The Insanity of Being Intimidated by People

Huge legs with small businessman standing in front concept on ba

It’s time to reclaim your power.

If you’ve been following The Positivity Solution for a little while, then I’m certain that you know this:

I believe that fear destroys more lives than any other force on this planet.

That’s why I talk about the dangers of living a fear-controlled life so often on this blog (like here, here and here for starters.)

While that’s true, there’s one form of fear that I haven’t really addressed up until this point, and it actually might be the most common form of fear that exists.

It’s the fear of other people.

Or more specifically, being intimidated by other people. If you’re in that place now, this one is for you.

The Truth About Power

Before I dive in, a quick disclaimer–I’m not a psychiatrist (obviously), so if you have a legitimate full-blown phobia of other people, then this blog post definitely isn’t for you.

But for everyone else who sometimes feels scared or intimidated by other people for whatever reason, take a minute to fully absorb this quote:

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” -Alice Walker

I’m a 40-year old man, and I’m not embarrassed to share that it took me close to 35 years of my life to get this lesson burned into my consciousness.

For most of my life, I freely gave my power away to anyone who wanted it. Actually, even if you didn’t want it, I was happy to give it to you anyway.

Here are some cuts from the soul-destroying album that played on repeat in my brain every time I walked into a room:

“These people are so much better/smarter than me.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“No one here likes or respects me.”

“No one in this room wants to hear what I have to say.”

“I don’t belong here.”

These beliefs ruled most of my adult life, and the results of these beliefs were devastating. Because I lived in fear of other people and their opinions of me, it almost destroyed my career, my social life, and anything else meaningful in my life.

Almost.

The only reason why those beliefs didn’t completely destroy my life was that after years of being governed by them, I finally woke up to the truth. Here it is:

All of those beliefs are bullshit.

Yes, every single one of them. I’m done giving away my power by believing in those useless thoughts, and I want the same for you too.

We are so much more powerful than we think, and the key to our happiness is to consistently remember that fact.

Yes, You Belong

I believe that in most cases, the feeling of intimidation has nothing to do with the person who intimidates us. Instead, it has everything to do with our insecurities.

Think about it. How often do we give away our power by allowing our insecurities to create insane stories in our mind about other people?

How many people experience near-paralyzing fear and nervousness when they’re introduced to the CEO of their company (or any other high-profile person) because they believe that they’re not good enough to be communicating with her?

How many people have decided not to talk to the cute girl in the room because they’ve convinced themselves that girls like her would never consider talking to guys like them?

How many people avoid going to parties and social gatherings because they believe that everyone at the party is going to harshly judge them and/or not like them?

Here’s the truth.

The people who are intimidating you are not better than you. They aren’t more special than you are. They poop and fart just like the rest of us (and it stinks too.) In fact, they’re probably just like you in more ways than you could ever imagine.

Most importantly, the story that you’re telling yourself in your mind about how scary they are, isn’t real. Even though your insecurities are trying to convince you otherwise.

I don’t care if it’s the CEO of your company, your dream girl/guy, or even a group of strangers in the audience at your upcoming presentation during the next staff meeting. The key is to remember (and believe) this:

When you walk into the same room with them, you belong there.

Know Your Value

Unfortunately, there are some less-than-positive characters out there who actually enjoy intimidating other people. Case in point:

A couple of years ago, I was asked to give a class to a group of “interpersonally challenged” physicians on how to effectively communicate with their nursing staff.

It didn’t go well.

Let’s just say that I wasn’t warmly received when I walked into the room. I was greeted with folded arms, rude comments, piercing stares, dismissive sighs, scowling, and eye-rolling that followed every word that came out of my mouth.

To call them a “hostile audience” wouldn’t even begin to describe these people. Not only were they intent on intimidating me, they were intent on making sure that I knew with every fiber of my being that I didn’t belong in the same room as them.

I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t an absolutely miserable two hours (because it was), but they epically failed in their attempt to intimidate me.

Why?

Because I know that I have value.

This wasn’t always the case. If that class happened 10 years ago, I would have run out of that room in tears and considered throwing myself off of the nearest bridge.

Instead, during that class, I focused myself fully on delivering the information in the best way that I could.

It was easy to keep pushing past their rudeness and hostility because I know that my class has value (thousands of people who went through my classes before them seemed to think so.) I know that there is value in my message of communicating with respect and kindness in the workplace (even if they clearly didn’t.) Most of all, I know that I have value as a trainer and a person.

