Do you have a fear of being judged by others? Maybe you feel self-conscious about the impression you’re making. Every time the person you’re talking to frowns or looks away you worry that you’ve done something wrong.
“Do they think I’m boring?”
“Are they judging the way I look?”
“Did I say the wrong thing?”
The fear of being judged makes social situations feel unbearably uncomfortable. Everything from work meetings to dating to meeting new people exhausts the heck out of you.
And who can blame you?
When you’re engaging in mental warfare with yourself during every conversation it’s beyond draining.
Introverts can be especially susceptible to the fear of being judged. Perhaps this is because we’re deep thinkers who also happen to be highly observant.
Combine an overly active mind with a keen ability to notice micro-expressions and you have a recipe for anxiety. Which brings me to my next point…
The fear of being judged and social anxiety
The fear of being judged can be a sign of social anxiety. Social anxiety is characterized by an intense, persistent fear of being judged by others. This fear can get in the way of everyday activities like talking to cashiers and coworkers.
Although I’ve never suffered from social anxiety disorder, I can relate to the fear of being judged.
When I was in my 20s I constantly worried about what other people thought of me.
Of course, the most judgmental person in my life was me. Because I was so hard on myself for not being pretty, perfect and successful enough, I then projected those feelings onto others.
I assumed people were watching my every move, as if I was swimming in a fishbowl 24/7. Meanwhile, people probably had better things to do than examine my life through a magnifying glass.
It sucked because my fear of judgment impacted every area of my life. It prevented me from finding my purpose sooner because I wanted to do what others expected of me.
It also held me back from taking meaningful social risks like…
- Admitting my feelings to someone I liked.
- Reaching out to potential new friends.
- Expressing myself more in conversation.
Nowadays, I’m not as worried about what other people think. Here are some things that have helped me and my clients to overcome a fear of being judged.
Understand the root cause
When your mind is full of self-conscious thoughts there is usually a common thread between them.
They all lead back to a few core fears and beliefs that most humans share. At the heart of the fear of being judged there is usually a fear of being kicked out of the tribe.
This fear has to do with our deeply ingrained human need for a sense of belonging (yes, even hardcore introverts have this need!).
So if you find yourself worrying about what others think, ask yourself…
What am I really afraid of right now? What am I worried will happen as a result of their judgment?
What else could be true other than what I fear most?
For example, if you’re worried that they’re judging the way you look and you believe (at least on a subconscious level) that this could result in rejection and being kicked out of the tribe…
Other things that could be true include:
- They’re not judging you at all because they’re too worried about their own stuff.
- They’re frowning because they’re having a bad day, not because they’re displeased with you.
- They are judging you, but that’s because they judge everyone.
- They are judging you, but that’s just a sign that they’re not the right kind of person for you.
Overcoming fearful thoughts is all about shifting the MEANING that we give to things.
Sure someone might be judging you, but that doesn’t have to mean that you’re a bad person. You can CHOOSE the meaning that you want to give to the situation.
Mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing and visualizations can bring mental peace to the fearful mind.
Think of it as Karate Kid training for your brain. It might feel boring and tedious at first, but before you know it, you’ll be kicking out the mental demons like a mental martial arts master.
Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as noticing objects in your surroundings.
Instead of ruminating about what another person is thinking, you focus on the trees gently swaying in the breeze, or that shiny neon sign flashing in the distance.
I know that it can be hard to set aside a thought that you’ve been gnawing on incessantly like an anxious pup chewing on a bone. But your thoughts will wait for you. Tell them to take a timeout while you take a relaxing stroll through the present moment.
Consider getting support
The pandemic made it abundantly clear that there is such a thing as too much time alone with your own thoughts.
No matter how introverted you are, it can be incredibly isolating to try to shoulder all the burdens of being a human being on your own.
It’s amazing how simply having someone to talk to can lighten the load. Talking to a therapist, counselor or coach will help untangle the thought knots that have been exacerbating your fear of being judged.
When I work with my 1:1 confidence coaching clients, I ask a lot of questions so that I fully understand the root cause of their fears. I also provide concrete steps and exercises to create mental peace and core confidence.
The fear of being judged doesn’t have to hold you back from fulfilling friendships. I hope that the steps I’ve shared today will help you to let go of self-consciousness and confidently connect with others.
So, what do you do once you’ve accepted that nobody is actually going to remember if you screw up because it’s unimportant in their lives and what your real fear is (which would be my own emotion response)? Social life if like waking up from a nightmare. You know it’s not real and that nothing can hurt you, but for some reason, you’re still paralyzed. How do you lurch up and turn on the light?
If you are more persuaded by logical reasoning, remind yourself before every interaction that the experience of fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you allow yourself to be fearful when speaking to others, it comes across in your body language and tone of voice, and it influences how the other person receives you (i.e., they judge you). Also, keep in mind that we are constantly mirroring each other. If you stay shy and awkward, the other person is going to act that way too. So I’d say you turn on the light by telling yourself daily that you refuse to give any fucks. Judgment is a part of human nature. It’s not totally bad and useless. You literally can’t force people to judge/not judge you a certain way. What can you do? You can give yourself permission to be unapologetically you, accept your fears, and make a choice if you want to let those fears constrain you.