Are you sensitive to the other’s gaze?
Eating out alone, giving a presentation, going to the pool or beach, answering an interview to be on TV or watching a TV show is impossible for you. You are far too intimidated by the judgment of others. You want to be perfect in front of the other person’s accusing eye so that they don’t have anything negative to think about you. You feel that they know better than you what is right for you. You want to make yourself as small as possible. The look of the other frightens you, the idea of a negative judgment of others is unbearable: you may suffer from blemmophobia.
- Blemmophobia, what is it?
- Why so much fear in front of the other’s gaze?
- The importance of the other
- What fears are associated with the fear of others’ gaze?
- What are the common symptoms of fear of the other person’s gaze?
- What is the origin of the fear of the other’s gaze?
- Which personalities are linked to the fear of the other’s gaze?
- What are the consequences of the fear of the other’s gaze?
- Who is more prone to blemmophobia?
- How to stop fearing the other’s gaze?
- What treatments for the fear of others’ gaze?
1. Blemmophobia, what is it?
Blemmophobia is a psychological disorder associated with social phobia and is the fear of other people’s gaze. This anxiety disorder is not a simple shyness, it is a strong and unreasonable fear of other people’s gaze. In particular, it is a fear of being judged on one’s body. Indeed, the image of one’s body (naked or dressed), that one can let others see is the predominant problem. It seems impossible to put on a swimsuit, to make a presentation in public or to change in a common locker room. You are terrified that you will make a fool of yourself in front of others, that you will disappoint them, that you will not be good enough for them, and that they will reject you. A negative judgment from them is one of your biggest fears, because of what you do, what they see, or because of the interpretation they make of an action you perform.
2. Why so much fear in front of the other’s gaze?
Our brain works with 3 types of thoughts, and adapts its actions according to them: what you think of yourself, what others think of you, and what you think others think of you. It is normal to be concerned about what others think of you, but it must be consistent with the other two thoughts. Keep in mind that you are not in the minds of others, but that your thought system is relative to your values.
Indeed, you must remember that the way you think others look at you is, first and foremost, the judgment you make of yourself and your own values. You are afraid that they will put forward ideas or thoughts that you have about yourself.
Therefore, you feel that you never have the right to make a mistake. You feel that if you show any sign of vulnerability it is bad for you.
3. The importance of the other
Man is a social being and needs others to live. Maslow, a well-known psychologist, created a pyramid of needs. According to him, man, in order to live, needs to meet some of his needs. For him, after the physiological and security needs, belonging to the other is an important need. Indeed, if we refer to human history, man has always needed the support of the other. Whether it is to feed himself or to go hunting. The need to belong is thus innate and the look of the other allows us to adapt and to belong to a group.
The look of the other also allows us to refer to our judgment and that of others in a situation. It allows us to respect the codes and different elements present in a culture. Moreover, it teaches us to have a particular sensitivity. It gives us the possibility to pay more attention to the others and to have a mutual respect.
Nevertheless, to be too concerned about the other, to have too much sensitivity, it can put us at risk. Thus, we are more concerned with what we should be in relation to others, gradually erasing who we are. We always want to please the other person more, to help them more, and we forget to listen to ourselves. In the long term, by listening to the opinion of others and their thoughts, it becomes more and more burdensome. We may not dare to act anymore. Then, we find ourselves limiting ourselves in our field of actions, thoughts or words. As a result, we can miss good opportunities.
4. What fears are associated with the fear of others’ gaze?
Many fears are often associated with the fear of others’ gaze. Indeed, as this fear takes a lot of space in us, it can be a symptom or the consequences of this anxiety. We often see the fear of rejection, a fear of failure, or an anxiety of looking ridiculous. But also of being perceived as abnormal. Or anxiety about losing control in certain situations (especially social situations). As a result, you are anxious about being seen in activities where your body may be revealed (dressing rooms, restrooms, sex). You may even imagine that you are being watched at these times and this can be distressing.
5. What are the common symptoms of fear of the other person’s gaze?
Like all anxieties, the fear of the other’s gaze can lead to physical symptoms. Indeed, it can cause anxiety attacks in these situations such as chest pain, tachycardia, trembling, sweating, muscle tension, etc. It can also be manifested by a sore throat or a dry mouth.
This anxiety can be so intense that you may become unconscious. As a result, you lose consciousness in situations that cause you anxiety.
You may also have the feeling of being crushed, of feeling very small in a great immensity around you. It is as if this emptiness makes you feel so small that you are almost non-existent.