Nothing that those guys could do ever change that.

Sadly, there are many people in this world who get their jollies from intimidating other people.

Whenever you’re on the wrong end of it, remember this: Stand tall and always remember that you have value.

Permission Denied

Here is the most important truth about intimidation:

No one can intimidate you without your permission.

There’s no need to over-complicate this: You either give other people your power, or you don’t.

As awful as those physicians were, they didn’t kill me. I’m not irreparably broken from that experience. I put it squarely in the rearview mirror and I refused to allow it to change how I view myself or my message going forward. Since that day, I’ve trained thousands more people with fantastic results.

As I said earlier, that’s because I’m done giving my power away to other people and ignoring my unique value as a human being.

In life, there will always be scary situations to overcome, comfort zones that need to expand in order for us to grow, and self-love that needs to be constantly reinforced in order for us to fully experience the best that life has to offer.

None of the above can happen as long as we continue to listen to the wimpy voice that’s inside of all of us, saying that “we’re not as good as other people.”

We are as good and as worthy as anyone walking on this earth.

In the end, the power to rise up or the power to diminish yourself will always be in your hands.

It’s insane to believe anything else.

Your Turn

Are you easily intimidated by others? Have you been able to overcome being intimidated by other people? If so, how? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola

Latest posts by Shola (see all)

Comments

  1. Great post Shola! I’m sorry you had to go through such a negative experience. People who get a thrill or satisfaction from causing other people fear are indeed afraid themselves. They are afraid to appear weak, they’re like a wolf who has to fight other members of the pack just to prove who’s boss. I faced these people two, but do to me growing up in a family, where I am taught that I’m not good enough and only a foot stool for other people, I find it hard to deal with people. Especially my grandmother, she intimidated, on purpose. If she feels it isn’t working, she does it more, even wounding people just to keep being in charge. Talking to her is not worth it because she’s not likely to understand you, she must keep intimidating. She has played a key in my distress of being around other people because I am fearful. I unfortunately, have anxiety disorder, and feel like crying even when the teacher calls upon me in class. I got called “weak” and “punk” before. I still must muster up courage, and believe in myself more. Meditation is helping me 🙂 This post does too, thank you.

    • Thanks so much for sharing that with us, Cianna. It’s so hard to fully understand what would make someone want to purposely intimidate other people, but I’m with you, I really believe it’s because they are deeply scared themselves. As I like to say, hurt people, hurt people. I’m so glad that this blog post has helped you to gain more courage, and there is no doubt that meditation will help you a lot too. Hang in there and remember that you are so much stronger than you might believe 🙂

  2. Your email alert about this post really got my attention, but not for the reason you might think.

    In your email, you mentioned the Oscars and asked if we are intimidated by those celebrities. I quit watching the Oscars 4 years ago, for a number of reasons.

    First, it is extremely rare that I actually have seen any of the nominated movies. And unlike many of my friends, I have no desire to spend the time leading up to the Oscars frantically trying to see all of those movies. They have all made enough money without mine!

    Second, there are far too many real issues in this world to waste even a moment of my time on actors and actresses. When considering those celebrities, the fact is, they are people too. Just as you said, they are more like me than most people realize. I don’t partake in the judgement of them, nor do I have any interest in others’ judgments.

    Thirdly, it really bothers me when others criticize those actors and actresses about their clothing, performances or personal lives. Perhaps they have developed a think skin and know that the profound invasion of privacy comes with the territory, but it is wrong.

    And finally, the amount of money that goes in to the production of the Oscars, including clothing, makeup, limos, commercials, and all the other stuff… it is obscene. Do they know there are children who are starving in this country? Has it occured to anyone that skipping the Oscars and putting that money towards cancer research, autism awareness, rehabilitation for returning war Vets or even just a kindness initiative would vastly change the world for the better?

    You can probably guess, I am not intimidated by many people. I do get a case of the butterflies if I am going to meet someone I admire, however. But it is not because I feel lesser than…it is because I am excited and nervous to meet someone who has had an impact on my life.

    Thank you, Shola. I am sorry I got up on my soapbox. You have hit another home run with this blog post! Keep them coming!

    (By the way, I’m pretty sure, if I was going to meet you, I would have a MAJOR case of nerves. You are definitely someone I admire!)

