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I have been afraid of what people think of me my entire life, so I consider myself an expert on the subject.
For a long time, I was so afraid of what people thought about me that my number one fear was speaking to an audience for any type of speech or presentation.
I remember one presentation I had in college, where I had to present in front of a small class of my peers and my professor, all of whom I knew very well. As I started my presentation I started sweating heavily and I could feel my face getting red. I was afraid of what the people thought – about my speaking, about my work meeting the teachers approval, about my voice, about my sweat, and about how I looked.
Maybe you can relate to this experience or have one like it. When fear takes over I can’t function.
The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.Proverbs 29:25 MSG
God understands how disabling our fear of what people think can be. His Word gives us insight into why we are afraid and solutions on how to become confident and courageous instead. Here are three ways we can shift our focus, so we can go from being consumed with what people think to overcoming our fears and being confident.
Learn, don’t hide
Most of us don’t want to have weaknesses, but we all have them. When we ignore them, pretend they aren’t there, or hide them, we won’t be able to change them. We also can’t learn to become strong in the midst of our weaknesses.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT
This scripture shows how we must change our focus from what our weaknesses are to how God can make us strong. Some weaknesses we can change and others we cannot, but God can help us be strong in the midst of any weakness or circumstance we have.
When we embrace our weaknesses and admit our insecurities, we can stop pretending and learn all we need from God and his Word to change, grow, and become internally strong.
I’ve learned that there is nothing perfect in this imperfect world except your words, for they bring such fantastic freedom into my life!Psalm 119:96 TPT
No one in this world is perfect, so we can stop trying to look perfect and simply be ourselves. The only thing that is perfect is God’s Word and he is constantly trying to help us learn and grow. When we embrace learning from God we allow him to make us strong and enjoy the process of growing.
Also, when we care more about learning from people, we become less focused on what they think of us. Instead of ignoring or hiding your weaknesses, choose to become a learner.
- What weaknesses do you have that you want to hide?
- What can you study out in your Bible to learn from God?
- Who has God put in your life to learn from?
Be honest, not guilty
My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.Psalm 38:4 NIV
The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one’s after them; Honest people are relaxed and confident, bold as lions.Proverbs 28:1 MSG
When we have done something that makes us feel guilty, it weighs us down and saps our energy. We end up paranoid and afraid that people may find out what we are hiding. We may avoid people, lie or ignore them, because we are afraid of what they may think of us. We can think, “if they knew I did this, then they wouldn’t want to be my friend, love me, or accept me.”
When we are honest, there is nothing to hide, so there is nothing to be afraid of someone finding out. This is extremely freeing and leads to confidence.
The one who walks in integrity will experience a fearless confidence in life, but the one who is devious will eventually be exposed.Proverbs 10:9 TPT
Walking with integrity means living in honesty and choosing to do what is right. For years I lived a double life, looking good on the outside while very guilty on the inside. I was constantly afraid of what people thought of me, because there was so much I was hiding.
From the outside it looked like I was a good guy who loved my girlfriend, volunteered to teach ESL classes, helped at-risk youth, was nice to people, and was a good student. But on the inside, I was thinking only of myself, hating some people, unfaithful to my girlfriend, mean to my roommates, and lying all of the time.
Being honest about everything in my life was the most freeing thing I have ever done. And for the first time I was confident in being myself. A couple things helped inspire me to be honest.
First, I had friends who were honest with me about their lives, and they were relaxed and confident. Their example inspired me to be honest. Second, I chose to believe that the Bible was true. So when I read a scripture that said “honest people are relaxed and confident,” I believed that the way to become relaxed and confident was to be honest.
Once I was honest, it enabled me to change the sins I had been hiding by learning from the Bible how to live differently. Being honest also resulted in me having closer relationships (1 John 1:7), because they know all of me, so I am more confident with people instead of afraid of them. Instead of hiding your guilt and sin, choose to be honest.
- What are some things that have been making you feel guilty?
- How does hiding that guilt make you afraid of people?
- When was the last time you were honest with God about your guilt and sin? Pray and ask him for the courage to be honest and his help to change.
- Who has God put in your life to be honest with today?
Think about what you can give, not what you can get
One of the biggest challenges I face in relationships is going into them thinking only of myself. When I focus only on what I can get from someone, I’m inevitably going to get afraid. When there is a disagreement, conflict or more emotion than I’m used to, I get fearful and want to pull away.
God’s solution is to help us go from people dictated by fear to people who love courageously.
Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love’s perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection. 19 Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us..”1 John 4:18-19 TPT
Love overcomes fear. When we go into a conversation or relationship asking, “How can I help? How can I give? How can I love?”, we aren’t focused on ourselves and can overcome any fear. When we are afraid of people, we are focused on the possibility of getting hurt or feeling pain; this keeps us cowardly and afraid.
God teaches us and is an example of how to love (1 Thessalonians 4:9). He specializes in it! When we are grateful for how much God has given us, we can’t help but pass that on to others.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.Proverbs 11:25 NIV
In this scripture God tells us that when we give to others we will end up being given back to. Being generous in relationships is more than giving people money.
You can be generous in three key ways:
- Spiritually – make a Bible study for a friend, pray for or with someone, decide to change together
- Emotionally – listen to their life, share about yours, support them through difficult times, change a weakness together
- Physically – make someone a meal, buy them coffee, help clean around their house, buy them a gift
When you love others, you will build genuine friendships with people. This is far more fulfilling than being consumed with what people think of you. Instead of using others to get, choose to become someone who gives.
Choose today to focus on embracing your weaknesses and learning from God, overcoming guilt with honesty, and giving instead of getting. God has placed people in your life to learn from, to be honest with and to love instead of being afraid of what they think of you. Be courageous!
- How do you focus on what you can get out of relationships?
- How can you change to focus on what you can give?
- Who are three people you can focus on loving this week?