Updated: Apr 24
Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something because of your fear of being judged? I can say that I have on numerous occasions. Some of the clients I have coached have also felt this fear. So, if you are feeling this way, know that you are not alone.
The fear of judgement is a common experience for many people. It is the fear of being evaluated or criticised negatively by others for our thoughts, feelings, or actions. This fear can be limiting and can prevent us from reaching our full potential. In this blog post, I will explore the causes of the fear of judgement and provide five strategies for overcoming it.
Many of us if we were asked, ‘Would you do xyz if no one would judge you’? Would say yes. We would happily do xyz without a second thought. But our fear of judgement keeps us paralysed and stuck. We don’t want others to say nasty things about us. We don’t want others to have a bad opinion about us. We don’t want people to laugh at us or spread untrue rumours. We don’t want to be outcast from society all because we did xyz. Now that I’m talking about it, what is your xyz? What is the thing you fear being judged for?
Mine has been various things. Lending money to someone who never paid it back. Admitting I had a problem with alcohol. Speaking up when I didn’t agree with the majority. Asking for help. I could go on!
We are conditioned by society to be liked, to want to belong. With that sometimes comes going along with the crowd so that we don’t stick out. Sometimes that means we hold back on what we really want in life because we fear being judged by those around us. We seek validation from others and if we are doing things they may not approve of it can leave us feeling judged.
It’s all too easy for me to say ‘Forget about them, do what you want!’ But it’s not that simple. Even if we logically believe that other people’s opinions don’t matter or we have cultivated a mindset that has us brushing these thoughts aside, our nervous system will not necessarily play along. As soon as we see or hear something that we perceive to be judgemental, it may bring up emotion or sensations in our bodies to remind us that we are still fearing that judgement from others.
I was raised in a Sikh household and when I was in my teens it was made quite clear that I would marry in the traditional way. My family would find a suitor from a respectable family and we would be married. But every suitor and family I met rejected me. There was always some reason. I was too fat, too short, not pretty enough, not Indian enough. And this made me feel more and more worthless and hating myself. I felt the only way to avoid being judged by these suitors and their mothers was to not take part in these spectacles anymore. But subconsciously I started to withdraw in most areas of my life because I could not handle judgement from anyone. Rather than letting people see the real me, I decided to hide and not do the things that I enjoyed because I didn’t want anyone else having an opinion on me or what I was doing.
I soon realised that there was judgement in all areas of life and not just mine. I could see it all around me. When I was at work. When I was out socialising. When I was in certain friend groups. Even at the supermarket. There was always someone judging something or someone else!
Causes of Fear of Judgement
There are several reasons why people experience the fear of judgement. These reasons can be internal or external.
One of the internal causes of fear of judgement is low self-esteem. If we do not feel confident in ourselves, we may believe that others are constantly judging us negatively. We may also believe that we are not good enough, which can lead to a fear of being exposed as a fraud or failure. This is what I experienced. Low self-esteem from many rejections.
Another internal cause of fear of judgement is perfectionism. If we have high standards for ourselves, we may fear that we will not meet these standards and that others will judge us harshly. This fear can be paralysing and can prevent us from taking risks or trying new things.
External causes of fear of judgement can come from social pressure to conform to certain standards. For example, if we are in a group where everyone is expected to look, act, or think a certain way, we may fear being judged if we do not conform to these expectations. This was something I experienced when I worked in London. At one particular firm, the drinking culture was so ingrained that not drinking was judged to the extent that some would consider it bullying.
Strategies for Overcoming Fear of Judgement
If you experience fear of judgement, there are several strategies you can use to overcome it.
Identify the root cause: Understanding the root cause of your fear of judgement can help you develop strategies to overcome it. Is it internal or external? Is it related to low self-esteem, perfectionism, or social pressure? Once you understand the cause, you can develop a plan to address it.
Challenge negative thoughts: If you have negative thoughts about yourself or your abilities, challenge them. Ask yourself if these thoughts are based on facts or if they are assumptions. Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations.
Practice self-compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend. Recognise that everyone makes mistakes and that failure is a normal part of the learning process.
Take small risks: Taking small risks can help you build confidence and overcome your fear of judgement. Start with something small, such as trying a new activity or speaking up in a meeting. As you become more comfortable, you can take bigger risks.
Surround yourself with supportive people: Surround yourself with people who are supportive and encouraging. Avoid people who are critical or negative. Having a supportive network can help you build confidence and overcome your fear of judgement.
The fear of judgement can be a significant barrier to personal growth and success. By understanding the root causes of this fear and using strategies such as challenging negative thoughts, practicing self-compassion, taking small risks, and surrounding yourself with supportive people, you can overcome this fear and reach your full potential. Remember, everyone experiences fear of judgement at some point in their lives, but it is possible to overcome it and achieve your goals.
If you would like support in overcoming your fear of judgement, book a discovery call with me today.