    • So Kathy, how do you really feel about the Oscars? 😉 Truthfully, I was only watching because I was in an office pool with a few of my buddies and wanted to keep track of how I was doing (and I won too!) More importantly, I agree that amount of criticism that these people receive (their clothes, how they said a certain line, how beautiful their dates are, etc.) is just way over the top. Back on topic–I would hope that you wouldn’t be even slightly nervous to meet me in person! There are quite a few people reading this who know me personally, and they will agree that I am the most approachable guy ever. Just be prepared to get a huge hug, ok? 🙂

  3. Hiteshkumar says:

    Yes this is 100% correct, just last week I experienced the same problem, my senior wanted me to work more inspite of them, but without any fear I refused to do so, and remained consistent for my self respect..
    So in any situation if you are true then we should keep our self love and self esteem in high level with courage and confidence…

    • Good for you, Hiteshkumar! I’m sure that it wasn’t easy to do that, but I honor you for finding the courage to do so. Well done!

  4. Came across your site for the 1st time yesterday and joined. Your message is so uplifting and intelligent. I am what I have recently found out a HSP ( highly sensitive person) but am more in tune to negativity radiating from others than positivity. I am naturally more positive than more people I know but absorb other peoples negative energy easiest so I am trying to learn how to protect myself.

    • Welcome aboard, Maxine! It’s not easy to protect ourselves from people’s negative energy, but I think that the best suggestion is to avoid their negative energy (or at least, limit your time around negative people) as much as possible. Thanks for kind words, and I hope to keep seeing you around!

  5. What a great inspiring post, Shola!! 🙂 I’m pretty sure in the past I may have been intimidated by people, I feel like many of us go through that. I don’t remember when it changed for me but I’m glad it did. A couple of weeks ago at dinner I ran into a local celebrity. I smiled, greeted him, and told him how I enjoy his show and then continued to eat my meal. A little bit later he started up a conversation with me…now in the past I probably would have been too nervous to even speak to a “celebrity” let alone go back to eating my food without losing my appetitie from feeling intimidated. I think my cool demeanor caused him to strike up a conversation with me…I ended up showing him pics of me and my fiance, he congratulated me, and he said I was very pretty and my fiance was handsome lol…I totally agree with you when you say “we are as good and as worthy as anyone walking on this earth” and “you either give other people your power, or you don’t.” AMEN

    • Right on, PhillyL! Celebrities are more similar to us than most of us realize. And you’re right, the fact that you weren’t falling over yourself in his presence (desperation of any kind is turn-off to pretty much anyone) is exactly what attracted him back to you for another conversation. Since I live in Los Angeles, I run into celebrities all of the time, and every time when I played it cool and acted like I belonged in the same room with them, I was received positively by them. Like I said, “we are as good and as worthy as anyone walking on this earth.” The key is believing it and acting like it. I hope the wedding planning is going well!

  6. Shola, Happy Monday, and thank you for another vital topic. Like Cianna, I was raised by people who told me I was stupid, ugly, I ruined their lives, etc. There are probably lots of other reasons too, why many are burdened with that horrible feeling, that we won’t be accepted or treated well by others, so we give up without even trying. These days I do much better with this, and usually can interact with anyone I need to, and feel reasonably at ease. Many people told me along the way, that we teach people how to treat us, and that really is true. I just had to fake it for a long time, and found when I entered a room acting as if I expected to be taken seriously, that is usually what happened. In the end, most people are decent, and will be decent to others. Some are asses, and will not treat others well. There is no amount of self-degradation you can wallow in, that will induce those types to behave properly. So, I say, walk in with your chin up (or as an old friend used to encourage me, “Tits out!”). If they don’t treat you right, at least you will have your dignity, because you have carried yourself well.

    • As always (and I mean, always) Donna, you nailed it again! Yes, you are so right–we do teach others how to treat us. In fact, I wrote about it in this blog post: What We Allow. That’s why I walk into every room acting like I belong, and even if I’m treated like crap, at least I have my dignity, right? Unfortunately, I can’t steal your “tits out” line, because the fellas might think that I’m crazy and the ladies might think that I’m a pig, but I have to admit that it did make me chuckle 😉

  7. I loved this post, but I do have a question. How can I be comfortable around people when I can’t stop thinking that they are noticing an awful physical trait I have?

