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A Really Scary Halloween? What are Adults REALLY Scared of? 🎃

And… it’s Halloween again! The season of pumpkins, trick-or-treating, and the annual decision to either reluctantly squeeze into that superhero costume or opt for the perennial classic, a white sheet with holes for eyes. But let’s get real. As adults, our fears aren’t confined to dark shadows in alleys or the latest horror flick. Oh no, our phobias have graduated. They now carry briefcases and have LinkedIn profiles 👔.

Written with love by: My Personal English Coach

Judgment: The Ghost that Haunts Every Decision 👻

Let’s talk about the ogre under the bed: THE FEAR OF JUDGEMENT. Most adults are more terrified of societal judgment than a zombie apocalypse. Forget vampires; nothing sucks the life out of us more than the gaze of disapproval from a new boss or a look of quiet contempt from a prospect client.

Social psychologist Solomon Asch’s Conformity Experiments from the 1950s found that people are likely to go against their better judgment to conform with the group, revealing the haunting power judgment has over us (Asch, 1951). THIS is how scary we find it to be rejected. We are willing to renounce what our senses tell us, just to fit in. Scared? Not yet? Let’s keep going!

Loss of Reputation: The Permanent Curse 🧙‍♀️

If Dracula was a modern-day adult, he’d be less worried about garlic and more concerned about his social media standing. A single misstep, a mere slip of the tongue, and poof! Your reputation vanishes into thin air. People turn their backs on you, the carefully crafted curriculum is facing a gap that will be difficult to explain in the next job interview….

Spooky, right?

Daniel Solove, in his book “The Future of Reputation,” argues that the digital age has made reputation more fragile than ever (Solove, 2007) – and it truly IS one of the fears adults report to keep them awake at night

Professional Failure: The Monster in the Closet 🧟‍♂️



The only “Boo!” we fear is the one that comes with a pink slip. With the gnawing uncertainty of job markets and the constant race to stay ahead, the prospect of professional failure looms large. Studies by researchers like Orjan Solvell found that fear of failure is one of the biggest deterrents to innovation (Solvell, 2012). Adults fear words like: Change and Innovation because what they hear is: You will be Asked To Innovate and If You Can’t We Will Change You For Someone Else. Yep. Our heads start spinning at the sheer thought. Innovatioooooooon! 😱There you are – goosebumps and all.

Imposter Syndrome: The Shape-Shifter Among Us 🎭

Ever felt like you’re pretending to be someone you’re not and that, any moment now, people will unmask the ‘fraud’ that is you? Well, you’re not alone. An estimated 70% of people experience impostor syndrome at some point in their lives, according to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioural Science (Clance & Imes, 1978). And if deep down we believe we are imposters, we will be terrified of the future in which SOMEONE somehow discovers that we don’t deserve to be where we are, to have what we have, to work where we do. We will be discovered and banished, alone and… oh yeah, there is the loss of reputation again – welcome to the Adult Nightmare Alley!

(BTW – Suzanne Pilch, the ICF Certified coach and MPEC Partner can successfully coach you to see that there is NO such thing as an imposter syndrome…)

The Real Boogeyman: Our Own Perceptions 🙈

But perhaps what we fear the most isn’t lurking outside; it’s festering within us—our insecurities. Cognitive neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio suggest that our self-perceptions play a huge role in how we experience fear, sometimes even amplifying it (“Descartes’ Error,” Damasio, 1994).

Trick or Treat 🍬

So, here we are, running around in a maze of adult fears while yearning for the simplicity of childhood scares. If you’re interested in why that nostalgia for simpler fears still holds sway, have a look at our other MPEC article: “Scary and Spooky: Why do we like to be scared?” 🦇

But wait, what’s this?

The surprising, thought-provoking twist? Fear, judgment, failure—they’re all ghouls of our own creation. This Halloween, let’s not mask our fears but face them, knowing that they can’t harm us if we don’t give them the power to do so.

The skeletons in the closet, the demons under the bed, they all vanish the moment we turn on the light of awareness 🕯️. And so, if we want to fight the truly scary demons of our adult lives, the cure is not candy – it’s coaching.

The soothing effect will not come from M&Ms but from Mindfulness. We shouldn’t be chasing the Wednesday Adams costume, but the Wellbeing Workshop Zoom Invite. And instead of thinking Zombie thoughts (Brains! Brains! Brains!) we should be thinking: breathe, breathe, breathe…. So go ahead, put on that costume you were embarrassed to wear. Who knows? Your biggest fear might just turn out to be your greatest strength 💪.

Happy Halloween! 🎃👻🦇

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