Is obedience to authority holding you back?

I always used to feel really uncomfortable around authority figures. I didn’t know how to behave around managers or those I felt had more knowledge than me. So I just acted a bit weird.

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Freedom from Social Pressure

Sometimes I would just keep quiet. Or sometimes I would overcompensate and come across as a bit of a nob.

I didn’t know what it was or where it came from. I just accepted it was a part of my personality and used to avoid situations where I would have to spend time with anyone in a position of authority to me.

Sometimes I would put up with being treated badly or unfairly. Until I’d had enough. Then I’d quit my job in a blaze of glory, stopping to tell everyone exactly what I thought of them.

I remember vividly being dressed down by a CEO one time for something that wasn’t my fault and I just sat there and took it. I didn’t stand up for myself at all.


It stems from a wider issue. The issue of social anxiety.

To some talking to a person in authority is just the same as talking anyone else. But to somebody with social anxiety it can cause overwhelming amounts of anxiety.

This inferiority complex comes from your own views and beliefs about yourself.

I had absolutely no belief in myself or my own abilities. So when an authority figure tells me I’m wrong (even if I’m not) I take their opinion as true. I will not argue the point. I will accept their version of events.

I never thought my opinions held weight. I couldn’t make decisions. I held absolutely no value on my own decisions. I didn’t trust myself. I sought validation and approval from everyone else.

Anyone that had the slightest bit of authority over me, I remained silent and compliant.

I need that authority figure to give me validation in order to feel good about myself. I would desperately do whatever I could to control their opinion of me. Which would make me fearful of them.

And it held me back for years. Despite my best efforts, I got over-looked for promotions. I would go years without getting a pay rise. I’d take jobs that I was over-qualified for. I would get taken advantage of.

This particular fear manifests itself mostly in the workplace. And here are some tips for dealing with it.


Essentially this is what you are trying to do. You are trying to control the way another person views you. But trying to control other people’s thoughts is exhausting and a massive waste of energy. The only person you can control is yourself. And when you allow yourself to be walked over, mistreated or blamed for things that aren’t your fault all to seek approval, you are chipping away at your own self-love. You are losing yourself and your value. You are allowing other people to take your power away. You need to accept that you cannot control other people and focus on what you can control.


Stop looking at other people to give you validation. Start giving it to yourself. You won’t believe it to begin with but the more you give yourself positive affirmations, the more you will start to believe. It will feel weird and icky but you have to do it every single day. Start by making a massive list of all your positive attributes. It doesn’t matter how big or small, every single little thing that makes you a great person.


Now let’s do the same for that person that you feel inferior to. That CEO that gave me a bollocking about something he did wrong. Personally he didn’t have a huge amount going for him. He was a bit of an arsehole actually. So, if I stopped to think and made my list about him, I would have soon realised that he didn’t deserve the amount of respect I was giving him. This is the extreme and might not be the case for you. But by comparing the two lists, you will probably see that you both have a lot going for you and neither one of you is better than the other.


Sometimes you can go through life only ever noticing stuff that you perceive to be bad about yourself. Especially if you have a low opinion of yourself. So, take a look back through your life and think about all your successes. It’s important not to get caught up in gold medals and Oscar nominations here. Try to focus on how hard you have tried throughout your life. What adversities have you overcome? How much effort do you put in ever day? Who have you helped? Whose lives have you touched? Get yourself a lovely big list.


Often you don’t’ pay attention to your thoughts, they just come and go and you don’t do much about them. But your thoughts have a massive effect on your life. Whatever you think you tend to believe. But actually you don’t have to believe everything that pops into your head. The way you think can become so normal to you that you just don’t notice. What can happen when you don’t’ like or trust yourself is you can have automatic negative thoughts that are habitual and feel like they are a part of your personality. When you are in a situation with an authority figure and you start to feel anxious, those automatic negative thoughts will be piling up in your brain until you can’t think straight. Thoughts like, I’m bound to say the wrong thing, I’m going to make a fool of myself or I have nothing valid to contribute. The trick is to grab those thoughts as they come and reframe them into something more positive.


If you already have a belief that somebody else is better than you and you need them to approve of you, you will be hyper-vigilant to any perceived criticism. You will notice a raised eyebrow, an eye roll, a yawn, a flippant comment and assume it’s all about you. It’s not about you, it’s about them. This is something that you really need to come to terms with. Not everything is about you. Because of your nature you will have a tendency to self-blame and refer everything inwards, it doesn’t mean it’s the truth though. Practise putting things into perspective.


You probably already use visualisations without even realising it. Do you imagine yourself looking foolish? Do you imagine yourself stumbling over your words? Do you imagine yourself saying something really inappropriate? Do you imagine other people laughing at you? Do you imagine yourself being harshly judged? These are all examples of using visualisations against you. If you think like this all the time, you are setting yourself up for anxiety-ridden experiences. Instead practise visualising yourself calm, confident and in control in those situations that make you feel anxious. And imagine it every day.

Naomi Buffery is a Social Anxiety coach. After living most of my with social anxiety and assuming it was a part of my personality, I dedicate my life now to helping others find the way out like I did.

If you are living with Social Anxiety and it’s having a big impact on your life, join my FREE training starting on 13th January 2020

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