How to deal with your fears about others

Hate how you feel about others?

You aren’t alone. How reminding yourself that others are human too can help you overcome your hatred/disgust/annoyance regarding others.

Stop looking for the flaws in others and focus on yourself

I like to joke that I’m a Humanist, which means I like people in the abstract, real people tend to annoy me.  But I’ve found that the more I’ve actively tried to practice humanism in my everyday life – like when I’m at the supermarket or in a crowd of people, the less annoyed or frustrated I am with people.

It is very easy to assume you know what motivates another person. But until you talk to them, you don’t really know. And even then, you still don’t.   

While I rarely work up hatred towards other people, I do often feel disgust or annoyance.  But I find that as I’ve matured, I feel that way less and less. I’m way less cranky than I used to be. 

A couple of years ago I was in LA and was waiting at a bus stop when a large man with a walker came by smelling of poop. His pants were ripped and he had no underwear. While I didn’t like the smell, I didn’t feel disgust either. This poor man was homeless and clearly hadn’t been able to take a bath in ages and may not have had access to toilet paper either.  He didn’t disgust me or make me afraid. His condition made me sad.

The same thing happens locally. We had been having trouble with one of the girls being a bully and I was cautioned by pretty much everyone against talking to her parents. They must beat her. She’s learned this behavior from them.  Don’t expose yourself to that sort of negativity. But I decided to overcome my fear and find out whether or not this girl’s parents were rational or not. And guess what! Her step mom is very nice and very rational and was horrified to find her step daughter had been behaving badly. Turned out some of the stuff this girl had told us about her step mom had been lies.

I realize it is easy to rationalize away not interacting with other people. We are afraid of them and instead of admitting we are afraid, we rationalize – they are bad people. They annoy me etc. But they are human too. Keep remind yourself of that and take a chance on your fellow humans – even if they annoy you or disgust you.  You may just find you have more in common with them than you realize.

Don’t assume you know what another person is going to be like. Just because there are horrible people in the world doesn’t mean this particular person is going to be horrible.  Just because someone is annoying you or causing you problems doesn’t mean they are a horrible person. It just means they are behaving in a way YOU don’t like.  Get over yourself and stop thinking everyone has to be who YOU need them to be.

Don’t assume people can’t change. Give them a chance and find out.  You may just find that it is your attitude that needs to change. Once you do change your attitude and actively start practicing compassion, you may just find that you experience hate, annoyance and disgust far less often and that the world is no longer such a scary place.

For me – actively practicing compassion and reminding myself of the humanity of others has helped to free me from my fears. And my life is so much better as a result. You should try it if you haven’t already.

Who do you find it hardest to feel compassion for? What can you do to change your attitude about it? What happens when you do?