Fear Thesaurus Entry: Not Being Believed

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental health condition, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

Not Being Believed

Notes
The fear of not being believed often comes from a place of abuse. A character who made themselves vulnerable to someone (a relative, a corporation, the media, etc.) and was then accused of dishonesty, unreliability, or worse—it’s enough to turn that character into a bubbling mess of self-doubt and paranoia. There is nothing like an abuse of power to send one spiraling into a dark abyss that takes years to climb out of.

What It Looks Like
Only telling people what the character thinks they want to hear
Only speaking up when there is zero doubt that what the character is saying is true
Being loose with the truth (because no one will believe them anyway)
Being honest to a fault—refusing to tell even a little white lie
Needing constant assurance that people believe them
Withdrawing from friends and family
Questioning everything that is said or presented to them
Being able to read others and recognize dishonesty
The character often accusing people of lying to them or to loved ones
Becoming angry if their word is questioned
Searching for the truth in all things
The character having nightmares about times when they weren’t believed
Keeping quiet about abuse or unfairness (because speaking up won’t do them any good)
Harboring a healthy distrust of other people, institutions, etc.
Extreme self-reliance from the belief that the character can trust no one but themselves

Common Internal Struggles
Wanting to speak up about an injustice but worrying they won’t be believed
Feeling guilt or shame despite having done nothing wrong
Being paranoid that people are conspiring against them
Wanting to confide in someone but being unsure if they’re trustworthy
Wanting to speak up about a situation but choosing not to after seeing society’s reaction to a similar event
The character second-guessing themselves, doubting their ability to remember details correctly
Negative self-talk (berating themselves for not standing up for themselves, etc.)

Flaws That May Emerge
Addictive, Antisocial, Apathetic, Cynical, Defensive, Dishonest, Evasive, Hostile, Inattentive, Inhibited, Insecure, Nervous, Nosy, Oversensitive, Paranoid, Pessimistic, Resentful, Suspicious, Timid, Uncommunicative, Volatile, Withdrawn

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Living in isolation
Struggling professionally due to a distrust of those in authority
Being ruled by fear or anger
Quitting jobs rather than telling someone about workplace injustices
Difficulty relating to or accepting people who are similar to those who didn’t believe the character (men, women, police officers, doctors, religious leaders, etc.)
Living with self-doubt because the character doesn’t trust their own instincts
Never knowing who can be trusted
Continuing in a toxic or harmful situation because the character thinks no one will believe them

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
Watching someone go public with a similar problem and lose all credibility in the media
Witnessing behavior at work that should be reported
The character testifying about a crime and their word being questioned
Seeing someone speak out about what happened to them and hearing loved ones blame the victim
Being told by an abuser and that no one will believe the character if they talk
Telling authorities about wrongdoing and seeing nothing happen
Innocently witnessing a crime and being named as a suspect
Being told about an injustice in a way that makes the character question the reporter.

By BECCA PUGLISI

Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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