The Fear of Ostracism Keeps People Stuck in Mediocrity

Some of our greatest moments come from rejection

Anthony Moore
Published in
9 min readJul 21, 2017


“People shape their lives through their thoughts.” -Robert Kiyosaki, Rich Dad Poor Dad

Many people are more afraid of public speaking than of death.

According to recent psychiatric research, this fear of public speaking is tied to the fear of ostracism. This is the fear of being singled out and criticized, the fear of ridicule and becoming an outcast.

This fear prevents most people from seeking new ways to solve their problems.

They conform instead of question.

They react instead of think.

They do “what everyone else is doing” and forfeit their ingenuity and individuality.

This thinking ensures most people remain in the “mediocre majority;” where decisions and lifestyles are based on what everyone else is doing, and not on what individuals actually want.

Examples of this thinking might include:

  • “Buy a house, even if you can’t afford it.”
  • “Don’t risk it, you might look stupid.”
  • “Play it safe.”
  • “Hey, it’s a promotion.”
  • “Just use a credit card. You get points!”
  • “At your age, it might be time to start being realistic.”
  • “Work harder.”
  • “When I get a raise, I’ll buy us a big house.”
  • “This is how it’s always been done.”

But comfort and growth can’t co-exist. You may need to experience rejection and ostracism to become a better version of yourself.

There is no progress without enduring pain.

If you want to become extraordinary and achieve your true definition of success, you’ll need to leave the majority.

Even if you’re terrified.

“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.” -Jim Rohn

Personal Incongruency Is Costing You Your Life

“Personal incongruency is what causes so much of our pain. Not being you will destroy you.” -Tim Denning

Deep down, (perhaps very deep), many people know they should be doing something else.

That little 4th grader with dreams of making a footprint on the moon still lives inside you.

Your inner child — the sense that anything is possible, that life can be amazing, that risky passions are better than bland stability — is still in there.

But we usually drown this feeling with “reality” — being realistic.

Most people know what they should be doing, but don’t do it.

That’s because dreams are scary.

What if you mess up? What if you fail? What if, after all this time, you turn out to be no good? For many, never trying (and hence, never risking failure) is better than trying, failing, and knowing they failed.

Sadly, the monumental efforts most people spend on trying to avoid this pain actually creates more pain. Avoiding suffering is a form of suffering. Avoiding pain is a form of pain.

“It’s actually far more exhausting to not work than it is to work. It takes far more energy to sit with internal conflict than it does to get to work.” -Benjamin P. Hardy

When your values and actions are incongruent, you suffer.

The sad truth for many individuals in the majority is that as long as they don’t act in ways they know they should, they will experience pain.

Not being you will destroy you.

Many people will never stop to think about the life they are chasing. Most people are working at a 9–5 job for someone else that doesn’t really satisfy them. But since this is what “everyone else is doing,” they blindly continue on this path.

They spend most of their time and energy worrying about getting the next raise or promotion, complaining and whining when they don’t get it.

The spend most of their time on a hamster wheel where extreme excitement, boundless creativity, and dragons waiting to be slain aren’t even a possibility.

Life is set. There’s a schedule to maintain, and it’s full of obligations, working harder, and keeping up with The Joneses.

You are meant to slay dragons.

You are meant to grow and evolve through solving extremely difficult but fun-as-hell challenges that force you to become a better version of yourself.

But most people never put themselves in this position. Like sheep in a long line, most people just follow where the person in front of them is going, even if they’re being led into a deep, dry desert.

Personal incongruency costs you your life.

Do you values and behaviors align?

Do you act in ways that line up with what you believe in?

For most people, the answer is no. Sadder still, the answer will still be “no” for many years to come.

Photo by Kalen Emsley on Unsplash

If You Want to Improve, Be Content to Be Thought Foolish and Stupid

Most people never win because they are more afraid of losing.” -Robert Kiyosaki

Ostracism is often an integral part of extraordinary growth.

It is inherent. It is an ingredient. Any time we outgrow our current role and become a newer, better version of ourself, we experience a type of isolation correlated with growth.

This is why so many recent college graduates experience such loneliness after graduation. Same goes for new parents, newlyweds, new business owners, and individuals who have recently lost significant weight.

If you want to improve, you must be content to be thought foolish and stupid by many of those around you.

See, the majority doesn’t like deserters. Oftentimes, when an individual matures into a newer, higher state of being, the individual’s progress reminds the majority of their own lack of growth.

So, they ostracize the individual. They ridicule, insult, and criticize them (even well-meaning friends and family can act in this way).

“Life shrinks and expands in direct proportion to your willingness to assume risks.” -Casey Neistat

Becoming extraordinary and continually improving means constantly becoming a small fish in a big pond.