This feeling can even paralyze you. You underestimate yourself so much that you can no longer give the best of yourself. You fail on certain tasks that reinforce the idea that you can’t do it.
6. What is the origin of the fear of the other’s gaze?
There is no single cause for fear of the other’s gaze. They are multiple and sometimes more underlying than we think.
At first, it can be linked to the fact that, during adolescence, our body changes, and going through these changes without clear explanations, and not being able to accept our new body can be difficult. This leads to the fact that you often tend to question yourself, and in this way you devalue yourself a lot. You become particularly demanding of yourself, to the point of having unattainable expectations of yourself or your body.
School bullying or abuse in childhood or adolescence by your peers or in your family environment can have important consequences on this phobia of the other’s gaze. It is a real trauma where the other is at the center of your life. We had to be careful to do well in order not to disappoint and not to be reprimanded by those around us. So we always found this quest for perfection in order not to be reproached.
Moreover, it is also possible that your anxiety in front of other people’s eyes comes from the family environment in which you grew up. Indeed, if your family is anxious by nature, you are more likely to pay attention to other people’s looks. It is also possible that your family has passed on to you values of hypervigilance about your mistakes or imperfections. As soon as you were not suitable according to the representations of your family, you were reproached. There was always a search for perfection in your family and mistakes were not allowed. In this way, throughout your evolution, you were convinced that the opinion of others was particularly important. In addition, you may have lacked encouragement and recognition. You were constantly striving to do your best, but this was not necessarily noticed or considered.
Fear of others’ gaze may also come from your personality. You have an introverted personality, and do not go easily or without great desire towards others. Be careful, you are not shy or socially phobic. But you simply don’t want to be particularly noticed, and try to make yourself small, and not too extroverted.
It is also possible that you have limited socializing so much, that you have a lack of knowledge and competence about your relationships or emotions. You don’t dare to go towards others, because you don’t seem to have the same codes, or you have difficulty managing your emotions in social relationships.
Nevertheless, the fear of other people’s gaze can happen later, in adulthood. It can appear following a trauma or a major change (physical or not). For example, you are told that you have cancer. This announcement can be traumatic, and you therefore have less confidence in your body, which scares you because you feel that it has betrayed you and that you should be ashamed of it.
7. Which personalities are linked to the fear of the other’s gaze?
We can find many common characteristics for people with anxiety about the gaze of others.
First of all, there is a strong possibility that you have a bad relationship with your body if you suffer from the fear of other people’s gaze. You don’t like your body, you don’t recognize yourself in it, you have the impression that it doesn’t follow the current trends, etc.
Indeed, it is not rare to notice that when a person has an anguish in front of the glance of the other, it has a bad estimate of itself. In this way, you attach too much importance to what others may think of you.
It is also possible that you have a particularly heightened sensitivity and that the fact that you are rather introverted refers to the fact that you do not deliver yourself too much. In addition, you feel that you can never really be yourself and that you are playing a role of someone who is not you. This dissonance is sometimes difficult to live with and to accept.
Finally, in order to avoid any hazards that would put you in indelicate situations, you tend to plan everything: activities, conversations, visits …
8. What are the consequences of the fear of the other’s gaze?
The fear of the other’s gaze can lead to consequences in the more or less long term and more or less impactful in daily life.
At first, as you are sensitive, you tend to be more irritable or even aggressive with those around you. They do not necessarily understand you or your difficulties with others or your body. This can lead to conflicts with your loved ones.
This lack of self-confidence can limit you in social interactions, and in particular you have difficulties to build trusting relationships with friends or in your love life (difficulty to reveal yourself to a person and to invest yourself fully in a couple). You do not dare to give your opinion, and have difficulty in trusting others whatever the context (friendship, hierarchy, entourage, spouse…).
You often do not express yourself on what you feel, on what you like, and you deprive yourself of doing activities or saying things that are important to you. You tend to withdraw into yourself, and isolate yourself. As a result, you are increasingly absent from group activities or avoid certain places where your body (clothed or naked) may be exposed. The beach, the pool or medical appointments are awful places for you.
Because you have little self-confidence, you have difficulty finding your place in a group or even in society. That is, you are afraid of not living up to others or expectations. As a result, you are constantly fighting against yourself and against your desire to always do better to prove your worth. Thus, you increase your risk of burnout. Especially since you have to plan and anticipate everything. This leaves no room for the unexpected, which will destabilize you completely if something unexpected happens.
