Fear of making a mistake
For many learners of foreign languages the main block is usually created by the fear of making a mistake. Why are we so afraid to make a mistake that we rather sabotage our relationships, socialization, work opportunities, better income and better life style? Fear of making a mistake is essentially the fear of being criticized and not accepted. This fear has deep roots; even in the ancient times when our ancestors lived in caves, they understood that rejection by the group could lead to certain death. Today, this irrational fear continues to wield significant influence over our decisions and behavior, often without us even realizing it.
Let’s forget about foreign languages for a moment and see what this fear is called by psychologists. The fear of connection, social situations, social gatherings and embarrassment is called sociophobia. Phobias are excessive fears and they are very persistent. They can be quite debilitating for our relationships, personal and professional. When it comes to speaking a foreign language, we need to understand that our fear of socializing can be multiplied because a foreign language creates a situation of a very high uncertainty level.
I love to imagine my beloved English learners as little kittens, cute and endearing, just like you, dear reader of my blog! Similar to kittens whose eyes haven’t fully opened, life can be quite challenging for language learners. The world around you remains unfamiliar, and you may find it difficult to respond effectively. This is especially true when you encounter a situation where everyone speaks a foreign language that you can’t fully comprehend and interact with. This is where we encounter our “beloved” speaking barrier.
The challenge with sociophobia is even more frustrating because it’s not just one fear; there is a range of different fears, such as fear of public speaking, fear of crowds, fear of strangers, fear of authority, etc. These fears often emerge during childhood, triggered by comparisons with more successful children or with criticism. Left unaddressed, they can lead to depression, panic attacks, and eating disorders – not a promising picture!
What can we do? If you are familiar with my work, you will probably guess that I’ll offer you a mindfulness solution – because why not if it works?
First, you need to observe and understand what you are dealing with. Switch off your self-criticism for a while and focus on noticing – what situations make you feel irritated, and what are you trying to avoid? If you accept these unpleasant experiences and try to meditatively make sense of them – you are already a winner!
Then you need to break the barrier. You have to do it because leaving it as it is won’t do any good. However, I want to warn you: don’t try to break it by pushing! (My free Toxic Willpower exercise will give you more insight into this idea). Instead, slowly and carefully add some challenging situations. For example, you can make a phone call, record your voice, or meet with an English-speaking person if you get the chance. Start seeing and taking up these opportunities.
Finally, the most important moment: congratulate and thank yourself for doing it! It’s pure magic, and it works every time! Self-gratitude is like a supernatural tool for rewriting the patterns in your brain, building new thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. So take it and use it because it’s free!
Remember that absolutely everyone faces similar issues; it’s just that some people are more adapted to social situations than others, and some might even enjoy the attention of the group or the novelty of meeting new people. However, we all have this in common – our need to be accepted and liked by others. By understanding that we are all interconnected in our struggles and aspirations to communicate effectively, you can take comfort in knowing that countless individuals around the world share the same language-learning journey. Embrace the challenges, celebrate your progress, and remember that we all need each other to thrive and grow in this beautifully interconnected world.