Most people prefer to remain a big fish in a small pond. Improving and learning means humbling yourself and placing yourself in uncomfortable environments to learn things you don’t know.

Most people are unwilling to pay this price. They want to “have it all figured out” and be lavished with praise and admiration instead — even if inside they’re stagnating and crumbling.

In the words of Mark Manson in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck:

Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance.

Seth Godin once said, “If I fail more than you, I win.

No one wants to look foolish and risk getting “kicked out” of safety and security. But this fear of ostracism prevents people from progressing. It locks them into simply being “average.”

So they remain a big fish in a small pond — even if that pond is stagnant, toxic, and shrinking.

Instead, learn to embrace embarrassment and failure.

If someone is better than you at something, it’s almost certain they have failed more at it than you have.

Improving and learning means risking looking foolish in the eyes of others.

Like a baby learning a new skill like walking, we will often fall down many times before we experience the slightest hint of success.

But frankly, most people would rather choose to never learn to walk for fear of looking foolish.

They choose to forfeit massive success at the risk of looking silly.

But this is the only way to improve. Improving means looking foolish, sometimes. That’s OK.

Embrace the fact that you might look silly as you try new skills in your development.

Realize Pain and Ostracism Are Blessings

“Some of the greatest moments of one’s life are not pleasant, not successful, not known, and not positive.” -Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

What is life in the majority like?

Ask yourself — what are most people’s lives like?

Are they happy? Fulfilled? Satisfied?

Do most people make good choices, practice self-control and discipline? Are they wealthy, healthy, and intelligent?

The answer for most people is no. Most people remain unhealthy and overweight. Most people spend foolishly and remain in debt. Their relationships are shallow and small.

They have all the pleasures life can offer, but are still miserable.

That’s because they are unwilling to evolve. They refuse to give up comfort. Evolving is painful, and they’d rather keep their child’s mindset of comfort and avoiding responsibility.

Baring your soul to your partner and risking rejection at your most intimate, vulnerable state is not a characteristic of the majority.

Neither is wise investing or financial literacy. Same goes for achieving peak physical health, practicing self-denial, and cultivating an unapologetic commitment to your values.

Few people realize the majority is not a great place to be.

Becoming extraordinary and evolving in a supremely better version of yourself is often not possible while in the comfort of the majority.

Instead, most individuals in the herd follow the rules that have always been followed in this demographic: stay in line. Watch out for #1. Don’t take risks. Play it safe. If you’re lucky, someday you’ll strike it rich.

But this is no way to live. It is not how we are supposed to live.

In the words of Navy Admiral Grace Hopper:

A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”

Becoming ostracized from a failing, stagnating group is actually a blessing.

Photo by Valentin Antonini on Unsplash

The Majority Is Not a Great Place to Be

Leaving the herd may be painful. The road to becoming extraordinary can be lonely at first. Individuals who refuse to conform to mediocrity often find themselves isolated from the masses.

But this is a blessing. Awakening to one’s ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.

Think about the class of extraordinary people of the world. Are they in abundance? Do you see them all the time in your every day life?

No. These individuals are rare. They’re not in the rat race; they’re busy traveling the world paid for by wise investments, or in their fortress producing life-changing work that helps millions of people.

They aren’t spending money they don’t have with people they don’t like. They aren’t making decisions out of fear or laziness.

They don’t fear ostracism.

“I used to walk into a room full of people and wonder if they liked me. Now I wonder if I like them.” -Anonymous

These people were ostracized. They were excluded. They were the “weird” ones who didn’t play by the rules. Most of their peers laughed them out of their cliques and relegated them to the lonely margins.

But it was in that lonely, marginal environment where they learned how to become a truly extraordinary, unique individual.

Who ever became extraordinary by following all the rules of the average, ordinary crowd?

The pain of being ostracized by the majority is a blessing.

It is one of the surest signs you’re on the right track to success.

“Haters confirm greatness.” -Benjamin P. Hardy

In Conclusion

“Bad things are fuel. You don’t just want fuel — you need it. You can’t go anywhere without it.” -Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way

The lessons learned the hardest ways are often the most powerful ones.

The most difficult truths are often the most important ones.

Being ostracized and cut off from the safety of the comfortable cliques of society forces one to adapt and proceed in the face of ridicule and criticism.

Will you crumble and fold?

Or will you laugh in the face of rejection, criticism, and ostracism? Will you use it as a chip on your shoulder?

Being an outcast frees you from the restrictions and limitations that hold most people back out of fear of rejection.

Embrace ostracism. Follow discomfort. Charge at pain.

In the words of the ancient Stoic philosophers:

The obstacle is the way.”

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Anthony Moore

Writer for CNBC, Business Insider, Fast Company, Thought Catalog, Yahoo! Finance, and you. Come say hey.