell yourself to keep FOPA at bay? Why do we seek other people’s approval? What is holding you back from doing something different? What are examples where one didn’t pursue something due to FOPA?
Check out my Top Financial Products page to help you achieve financial freedom sooner.
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Great article. I know I felt FOPA when creating moneysensei.com and writing my book Kicking Financial Ass. Ultimately you should do what you want to do regardless of what other people think and push through those feelings. It’s the only way to maximize your potential and if you fail, get back up and do it again. If you fail again, get back up. Keep getting up until you achieve what you set out to do.
Hi Financial Samurai,
You are definitely motivating me a lot. Mostly because of your I started my own blog MrFrugality.com. Right now, I am just putting my monthly passive income streams but will ramp up in the future. I do this mostly because I want my kids to know how we got to be wealthy.
BTW there is no way in a world. I would ever sell Financial Samurai if I was in your shoes. Scale it up and get it ready for your child or future children to run it. Do you really need a few million anyway? What is your marginal benefit? Also, with your level of energy, there is no way you can just sit and look at the blue sky all the time.
I have previously retired and a couple of years that it was a waste of time. I now get up thinking about what can I do to contribute to the world even more. I
Financial Samurai says
Congrats on starting your site and thanks for your thoughts.
It really is tough for me to sell. Here is further pontification on the subject: https://www.financialsamurai.com/things-to-consider-before-selling-your-business/
My energy is definitely fading after 10 years. Come back to me this time next year and let me know how your energy is. Hopefully as high as ever b/c you’ve grown and have found a fun space to creatively grow!
Solid article. I get a lot of criticism because of my plan to FIRE. Many of my peers choose to take their salaries and indulge while I aggressively save towards my future. I learned quickly to brush it off and let my future results speak for themselves.
Simple Money Man says
I like your mantra. It’s motivated me to think of one too. It’s good to have a code to live by, keeps your grounded.
Fabian Navarro says
Hello, I have an bachelor degree B.A in business administration and a minor in health service administration. I wonder if in order to become a investment banker, I will need to go back to college and get a degree in finance. Or if I will able to learn all the things I need to learn, not going to college? Your answer will be highly appreciated. Please let me know. Have a great day!
The mantra I live by: Think like today is your last day… what would you do? What would you regret if you don’t do it now?
This thought gets me off the couch faster than any other nowadays, encourages me to go do those scary things I’m afraid to do and makes me remember what my priorities are real quick (more often than not, my most important relationships are it).
Financial Samurai says
Good mantra, and a good reminder to be present in the moment. Thank you.
Mr. M says
In short Aesops fable don’t be sheep. be the wolf or sheep dog just not the sheep.
Hello Sam, I just have a question. I have B.A degree and a minor in health care administration. I had to take a lot of math courses and financial classes. Do you think it is worth it to go back to school and get an finance degree or an MBA? Because I want to work as a investment banking. Or I can get the knowledge necessary from books,the internet,etc? You help will be highly appreciated. Have a great night
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”
I had a very successful career by beating out my competition. But as you know from your corporate background in that world what your coworkers, above and below, think of you is everything when it comes to advancement. Even my retired side hustles depend on having won the approval of a large network of decision makers. While I don’t care if others approve of my cars and house I did need others to approve of my talent and character. Unlike you, I didn’t outfight my schoolyard bullies, I formed alliances with school heroes who annihilated them to serve my ends of not getting beat up and to serve their ends of looking heroic. I did the same in business. I always fought fair and took the high ground but sometimes that resulted in eliminating bent people from the game board. I was never as tough as you but I’ve been successful via diplomacy, negotiation and relationships.
Financial Samurai says
Very smart to leverage others to do your fighting!
Ill have to teach that to my son. Communications skills are huge.
I tell myself that in order to move forward and succeed at anything one must be ready for the daily experience of Pain, even if it’s all in one’s mind. My mantra is, “Do you want the pain of Progress or the Pain of Stagnation?”
Little Seeds of Wealth says
3x per week for 10 years is a true feat. I’ve only blogged for a few months and there were already times I felt like I have no motivation to write/worry I have nothing good to write about and wonder whether I can keep it up for 1 year.
FOPA is one of the biggest barriers to improvement!
Sam, great post. I think this is what differentiates strong investors and entrepreneurs from the herd. Espousing a investment thesis or a strategy based on rigorous research and/or unique vision is what all investors should strive for. The thesis is especially powerful if it you can get more value than what you’re paying for.
