Living with Erythrophobia

How (and Why) To Tell your Colleagues You’re an Ery

Look:

I know that telling people you’re an ery is one of the more terrifying parts of this social phobia, due to its nature alone.

We don’t want people to know about our affliction. We want to hide it, lest they think us weird or unlikeable. Which, in my retrospective opinion, is part of the problem. The more you hide, the worse it gets.

It’s also why I encourage you to tell your loved ones that you suffer from fear of blushing. Kudos to you if you followed the advice and told someone!

But here’s the thing:

Your loved ones aren’t the only people you interact with on a daily basis.

Unless you’ve managed to successfully hermitize your life, you probably have to deal with people. Next-door neighbors, check-out girls at the grocery store, doctors, and, on a more regular and personal basis: your colleagues.

Now I can already see you looking at me with panic mounting red in your cheeks, asking: do you really think it’s necessary or a good idea to tell my colleagues that I suffer from social anxiety?

And you’re probably going red at just the thought of doing so.

Okay, relax. Breathe.

Your eventually blush-free life does not depend on your colleagues knowing that you battle with your red face. I’m not even as strong an advocate for telling your colleagues as I am for telling your loved ones.

But (and you knew there’d be a but, right?) I do believe that your colleagues being aware of your condition can be helpful.

In certain circumstances. When explained in the right way. And handled with a focus on your job, not your mental health itself.

But I still see that flush of panic in your cheeks and the question in your eyes: What good will it do to tell them about it?

Why to tell your colleagues

In my opinion, the same reasons why you should tell your loved ones you’re an ery apply in the case of your colleagues, too.

You break your cycle of frantically trying to suppress your blush, trying to hide it, and acting suspiciously to do so, by taking away the immediate need to hide it.

If they know, why hide it? It’s liberating for you, and they’ll know how to support you.

But there is a difference between your loved ones and your colleagues, one that can make or break the success of informing them of your phobia:

Your colleagues don’t love you unconditionally. They don’t necessarily want the best for you. In fact, some might enjoy seeing you fail.

You don’t want to give such people all the ammunition they need to bring you down.

Worst-case scenario:

  • Your colleagues exploit this perceived “weakness”
  • They lose trust in your ability to do your job
  • Your wages are lowered, or
  • You’re fired

The thing is:

All this could still happen, even – or especially – if you don’t tell them about your erythrophobia.

The first time your boss assigns you a task like a presentation, and something happens that makes your face light up and your mind shut down, you’ll end up blaming yourself for whatever fiasco this causes. Not just because eries always blame themselves for everything that goes wrong, but because it’s actually a little justified.

If you didn’t tell him, your boss didn’t even know there was an issue with assigning you this task. He wasn’t able to prepare, neither himself nor help you do so.

Now, as I said: this is the absolute worst-case scenario! And I’ve never seen or heard of it happen so badly to anyone I know. We pick our jobs according to our abilities after all – at least ideally.

Why to tell your colleauges

But it could happen. And since I’m a firm believer of preparation being half an ery’s battle, I also believe that preparing for this possibility is a good idea.

If circumstances allow it.

When to tell

Here’s when I think you can gather the courage to tell your boss or another colleague about your fear of blushing:

  1. If you feel comfortable with them.
  2. If the work culture at your workplace is a nurturing environment.
  3. If intrigues, infighting and mobbing aren’t part of the daily norm.
  4. If you’re not already being mobbed or ridiculed for something other than your blushing (that’s a whole other kettle of fish).

So now you’ve decided to take a deep breath and tell someone at work about your erythrophobia – but whom should you tell?

Whom to tell

Do you feel like your boss has an open ear for his employees’ problems? Does he deal with them on a rational basis? Does she recognize people’s strengths and weaknesses and use them accordingly? Do you feel like you can talk to him?

It makes the most sense to tell your boss of your blush phobia. She’s the one who assigns you your tasks and can plan accordingly if she knows where your strengths and weaknesses lie. He’s the one who needs to know it would be better not to spring impromptu presentations on you and expect excellent results.

But if you can’t or don’t trust your boss to support you, or take your erythrophobia serious or into consideration – then don’t! Find another colleague you trust. The thing is, they probably won’t be able to help you much in dicey situations. You may get along really well, but it’s not their job to fight your battles for you.

But at least you’ll have someone in your corner who understands (or at least knows) why you’re going red and are embarrassed by what appears to be nothing at all.

Now you know under what circumstances and to whom you could consider telling about your fear of blushing. But how to go about it exactly?

How to tell

Once you’ve gathered your courage and made the earnest decision to inform your boss or colleagues, the process is similar to that of how to tell your loved ones.

There are a few differences in approach and execution, though, so here are the 9 steps on how to tell your boss or colleague about your fear of blushing:

  1. Decide Whom to tell
  2. Decide What to tell
  3. Decide Where to talk to them – best would be alone in your boss’ office. Minimize distractions and make sure nobody is listening in. This is between him and you.
  4. Pick anecdote your boss will remember. Important: use an instance when it didn’t create a big issue for you or your boss; don’t dwell on what happened, but explain why you blushed for what appeared to be no reason.
  5. Explain the effect that your erythrophobia has on your way of doing work.
  6. Explain in what situations it might become an issue and how best to handle it.
  7. Don’t overdramatize! Show you generally know how to handle your phobia, that the better you can prepare for certain tasks, the less of an issue it will be.
  8. Ask for their support; be specific. Make clear you don’t expect them to pick up your slack or do your work. Telling your boss about your erythrophobia shouldn’t make you feel like you’ve been given a free pass to stop trying.
  9. Explain that you’re working hard on your recovery, and that telling them is one big step in that direction.

In the end, you have to make it clear to your boss that this issue you’re dealing with could have an effect on him, and that you’re trying to prevent it from becoming an issue for him by informing him how best to deal with you as his employee.

Make it about the person you’re telling, not yourself

If your boss isn’t a completely inconsiderate, clueless dweeb, he’ll probably be grateful for your heads-up and tips. If you bungle something up, it reflects back on him to his higher-ups, so it’s something he wants to avoid almost as much as you do.

Basically, don’t make it about you (most important: don’t whine. Never whine about your terrible lot in life to your boss. Suggest solutions instead) – make it about the person you’re telling.

Still unsure? Weigh the Pros and Cons.

If you’re still debating whether to go to your boss or colleagues with your blushing, write down your doubts and fears, and then your personal reasons for telling him and the improvements this could bring.

Kind of like a pro-con list: If the doubts and fears (cons) outweigh the reasons and improvements (pros), don’t do it.

But if it’s the other way around, make another pro-con list, this time to help you decide if you should tell your boss.

If the cons for your boss outweigh the pros, try the same for a couple of colleagues.

Very important:

Be honest! Don’t just invent cons to have them outweigh the pros. We eries are all about the cons, but when you start looking at the pros, you might be surprised to find that they tend to add up, too.

Don’t let your pre-panic of the thought of confronting your boss lead you to shape your pro-con list toward the con-side for you! Only jot down rational arguments.

I know, I know, rational isn’t our strongest suit. But please, try.

For your own sake.

 


And let me know how it goes, okay? What did you decide? Who did you tell? How did it go?

And what about you employers? Would you want to know if your employee suffers from this fear of blushing?

 

 

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