Fear of disappointing others: Signs and ways to overcome it

  • By: srtmorar
  • Date: March 7, 2024
  • Time to read: 5 min.


Many people struggle with the fear of disappointing others. We tell you how to know if you are one of them and how to get over the fear of disappointing others.

A lot of people worry about what others think of them, the way they dress up, look or their lifestyle choices. Some of them always try to do things to make people around them happy, even if it means sacrificing their own well-being. It is true that many people have a fear of disappointing others, including their parents and partners. It’s not really an illness, but sometimes this fear can affect mental health. Read on to know if you have a fear of disappointing others and ways to overcome it.

What is a fear of disappointing others?

There isn’t a specific mental health disorder named fear of disappointing others, but elements of this fear can be associated with various existing conditions.

Woman with fear
Fear of disappointing others becomes a problem when it significantly impacts daily functioning or relationships. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Here are a few that may encompass aspects of this fear:

1. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

SAD involves an intense fear of being judged, criticised or rejected in social situations. The fear of disappointing others could be a component of social anxiety, says psychiatrist Dr Parth Nagda.

2. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)

There are perfectionistic tendencies in people with OCPD. They can contribute to the fear of disappointing others.

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3. Avoidant Personality Disorder (AVPD)

Individuals with AVPD may fear negative evaluation. They often avoid social situations due to the dread of disappointing others or being embarrassed.

Experiencing the fear of disappointing others doesn’t necessarily mean a person has a mental illness, says the expert. Many people grapple with these fears to varying degrees, and it becomes a problem only when these fears significantly impact daily functioning, well-being or relationships.

Why do some people have a fear of disappointing others?

The fear of disappointing others can stem from various psychological and social factors.

1. Social expectations

Some people have their own ideas about societal expectations regarding success, achievement and standards. They have the desire to conform to these expectations and avoid social disapproval.

2. Upbringing and parental expectations

The expectations set by their own parents can significantly influence a person’s fear of disappointment. Past experiences of disappointment, rejection or criticism can also contribute to the development of a fear of disappointing others.

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3. Need for approval

Some individuals derive their self-worth from external validation. So, the fear is linked to the possibility of losing that approval, says the expert.

4. Perfectionism

People with perfectionistic tendencies often fear making mistakes. They fear falling short of their own or others’ standards as they strive for flawlessness leading to anxiety.

5. Sense of responsibility

People with a strong sense of responsibility for others’ well-being may fear letting others down. This is due to a belief that they are accountable for others’ happiness or success.

Do you have a fear of disappointing others?

The fear of disappointing others can manifest in various ways. Here are some common signs:

1. Excessive people-pleasing

If you have this fear, you will constantly go out of your way to meet others’ needs. The fear leads to an intense desire to be a people pleaser, often at the expense of personal boundaries and self-care.

2. Avoiding confrontation

You will notice a strong aversion to conflicts or difficult conversations. Fearfulness can make individuals reluctant to express their own needs or opinions, leading them to avoid situations where conflicts may arise, says Dr Nagda.

Woman sitting and covering her face
People with a fear of disappointing others have a strong aversion to conflicts. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Perfectionism

You will set unrealistically high standards for yourself and be excessively self-critical. Fearfulness can drive perfectionistic tendencies, compelling to achieve flawless results to meet external expectations.

4. Seeking constant approval

If you have a fear of disappointing other, you will frequently seek reassurance and approval from others. Individuals may rely on external validation to confirm their worth.

5. Overcommitting

You will take on more responsibilities than can be reasonably managed. Fearfulness can lead to an overcommitment to tasks and obligations.

6. Excessive apologising

You will apologise excessively, even for minor issues or things beyond your control. Fearfulness can manifest as a constant need to apologise, regardless of actual wrongdoing, as a way to avoid potential disapproval.

7. Difficulty saying “no”

You will have trouble declining requests or saying “no” to additional responsibilities. Fearfulness can make it challenging for individuals to assert their own needs and set boundaries by saying “no” when necessary.

8. Constant worry about others’ opinions

Ruminating excessively on what others think or might think about you is another sign. Fearfulness can lead to heightened sensitivity to judgment, causing individuals to worry excessively about how they are perceived.

How does having a fear of disappointing others impact mental health?

If you are struggling with this fear, it can affect your mental health.

1. Increased anxiety

The fear of disappointing others can contribute to heightened anxiety levels due to constant worry about meeting expectations, potential criticism or negative reactions can lead to chronic stress and anxiety.

2. Low self-esteem

Individuals with a fear of disappointing others may internalise their perceived failures. This can lead to a negative self-image and diminished self-worth leading to low self-esteem.

3. Depression

Persistent fears of disappointing others, especially when coupled with feelings of inadequacy or self-blame, can contribute to the development or exacerbation of depressive symptoms.

What are the ways to overcome the fear of disappointing others?

Overcoming the fear of disappointing others involves a combination of self-reflection, mindset shifts and proactive strategies, says the expert. Here are ways to address and overcome this fear:

1. Self-reflection and awareness

Start by reflecting on the root causes of your fear. Understand where these fears originated, whether from childhood experiences, societal expectations or personal beliefs. Increased self-awareness is the first step in addressing and overcoming the fear.

2. Challenge unrealistic standards

Identify and challenge any unrealistic standards or expectations you may be setting for yourself. Perfectionism often fuels the fear of disappointment, so strive for more realistic and achievable goals, acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes.

3. Establish healthy boundaries

Learn to set and communicate healthy boundaries. It’s important to recognise and respect your own needs and limitations. Establishing clear boundaries can help to prevent overcommitting and reduce the fear of falling short in meeting others’ expectations.

4. Practice self-compassion

Cultivate self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding, especially in moments of perceived failure. Understand that everyone makes mistakes, and self-compassion can help you navigate challenges with a more positive and supportive mindset.

5. Develop effective communication skills

Improve your ability to express your thoughts, feelings and needs openly and assertively. Effective communication can help to build stronger, more understanding relationships, reducing the fear of disappointment associated with potential misunderstandings, says Dr Nagda.

6. Accept imperfection

Embrace the idea that perfection is unattainable, and mistakes are a natural part of the human experience. Accepting imperfection can help to alleviate the fear of disappointing others, allowing for personal growth and resilience in the face of setbacks.

You can also talk to your friends, family or a mental health professional about your fears.



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