How to Overcome Your Fear of People’s Opinions with Dr. Michael Gervais

On October 25th, I had the opportunity to listen to the world’s most renowned performance psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais — aka Dr. Mike — at a Microsoft event. I was so excited to line up and see Dr. Mike in person because I took his High Performance Mindset course back in 2019 and it changed how I saw my purpose in the world… helping me develop my personal philosophy of “growing 1% everyday through finding inspiration to share with the world” which still resonates with me today and drives everything that I do in my personal life and career, and especially with

Today, I recap my key takeaways and soundbites from Dr. Mike’s conversation with the Global Head of Enterprise Talent Management at Microsoft, Priya Priyadarshini.

The first rule of mastery is to work on yourself from the inside-out

It’s a luxury to love yourself from the outside-in. You need the internal mechanisms to sustain the type of self-love that can keep you going throughout life.

There are 3 main practices to investing in your self awareness. First, practice mindfulness and meditation. Second, journal to process your thoughts and feelings. Third, have conversations with people of wisdom.

Once you become self aware, you will know when you’re playing a secondary game in life and are not acting from your core values and first principles. Understanding the values and principles that you rest your thoughts, words, and actions on can help you figure out how to approach life and opportunities.

It also takes time and practice to ask yourself who you are and shine a light on both the light and dark parts of yourself through introspection. This is most effectively done through meditation and mindfulness.

If you cannot touch your own suffering, you will not be able to see it in others.

Dr. Michael Gervais

To have a growth mindset, you need to train your mind and body

Mental skill comes from training the mind and achieving a sense of stillness, silence, and sanctuary within yourself. If you don’t have the mental skills to process your thoughts and challenges, then you’re less efficient as a person because you’re leaking energy. To be your very best in any environment, you need to find time to recover and build up your energy every single day. You do this through practicing breath work, eating well, and connecting with others and yourself.

Nobody can do the extraordinary alone

Our ancestors lived in tribes, relying on the collective to survive. Today, humankind is still so intertwined and we’re all part of the “coral reef”. Even the slightest bit of rejection brings us back to our primal instincts that seek a certain sense of belonging. This is why we all have the fear of people’s opinions — aka “FOPO”.

In the workplace, we’re social beings masquerading as individual contributors. However, everything starts with you as an individual. Having a great team starts with being a great teammate because accountability and action starts with you as the individual. If you want to get better at something, do it in a team setting where you’re being supported and challenged at the same time. For example, Olympians train by competing against themselves and each other every day, consistently pushing themselves to the edge under the scrutiny of their peers.

The fear of failure = FOPO

Pain is the reason we change — not inspiration.

Dr. Michael Gervais

When we fear failure, we actually fear letting other people down. We fear what they will think of us and we fear their rejection. We think that we may not matter if we can’t or don’t do anything special. Only if and when we feel this pain of rejection or failure, do we commit to truly changing ourselves. These fears lead us to develop a performance based identity, which constantly forces us to compare ourselves to others and tells us that we’re doing OK if we do better than others. For those of us who have performance based identities, there’s a certain level of anxiety that propels us to work extremely hard and achieve great things in our lives and careers.

There are 3 phases of FOPO:

  1. Anticipating what others will think or say about us
  2. Scanning our environment to check if we’re fitting in and being accepted by others
  3. Conforming our behaviours and actions to fit in with the collective

Fun fact: Narcissists and sociopaths do not have FOPO.

You always want to be in a position of power in your life

Are you going to play life by the power of others, or your own?

Dr. Michael Gervais

As much as we try to belong in other peoples’ acceptance, recognize that you cannot outsource your belonging to other people. You should always bring something to the table that matters to you and aligns with your first principles. Whether others accept what you offer or not ultimately should not be any of your business.

How will you stop worrying about what other people think of you?

Inspired by the engaging dialogue between Dr. Mike and Priya, I am now excited to read The First Rule of Mastery and continue my journey of self discovery. If you found these takeaways intriguing, then you’ll definitely want to learn more about Dr. Mike and his impact here and read his book to dive deeper into dozens of real world lessons and stories. You can also stay tuned for my book review and learnings in the new year 👀

Special thank you to Dr. Mike for taking the time to review and edit this blog post!