• All-Rounder
  • Posts
  • Overcoming the fear of being seen as intimidating

Overcoming the fear of being seen as intimidating

A sign of maturity is when you no longer require external approval about important life decisions from your parents and peers.

You walk your own path and blaze your trail. You are unapologetically yourself.

This was something I was reflecting on these few weeks. Over the past few years, I have been afraid to fully be myself in my personal relationships.

I often got comments that I could be intimidating. This is because of my job, media appearance and public speaking opportunities.

A part of me wanted to be accepted by others. So, I would often try to appear smaller than I am.

Here are some examples:

Always letting people talk about their goals and playing a supporting role

In most conversations, I would let the other person be the main character all the time. He will talk about his goals; his achievements and how wonderful he is.

I will play the supporting role; listen; look impressed; ask questions so he can talk more about the things he is proud of and say words of affirmation to cheer him on.

However, I rarely spoke about my own.

I always thought it was because I was confident and never felt the need for recognition or praise. I did not need this limelight.

While that is true, another reason was because I did not want to outshine him.

If I do have to share a highlight of my work week, I would talk about something more generic like passing a certification or my boss praising me.

I will always leave out the bigger stuff like closing a big deal.

My fear was: What if they feel inferior? What if I outshine them and they feel less happy about their accomplishments?

Being selective about information I share

If someone asked me: “Hey, how is your Saturday morning going?”

I could have spent 2 hours preparing talking points to speak at a panel for a conference.

However, I would answer “housework”; “went to the market” or “gardening”.

These were not lies because I really did do those things. However, I chose to mention them as I felt the more mundane things would make me come across as more relatable and less intense.

Avoiding topics about content creation; career or money unless I am asked

In my personal relationships, I simply pretend I am not LinkedIn Top Voices; not a content creator and not ahead of my age group in terms of achievement.

It is like that part of myself has been compartmentalised away.

If I do talk about content creation or work, I will share like a brief summary or focus on the downside.

This is despite the fact that being a content creator has been a huge part of my formative years.

If I can think about one of the rare few times I felt more freedom with someone, it was when I was confident my material achievements paled in comparison to his.

Spoke at conference? Featured in media? It is okay to talk about it, because he does that a lot more frequently and in more prestigious ones also.

Got huge pay raise? It is okay to share with him because it is probably just a small fraction on how much he earns.

What next?

I spoke with Daren offline after our video interview about this.

We came to the following conclusions.

🪷 Why accommodate to people’s insecurities? 

If someone only feels confident because I am ‘weaker’, does this person truly have substance?

Being confident only when someone else is ‘weaker’ is simply self-deception. It is like being a big fish in a small pond.

Do I want people who have such a fragile self-esteem? Do I want peers who have not done the work to build a healthy self?

🪷 Can I really build a true connection if I am compartmentalising a huge part of myself?

Ambition, growth-orientedness, being articulate and confident … These are all major parts of me. By suppressing them in my personal interactions, am I really being me?

🪷 这样子对得起自己吗?

Do I want to keep holding myself back so I can be accepted by others?

Do I want to spend the rest of my life pretending to be a smaller version of who I am?

Moving forward, I’d like to really bring my authentic self into my personal relationships - not just the parts that I think people will accept.

“Don't fear big. Fear mediocrity. Fear waste. Fear the lack of living to your fullest.

When we fear big, we either consciously or subconsciously work against it. We either run toward lesser outcomes and opportunities or we simply run away from the big ones. 

Only living big will let you experience your true life and work potential.”

Gary Keller, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results


I subscribed to Netflix for a month just to watch Avatar The Last Airbender.

The animated series and movie contains several meaningful themes around the power of friendship; genocide; imperialism; role of women; what masculinity is; power of nature; non-violence; diversity; corruption and propaganda.

What I love about this animated series is the values it imparts that resonates with me:

  1. Restoring balance: The whole idea of the show is about restoring balance to the world. Too much fire is not a good thing.

    In Chinese culture, my element is Fire. Watching the firebenders in the show makes me realize that the best parts of me is when I harness the strengths of fire - inspirational leadership; drive; warmth towards others. However, at it’s worst, fire is prideful, vain and destructive. It is a reminder to be the better version of who I can be.

  2. Leadership: Leadership like what the protaganist Aang exemplifies is about burden; sacrifice and doing it for the people you serve — not for personal glory like what fire lord Ozai demonstrates.

  3. Independence: Think for oneself; abandon need for approval and carve their own path like what we’ve seen with Zuko. When Zuko leaves the Fire Nation and his family behind, he is taking his legacy and destiny into his own hands. It’s a powerful decision that reminds us all that we have the power to choose.

Highly recommend this and you can watch Avatar: The Last Air Bender Live Action movie here

Healthy Habits

Productivity is not just about time management. A huge part that people neglect is also energy and emotional management.

When you are at your best physically and emotionally, you live life on easy mode. You can think clearer; faster and achieve higher performance.

I compiled all my healthy habits in a single document. Please feel free to duplicate this for your own use.

I am a Singaporean tech worker and content creator. Every week, I share ideas on how we can become our best selves in our career; finance; health and relationships.

💙 Hit reply and share your views with me or drop me a DM

📥 Enjoyed this post? Forward this to a friend and ask them to subscribe here

Subscribe to keep reading

This content is free, but you must be subscribed to All-Rounder to continue reading.

Already a subscriber?Sign In.Not now