Focus Group: Let's Talk Intimidation

What are some things that intimidate you?
Photo by Leio McLaren.

Here's a funny thing: I decided to do a post about things that intimidate people, and then I sat here for several minutes, poised at my keyboard, too nervous to start typing. Apparently, I am intimidated by writing about intimidation. This is especially silly because most of the work is already done by other people: I asked The Receptionist Focus Group to share five things that intimidate them. But I should probably start with myself.

Five things that intimidate me:

Discussing a topic with someone who I disagree with, but I haven't already spent time thinking through all the arguments around my opinion and they are better at arguing and putting together a point. I usually just end up getting confused and feeling dumb.

Telling anyone my vision/dreams/big ideas. Especially when I am telling them because I would like their input or assistance in some way.

Inserting myself into a conversation.

The future. It's so long!

People who are more educated than I am. It's dumb because education isn't the marker of anything except how long you've been in school, but thanks to dating a guy with a PhD, I am now friends with a lot of people who have Master's or PhD's, and... it intimidates me.

Five Things that Intimidate Kaitlin:

Taking my driving test to get rid of my N - I've had my N since I was 17 and have been too nervous to do the test all these years. oh my goodness, very embarrassing.

Learning a new language

Anything to do with math or numbers (or money)

Making a phone call to a casting director to ask about a play... Currently writing this email to avoid that call.

People who have a deep grasp on theology and can articulate themselves with intelligence and clarity.

Five Things That Intimidate Alison:

Pretty much anyone with a STEM career.

People I admire.

People who love comedy but dislike silliness.

Most recipes.

The Deep Ocean.

Five Things That Intimidate Chloe:

The prospect of political discussions with a new person.

Negotiating fees/rates for freelance work (and full-time jobs!).

The vast number of possible routes my life and career could take.

Co-ed gyms. I've never been to an all-female gym, but I imagine I might be more comfortable asking a fellow lady how to use the weight machines. Sweaty gym bros tend to work out in packs, which I find difficult to approach. (There's never a break in the action because they're basically all just taking turns...and who wants to be stared down by four dudes, much less play into the stereotype of the girl who doesn't know how shit works!? But until I can muster up the courage to interrupt, I will be relegated to the easy-to-use cardio machines.)

Five Things That Intimidate Eli:

Public speaking in front of "experts" is the most intimidating thing for me. I'm a PhD student and I teach at universities part-time so I have to give a lot of presentations to people that know more than me. It makes me feel so flustered and sick to my stomach that sometimes I can't even understand the questions they are trying to ask me. It's interesting to me how different I am in front of people that aren't "scary" to me - it's a lot more of an interactive learning process for both of us. But with my supervisor/boss/famous scholars from the field - I just hate it!

I live in a country where the dominant language isn't my first language, so writing emails or participating in teaching team meetings are also very intimidating for me. I want to show a professional identity to my colleagues but I think I should like a confused kid when I open my mouth. My emails also aren't very professional and take me forever to write since I check online to see if I am using the correct phrasing etc. for a formal situation.

I have a hard time sharing things creative things I've made - like poetry, photography, etc. I think I totally lack artistic talent but I have always been attracted to the arts. I want to participate somehow but everything I made is so blah. Sometimes I make something and show one or two people - only people I know will say something nice, no matter what.

(Christian) Church has become a place of intimidation for me. The rules, the judginess. The appearance of sameness in (most) people's lives. I feel there are very strong expectations about how you should live your life and interact with other people. Blah blah blah. I also strongly disagree with the gendered expectations in churches. When I used to attend, I would often feel so exhausted and tense by the end. I tried to attend a church a few months ago but it was really the same thing - rules and lectures. I can't be myself in those environments.

Five Things That Intimidate Lois:

Initiating conversation or reaching out to people who I perceive to be in positions of power.

Initiating conversations that I fear will have tense or “bad” outcomes, especially in terms of my romantic relationships.

Public Speaking.

Figuring out the first step to starting a project I don’t want to do. Like my taxes.

Things That Intimidate Lisa:


(Guys, I have a friend who is not intimidated by anything, which is a little intimidating. Apparently, thorough confidence is intimidating to me.)

Here's what I noticed from reading these lists:

We are all intimidated in some way by people we perceive, somehow, to be above us. Do you think it's possible to just stop seeing other people as greater than we are?

I can look at someone else's list and think, "oh, that's silly, you don't need to be intimidated by that. Let me explain how you are totally fine in that situation." So maybe I should start looking at my own list as if I were someone else?

There are a lot of "me too!" moments when talking to other people about insecurities. It's almost as if there are some common elements to the human experience.

Once I got going, it was kind of hard to stop at five. Everywhere I look I see a reminder of something else that intimidates me.

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