Why we fear judgement of others
Fear of judgement from others is very normal and to a certain extent can be useful; as humans we are social creatures and we desire to be accepted, validated and approved. We fear the pain of ridicule, being alone or laughed at.
It's a basic human instinct to want to be part of the group/society so we are naturally wired to consider the judgements of others and conform to societies expectations (at least in part anyway!) in order to fit in and have a more comfortable life. In evolutionary terms, a fear of judgement makes sense- for our ancestors, being evaluated favourably would have meant a higher chance of survival. Even today, success at work results in career progression, whereas poor performance may put you at risk of loss of income.
Often early childhood memories of siblings or people at school teasing us or even bullying us deeply impact our adult selves and shape how we feel about the judgements of others. We also are bombarded with messages from those around us such as family members, parents, media and society in general about what we should and should not be doing.
We witness others passing judgements on a regular basis, in fact now more than ever judgement of others is often marketed as entertainment in TV shows. This may contribute to judgement of others being taken less seriously in regards to the detrimental affects it can have on peoples mental health and wellbeing. Plus seeing these shows and spending time with others who are judgemental can bring judgements to the forefront of our minds and lead to us displaying those behaviours ourselves.
Why it's a problem
Fear of judgement can at times make us over-conform, which can potentially make us not live the life we want to for fear of others opinions. It might stop us from sharing our life wins with others on social media for example, for fear they think we are bragging. Or not dress in a way we want to for fear of ridicule or even prejudice.
It can also lead to us beating ourselves up when we don't achieve. Often those who have a fear of judgement are perfectionists and really struggle if they do not achieve the highest standards in everything they do. This I must achieve 110% at all times attitude can lead to burn out, self loathing and at times an all or nothing approach to things (I'm going to be the best at it or I'm not doing it at all.)
Sometimes these fears not only affect the way we act and behave but they can also directly affect our mental health and may impact upon our levels of anxiety and depression.
How to overcome fear of judgement
"To be unafraid of judgement of others is the greatest freedom you can have."
Know yourself- when you know yourself well and accept yourself as you are (including your flaws) you wont seek out other peoples opinions, and so any judgement you come across wont matter to you anyway. Being authentic to yourself is far more important that being a people pleaser.
Judge yourself less- we can be our own worst critics at times so be kind to yourself. Talk kindly to yourself to others and inside your head- no more "I'm so stupid" or "I'm not good enough". Be extra gentle with yourself when you are having a tough time or have made a mistake. Remember the judgements we fear from others are often coming from within us not them so judge yourself less. (Please also see my Low Self Esteem blog to improve your self confidence).
Try some affirmations. Affirmations are statements said in the present tense to yourself every day (ideally for at least 3 weeks) such as "I am enough".
Judge others less- if you don't judge others harshly you will be less aware of how others judge you and additionally you will care less about their judgements too. Make a conscious effort to judge others less and you will see that slowly things will change for the positive in your general mindset (this is positive thinking at its finest).
Stop apologising- only apologise when you have actually done something wrong. I am British and us Brits are renowned for our manners to the extent that we will apologise when someone else bumps into us! Stop starting sentences with "I'm sorry but..." especially when it is regarding your boundaries, what's best for you or something you have no control over.
Surround yourself with good, kind and positive people. Those around us directly impact how we feel, if your friends are judging and being unkind to others it will ultimately make you question what they are thinking about you, or saying about you behind your back. Being surrounded by judgemental people also means you are more likely to be judgemental of others yourself as you it becomes the norm and we are desensitised to it. Surround yourself with kindness.
Everyone is the centre of their own world. What you do/say/wear etc. is important to you, and perhaps to a select few around you. However every other person is the centre of their own world, this means that half the time when we feel we did something wrong or made a fool of ourselves no one else actually noticed at all because they were too busy thinking about themselves and doing their own thing to pay any attention to you.
Remember nothing lasts forever- that good old phrase comes to mind that todays news is tomorrows chip papers and it's true. Even if you make a fool of yourself today people will have moved on and soon be talking about the next thing because life is busy.
Author: Gill Jackson of Gill Jackson Therapeutic Counselling, BA Hons Counselling, Diploma in Couples and Family Therapy, Diploma in EFT, CIPD, SMACCPH
Bio: I am a Therapist/Psychotherapist and Accredited Mentor in private practice in the UK. Qualified since 2007. Working with adults, young adults and children. I specialise in Anxiety Disorders and Depression.
If you would like to book an introductory call or an appointment with Gill please get in touch via email.
This article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice, if you are suffering from any physical or mental ill health please seek advice of your Doctor where necessary.