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I Can’t Talk to Authority Figures

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For as long as I can remember I’ve had difficulty approaching people in positions of power. By this I mean people like: my boss, professors/teachers, landlords and in some cases, my own parents.

This has restricted my personal growth in many ways. I struggle in school because I’m afraid to ask teachers for help. I will avoid talking to my boss for fear that she will make a negative comment on my work performance. I even have poor communication with my parents because I am mildly afraid of their advice.

I generally have poor self-esteem but I have found this to be the biggest problem that stems from it. I want to be able to ask for help more easily but I’m afraid that my performance will be judged, or that I’ll get in trouble.

I am unsure what causes this nervousness and anxiety, however I am looking for suggestions on what sorts of steps I can take to get over this fear.

I Can’t Talk to Authority Figures

Answered by on -


I know this may sound unusual, but I know it works for others so I am passing it on. There is a saying “fake it until you make it” that I think applies in your situation. In other words, I think you need to act as if you could speak up to people in power. For this I am going to recommend either an acting class or an improv class. The instructors typically have ways of motivating and teaching people how to get over their fears and learn to use their anxiety constructively. Very often I will encourage my clients to take courses like these to help and they seem to do the trick. My hope is this can happen for you.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

I Can’t Talk to Authority Figures

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). I Can’t Talk to Authority Figures. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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