    • Hi Bethany, thanks for asking! As a guy who grew up with horrible teeth, I battled with this often. Two things helped me: 1) the realization that people aren’t noticing our flaws as much as we think they are (reading this might help: Nothing to Prove), and 2) meditation helped me to release the feelings that I had to other people’s judgments of me. I hope this helps and stay confident!

  8. Well I’m guilty as charged again. I do let others intimidate me. But maybe now that you have pointed it out. Well one can only try to get better thanks shola

  9. Shola, another great post!!!! Wish I had found your site a long while back and maybe I would have faired better. Keep sharing your insight. You have helped me feel better about myself and others too.

  10. Some interesting points about the power of intimidation here! I completely agree that the fear of other people is one of the greatest obstacles we need to overcome in life.

    Part of why it’s so difficult to get rid of this fear is because it is rooted in our biology; it remains as an evolutionary survival trait from a time when humans lived in small tribes, and you HAD to be submissive and give away your power to others if you didn’t want to have your head smashed in. But seeing how this is no longer the case, it’s time to get rid of this fear!

    • So true, Mathias! There are so many traits rooted back to our lizard-brained prehistoric past that served us awesomely back in the day, but not so much when we’re trying to give a presentation in front of a group of investors in a board room. You’re right, it’s time to get rid of this fear!

  11. This is a big one for me…I always have to tell myself that I belong b/c I almost always feel as if I don’t. I think a lot of that comes from being bullied in school and it’s a hard cycle to break. I have a teenage son now and I sometimes feel intimidated when a bunch of his friends are around. Of course I never show that to them, but on the inside it’s like a roller coaster of anxiety. The good thing is that I work on it all the time and never let it stop me from doing what I want/need to do…Thanks for the encouragement Shola…you rock!!

    • I can reply to you since I know you IRL. Spring, you are phenomenal!!! And you do NOT appear to be intimidated. You are quietly confident, outwardly. You have also produced a very confident son who is intimidated by no one, which is a testament to you and your husband. I’m going to keep an eye on you, ma’am. You do belong, and you rock!!! Time for all of us, but especially you, to be aware that no one should be intimidating to us!!! Love you! 🙂

    • Spring, I think that Kathy said it best–you do belong and you do rock! And a fellow childhood bullying victim, it is way too easy to carry feelings of our inadequacy into our adulthood. But as Kathy said, even though you may be feeling intimidated at times, the good news is that you’re not showing it. The next step is to fully believe that you belong in any room with any person. I’ll be keeping my eye on you too 🙂

  12. Kristen Quinn says:

    If there is one thing I have learned from you Shola, is hurt people.. hurt people! People who intimidate are weak within, and feel if they have gained power over another person, they do not have to look at their own issues and weaknesses! Through the time I have grown from the negative experiences in my life that led me to your blog I have gained much knowledge! I am feeling much more confident from what I have learned on this site. Thank you from the bottom of my soul! I used to be so easily intimidated and I am now learning to advocate for myself and stand up for what I know is right in voicing my concerns when someone tries to intimidate me. Knowledge is power and that leads to inner strength so others know they can no longer step all over you! Thank you Shola for this wonderful entry!

  13. Hi there, this is a interesting article. However I am having a problem with intimidating cousins. I have been bullied by both, who are sisters, since I was a child. I remember feeling hurt by their words because as a kid they hurt. Sadly due to my own family difficulties my confidence kept being chipped away. So I had the force attacking me from lots of places but not having support to stand up for myself–frustratingly, my cousins lived close by so there was no space to breathe. I grew up working hard,got a good degree. But I’m still allowing myself to be intimidated by my cousins, their behaviour really affects me and I can’t be myself when they are around. A few months ago, my cousins threatened me, and attempted to crash her car into my house. I called the police and she has been warned but I feel that’s annoyed her more. The message I’m feeling from her is that I can’t live my life because she says so otherwise she will attack me. And my response to her is the fear, anxiety and lack of confidence I had as a child. Do you have any ideas?

