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English phobia: Root causes and remedies

fear-of-speaking-english

The fear of speaking English has become a widespread phenomenon. Language schools, however, offer no satisfactory solution, because psychological causes are not fully understood:

 

At the root of every anxiety lies a negative belief

Negative beliefs are limiting thoughts which have been practised over a longer period of time. Examples for such negative beliefs are:

 

"I'm never good enough."

"I need to try harder."

"I'm lazy."

"I'm stupid."

"People won't like me."

"I shouldn't be selfish."

"I should make others happy."

 

Negative beliefs regarding English could be:

 

"I have to be perfect."

"I should not make mistakes."

"People will think I'm uneducated."

"I need to show more confidence."

 

Negative beliefs can cause phobia because violating such a belief (e.g. by making mistakes) creates fear of rejection. The fear of rejection is a very powerful fear that often has a far-reaching impact on everything we do in our lives. Placing yourself in a situation that could lead to rejection, such as speaking English in public, could therefore create crippling fear. 

 

Identifying limiting beliefs

Beliefs have the power to create as well as the power to destroy. However, everybody is able to eliminate their limiting beliefs and replace them with empowering ones. But to change anything, you first have to identify it. So how to discover limiting beliefs regarding English? Start with making a list of what scares you when you speak English and (this is the most important part) ask yourself why you are scared of this. For example: You will maybe be scared of making mistakes. And you are scared of this because you don't want people to perceive you as someone who makes mistakes. So there you have your limiting belief:

 

"I should not make mistakes."

 

Question this belief

The next step is to question it: Why should you not make mistakes? You will maybe answer: "Because I have to be perfect." Again, ask yourself: Why do you have to be perfect? If the answer is: "Because my boss wants me to be perfect", then you can again question this: Why do you think does your boss want you to be perfect? And so on. It helps to do this with a friend or with a coach or therapist, who is experienced in identifying and dissolving limiting beliefs. 

 

Creating a new belief that serves you

Once you have identified and questioned the negative beliefs around English, it's important to imagine a situation in which these beliefs were eliminated from your life. What would happen? What would change? How would you behave differently? What would you be able to achieve? Based on this, you will be able to create a new belief that will improve your life. If your negative belief is "I should not make mistakes", then a new belief could be:

 

"It's OK to make mistakes."

 

Limiting beliefs are eliminated by replacing them with positive beliefs. But you will need to tell yourself over and over again that this new belief is the truth and you will need evidence to support it. Maybe it will be necessary to take a little risk to prove to yourself that it's true so that you will really start believing it and by this will eliminate the negative belief.

 

Continue reading: Foreign language phobia: 4 questions to ask yourself.

 

I'm Natalie Marby, a psychotherapist based in Hamburg, Germany. I'm specialised in the treatment of foreign language phobia, especially English and German. You can contact me here.

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