Navigating FOPO in Sports

Conquering the Fear of Other People's Opinions (FOPO) in Sports

In today’s hyper competitive world, let alone the sports world everyone must come to grips with the notion that they are always being judged.

Many struggle to cope with this phenomenon and this is called “Fear of Other People’s Opinion” or “FOPO”. In sports, this sense of being judged can often be more intense and if not dealt with appropriately can decrease performance, or even worse can have mental health or wellbeing impacts.

FOPO can cause athletes to second-guess their abilities, reduce self-confidence, and ultimately it will impact their performance. Today, we'll dive into the world of FOPO and discuss effective strategies to tackle it on and off the field of play.

"Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner."

Lao Tzu

Recognizing FOPO

FOPO is the intense worry or concern over what others think about our actions, abilities, and character. In sports, this fear may hinder athletes as they become overly cautious while attempting to please everyone around them. Typical signs of FOPO include:

  • A constant need for approval from coaches, teammates, or the audience.

  • Overanalyzing performance, even if successful (trying to be perfect).

  • Struggle to make decisions in the moment (making a play).

  • Being overly critical of oneself.

If you do not take care of FOPO, it is possible it can manifest into other performance challenges and mental health concerns. The good news is taking a proactive approach to tackling FOPO more often than not wins!

FOPO can manifest or can also be seen as:

  1. Avoidance: Avoiding social situations or activities for fear of being judged or criticized.

  2. Perfectionism: Setting unrealistically high standards to meet the expectations of others and fearing failure or disapproval.

  3. Overthinking: Constantly analyzing and overthinking interactions with others, worrying about how they might be perceived.

  4. Self-doubt: Experiencing doubt about one's abilities or worth based on the perceived opinions of others.

  5. Approval-seeking: Seeking constant validation and approval from others to feel secure or confident.

Ways to Overcome FOPO

  1. Self-awareness: Understand that everyone has their own insecurities and fears of judgment. Recognize when FOPO is influencing your thoughts, emotions, actions, and behaviors.

  2. Focus on what you can control: Focus on things you can control, such as your attitude, efforts, and responses. Take action and let go of things beyond your control.

  3. Challenge negative thoughts: When you catch yourself worrying about what others might think, ask yourself if those thoughts are based on reality or assumptions. Challenge and reframe negative beliefs using self-talk.

  4. Focus on self-improvement: Instead of seeking validation from external sources (other people), concentrate on personal growth and development (internally yourself). Set goals that align with your values and work towards them.

  5. Mindfulness and acceptance: Practice mindfulness to stay present and accept your thoughts, emotions, feelings without judgment. This will help reduce anxiety about what others think.

  6. Build self-confidence: Work on building your self-esteem and confidence. Celebrate your successes, both big and small, and remind yourself of your strengths.

  7. Exposure Therapy: Gradually expose yourself to situations that trigger FOPO. Start with smaller challenges and progressively increase the difficulty as you become more comfortable. This will allow you to get out of your comfort zone and practice performing.

  8. Seek support: Share your thoughts/feelings/emotions with a trusted source (like a mental performance consultant). Having a supportive network can provide valuable perspective and encouragement.

“The greatest fear in the world is the opinion of others. And the moment you are unafraid of the crowd, you are no longer a sheep, you become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart, the roar of freedom.”



Fear of other people's opinions can hamper an athlete's self-confidence and decrease performance. However, with the proper acknowledgment and management, FOPO can be overcome. Focusing on what you can control, defining your success, developing mental resilience, and seeking support, you can free yourself from the anchor of FOPO and ultimately unlock your full potential on the sports field.

Key Take Aways

  1. Step 1 - Become more self-aware of FOPO: Be cognisent of when FOPO is impacting your performance.

  2. Step 2 - Be Mindful - Take a non-judgemental approach to FOPO. Acknowledge it, and take a neutral thinking approach or what X,Y,Z things do I need to do right now?

  3. Step 3 - Control the Controllables - Focus on controlling the things you can control which is usually internal, not things you can’t control which is usually external.

Self Reflective Moment

In what ways do the opinions and expectations of others influence my performance and decision-making on the field?

Do you want help with overcoming FOPO?

For more information or to set up your own session with a Certified Mental Performance Consultant to help level up your mental game and combat FOPO, click on the button below for a free intro session.