I don’t have any magic bullets to fight FOPA. But the mantra of being always be my own boss literally and figuratively has served well. If you don’t make decisions for yourself (or abstain because of the possibility of being ridiculed) you’re essentially allowing others to make them for you.
Great article. I think the number one thing that stops people getting rich is that they buy stupid shit to impress others. All you have to do is stop and ask yourself “Why do I seek this person’s approval? Will their approval improve my life in any measurable way?”
Then you realize the answer is no, and you stop wasting time and money to try to impress others. You realize nobody’s opinion matters.
Well said Sam.
I think FOPA is even more accentuated in Asian cultures. I got guilted into an arranged marriage trying to appease others instead of looking out for my best interest (and you know how that debacle turned out).
A few people had asked me to start a blog several years before I did. They said I had a passion for finance, etc and knew I was creative and could write well. But I didn’t jump in then and waited and waited and waited. It definitely was FOPA as one of my fears that stopped me for a long time. Now that I overcame those fears, being a part of the blogging community has given me a new passion and reignited a fire in me that was dwindling due to burnout from medicine.
Leif Kristjansen says
I try to do 1 weird thing everyday. Not so weird that people think in a psycho but its like anti FOPA practice.
I’ve done this for as long as I can remember but I think it was a big part of my early retirement.
Social Capitalist says
Because you mentioned a previous post:
Our family moved so that my children could go to more diverse schools. I must say our neighborhood is not diverse ( unless you’re talking different species of Japanese Maples) but I prefer my children are educated with children of diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic backgrounds- from inner city to ultra wealthy.
You think racism/stereotyping may push your child; likely it will but you cannot predict how so and it is vain to think you can control it. Always choose diversity if you have the choice.
Social media bullying is an epidemic. And it’s often by women or girls who like you say, gather in circles because they are too weak to stand alone. You don’t see this type of mom mentality with men as much.
It makes me happy when other people judge me because it tells me that I’m doing something right.
My main issue is thinking what other more frugal people would think of me spending money. This is good up to a point… but this is even at the level of relatively minor expenses that I avoid and which end up wasting my time or leaving me hungry etc. Or maybe it’s just the inner frugal/environmentally conscious me…
Preston Reid says
I don’t care about what others think of me but the people that are jealous and envy me has went as far as to hack my phone and spying on me and recruiting other even people at my job it’s nothing to me but it’s not much I can do about if other people allow someone else to control them for money to trying to make me suffer I find it funny because no one will say any thing to my face and when I say something to them they lie like I’m just making things up sad what people will do for money to try to hurt someone I focus on me and get jobs done at work but I’m still held back because they don’t want to see me over them even though I’m great for the job I’m a happy go lucky person I don’t let much bother me despit the way things look I laugh at my own joke I don’t need any one to make me laugh people are just trying their best to hold me down sad story but this has happen to a lot of people that are great, I guess I’m no different. Confident
“Other people are either so self-centered or so self-conscious that they don’t have the mental bandwidth to care what you’re up to.”
Recognizing in college that nobody really gave a s*** about the little things I had been stressing over (appearance, career path, whatever) led to the logical conclusion that I might as well ruthlessly maximize the things I valued in life come what may.
“They don’t pay my bills so !!!! them”
Anthony Tolbert says
“What other people think of you is none of your business”
A quote I’ve liked since the first time I read it, and is in the back of my mind during many different situations.
Sport of Money says
Public speaking is one of my biggest fears. It also exemplifies FOPA. It is hard to get up in front of a crowd of people and hope to win their approval.This fear limits my desire to continue to move up the ranks in Corporate America.
Practice is probably the best way to rid my fear of public speaking but I have not been strong enough to keep at it.
Try attending a local chapter of Toastmasters. This was life changing for me to get through initial hurdle of being able to conquer this debilitating fear to speak and present in public. The program is well structured to help you grow step by step.
a pennypecker says
G Gordon Liddy described a similar mantra when explaining how he overcame his insane fear of rats. As a little kid, one day he decided to trap a rat in his back yard that had been haunting him for months. In a primitive symbolic ceremony he literally cooked and ate the thing he feared most – never to fear rats again. Developing an emotional callous to all things negative is not an inherent human quality, but it’s value cannot be overstated especially in the horribly negative world of social media that has sprung up in the last 10 years. Too bad high school kids can’t seem to process social mob media and general on line hate for the load of crap that it is.
Dave @ Accidental FIRE says
As a result, they tend to join cliques or be part of mobs to survive. Sometimes they use their mob to bully others to make themselves feel better.
You just described Twitter.