By letting your blemmophobia take up a lot of space, little by little, there is a risk that it will turn into agoraphobia or social phobia. Moreover, by dint of seeing symptoms grow, there is a risk of increasing depressive symptoms because the other person takes up too much space in us.
9. Who is more prone to blemmophobia?
Many people suffer from blemmophobia, or at least a fear of the other person’s judgment. This means that your fear of the negative thoughts of the person you meet is mutual.
On the other hand, the phobia of the other’s gaze appears mostly during adolescence or when you are a young adult between 14 and 20 years old. Indeed, at this period the body undergoes many changes and the acceptance of these changes is not necessarily completely acquired.
Nevertheless, it affects between 3 and 13% of the global population. It affects mostly women (about 2 women against 1 man). It can appear in adulthood, with this constant fear of not being up to it, especially at work.
10. How to stop fearing the other’s gaze?
Here are some tips to use in your daily life to reduce the fear of other people’s judgment.
First of all, you are your own enemy. You give others intentions or values that you yourself have. Therefore, avoid making negative judgments about others and you will see that you will more easily imagine that it is possible to make a more positive judgment and consequently receive one. Don’t see the other person as necessarily harmful, but tell yourself that he or she can be a source of goodwill, and can wish you well. Moreover, being imperfect is reassuring for the people who cross you. When we see a person who is too perfect, we quickly tend to think that he or she is hiding something, that we should be wary, etc. To be imperfect is to be human!
Keep in mind that the judgment of the other does not define us. It is therefore necessary to understand and accept who you really are. It is not necessary to be always too nice with your entourage, but the important thing is to know how to be true. Do things, say things, that make you happy. Act in a way that makes you happy, not in a way that makes you approve. You don’t read other people’s minds. And above all, you will please some people, and displease others, whatever you do, and whoever you are. So decide to be the one who makes you happy. To let the other decide for you, or to give too much importance to his opinion, is to give him a place in tyrant in your life. Indeed, the more you give importance to a person, and to his opinion, the more you give him power over you. Be the actor and director of your own life. Repeat to yourself some self-instructive phrases that define you and give you strength: “I feel good”, “I am strong“, “My place is here, at this moment”…
Try to force yourself to reach out to others. Indeed, volunteering, teaching, giving courses etc. forces you to be close to the other person, and to see that he can be good. You bring him help, and you refer to a positive value system. Moreover, you get to know the other person in a special and unique proximity.
Finally, when you’re not feeling well, do this little exercise: Think about it, and revisit the last public place you were in. Maybe in the subway, on the bus, in a movie theater? Or in a restaurant, a park? Try to remember a person you saw and think about that person and all the details of that person: what color was their top? What color was their top? Their pants? What were those shoes like? What was his posture, his walk? What colors were his eyes, his hair? Were there any shades in these colors? How was his nose, his mouth? How long was her hair? Did she have a particular hairstyle? Did this person have jewelry? If so, what was it? The length of her earrings, their color …? Did she have rings, how were they? Were there stones on them?
What was this person doing? Did he or she seem nice? Intelligent? Was she pretty? Did they look funny? Did they seem angry? So many other questions you may have about the people you meet every day. When you think about it, you realize that you don’t have answers to all these questions? Tell yourself then that you give more importance to what you think people see or think of you, when in reality we are less observed than we think we are.
11. What treatments for the fear of others’ gaze?
Treatment is important because this fear does not go away on its own, and it may become more severe if nothing is done. Indeed, it could turn into social phobia, agoraphobia or generalized anxiety.
As a first step, do activities that emphasize your body and that allow you to see it in a different way: dance, theater… They are an excellent way to free yourself from this fear.
Non-violent communication is a particularly effective technique to use in order to reduce our irritability and aggressiveness towards the people around us. It allows us to understand our emotions, to understand our needs and to put forward what hurts us. In this way, we will be able to communicate more easily with others, and to remove the anxiety that we may have in front of their judgment, and that we let buried in us.
Cognitive-behavioral therapies are also particularly recommended in this disorder. They allow you to confront your anxieties little by little in order to learn to control your emotions, but also to work on self-affirmation as well as to work on automatic thoughts or false beliefs
Virtual reality therapy is part of cognitive-behavioral therapy and allows for a gentle, gradual and progressive confrontation with various anxiety-provoking environments. In this way, the image of the body can be apprehended as well as the management of your emotions directly in situation. Little by little, you will become accustomed to this and you will gain self-acceptance. The generalization of the acquired knowledge allows you to apprehend, little by little, the real situations.