  14. I refuse to be intimidated by anyone. I don’t care who they are I’m not going to make myself seem lesser… And this is very true in the face of a job. Most managers try to keep employees in line with fear… I had a his ego tried to scream me into submission.. I’m a great worker and miss up quickly but i refuse to be some higher ups punching bag. I do what i need to do too move up in my career but i won’t be treated like shit.. I will walk away… I have and will again if things get out of hand… No one has a right to make me fell lesser… I’m a good person and i work hard. My life is in my hands not my ceos

  15. Hey Sholah. I chanced upon this article after a google search of “Why do I get intimidated by certain people?” Your ideas here are amazing. They actually made me laugh out loud, in my office, at least 2 or 3 times. I can identify so much with feeling inadequate, specifically in my work setting. Even after switching jobs and thinking, “here’s a new start!” the same patterns of getting intimidated pop up again and again. I even have a 6th grade student whose comments make me feel so low about myself. Thank you for your words of wisdom. I need to remind myself that when I become insecure, I give my power to others- power that is rightfully mine. It’s also tricky with people who specifically intimidate and hit you where it hurts, because oftentimes a lot of the comments they are making have truth to them. What we need to remember is that those things are not the sum total of who we are, and everyone has their faults. These people are just choosing to blow them up. We need to realize that we are worthy no matter what.
    Thanks again!

  16. My sister forwarded this post. She knew it’s timely since I lost my employment because I didn’t sign the at-will statement. A customer harassed me many years ago. I had anxiety for many years because of that incident. It affected me personally. After not signing the at-will statement, my employer was looking for a reason to fire me. There was one person I hardly dealt with at work because he loved his power and he used it to intimidate workers. One day after he threatened me I hang up. And my employer used this and not signing the at-will statement to fire me. She held a meeting and asked me to sign a statement agreeing to misconduct. I didn’t. My position ended immediately. I lived depending on each check. She knew that. Let go two days before Christmas after my dog died when you have children hit me a lot! I was their top sales employee who worked for many years. But that’s not all. She lied to the unemployment office saying I quit! I need to appeal the hearing since I had no $ to hire a lawyer. I had to take money from my 401k account to support my family. It hurts. Such a injustice. And she walked away with no consequences except she needs to train and find another top sales employee. I was depressed. And I’m still going through adjustments.

    • So staying behind your morals and not giving power to others might hurt. People use it everywhere, especially people with $. They want to rule the world and treat others like pawns in a game of chess. Though some pawns might be powerful at the end of the game. But they need to risk it.

  17. Hey Shola! Thank you for posting this blog. I’ve been searching the whole net that could elaborate about the-kind-of intimidation I’m having my whole life.
    I and my boyfriend have been in a relationship for 1 month and 2 weeks. We are both top students in our school. He said he likes me because I do have talents and brains. He is only intimidated of my talents while I am intimidated of his grammar and mathematical skills, the way he communicates with the others, the way he review his notes (because he can only review all of his notes 30 minutes while I took myself 5 hours or more than tto review all of my notes) and when he got higher scores, whether academically or non-academically (such as games, etc.) And also, when he bully me in a joke manner, he was expecting that I can come up with bully jokes like him (because he is an extroverted person while I am an introverted one). So lately, when I’m with him I feel intimidated the rest of the day, yet where still in the same bedroom in our boarding house, which leads me to anxieties (such as not talking to anyone including him because I feel such loser). The thing is, as early as possible I don’t want this feeling to fully develop on me because even I break up with him there still possibility that still be intimidated with the others. I really don’t know what to do or what should motivates me of not doing it and I’m still searching for answers. I really do love him, that’s why I don’t want these feelings stay at me. Right now, I asked him to give me a time to self-actualize these thoughts and make an action about this so I went in our real home and he stayed at our boarding house.

  18. I’m going to an interview tomorrow and despite the fact that I feel adequately prepared, I still feel this anxiety in my chest and I have a hard time breathing or standing still. I’m afraid they’ll ask me something obvious that I should know but that I won’t know and it’ll be so embarrassing. I’ve been to interviews like that before that I came out of feeling like a fraud. I have never been employed before and I think that part of it has to do with my anxiety during interviews. I feel like it’s reached debilitating levels, and every interview that does not go my way makes me feel like I’m a failure, or that other people are better than me. I know that this is not true of course and I’m grateful that I came across this article. I would really love to land this job so I’m going to hope for the best and keep telling myself that I have value throughout the whole thing.

  19. Please be my friend bro!!!! I love your thoughts. 😀

  20. I was extremely inspired by your expression of words. Intimidation is a gripping emotion that can stunt your growth physically, mentally and spiritually. The Godly insight I was given is that the one who intimidates is threatened by the one they enjoy intimidating.

Speak Your Mind

*