Many of us are going through our lives with this heavy fear of judgment and worry a lot about what others think of us.
We overthink about what we’ve said or done, how we look and come across.
We put excessive value on how we’re perceived and will even compromise our own values, well-being, and mental peace to try and avoid judgment.
I know this because I’ve been there. I am familiar with this fear and have let it take over so many times in the past.
I would go as far as being self-destructive because of this deep concern of not being liked or accepted as I was. I spent so much mental energy wondering and worrying about what everyone else thought of me. I put myself last and other people’s opinions first to the point that my life no longer felt like my own and I had completely lost touch with myself.
And then I started to work on reintroducing myself into the picture of my life.
Through doing so, and working to overcome this fear, I’ve learned a few things and some helpful ways to let it go.
1. Get clear on the fear.
Take time to write down exactly what you’re afraid of. What does judgment bring up for you? What do you make it mean about you? What is the area you’re most afraid of being judged for (i.e. appearance, achievements, results, actions, mistakes, all of it)? Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen if you are judged.
For example: judgment brings up discomfort, potential pain, and anxiety. If I’m judged, it means I’m not good enough, people won’t like me and I could get rejected. I’m afraid of being judged for my past. If I’m judged, I could end up completely alone.
Now, how can you reassure these fears? What would you say to a friend worrying about these things? Even if the worst case happened, what could you do about it?
2. Ask yourself: who are the judges?
A lot of the time, we tell ourselves fear-fuelled stories about what everyone is going to think or say about us. Who are these people? Who is everyone? Does that include the Dalai Lama? Is he judging your hair or what you did on the weekend? Get to the truth—who do you really think is judging you? Is it friends and loved ones? Random strangers? Write down who’s judgment you fear the most.
3. Ask yourself: is the potential judgment likely?
Okay, considering these people, are they genuinely going to judge you, reject you, or leave you based on the things you fear judgment about? Would people who are truly meant to be in your life spend their whole time judging you? And if they would, are you sure you’re keen on keeping them around? Be honest with yourself. Could it be true that these people aren’t actually going to judge you as much as you think? And could it also be true, that if they did, it’d be more of a reflection of them and their insecurities than of you?
4. Consider this: could it be truer…
That maybe you’re the only one who’s always judging yourself? That you’re actually constantly dealing with judgment already from yourself and your own mind? And maybe, just maybe, you’re projecting and making assumptions that others are judging you in the same way that you are?
5. And if that’s the case:
Get on the path to accepting yourself. Judgment arises from fear. We judge ourselves when we don’t believe we’re enough exactly as we are. Then we assume others are spending all their time thinking the same things about us because, sure, why wouldn’t they be?! We criticise ourselves trying to keep ourselves “in check.” Preempting the rejection of others, we reject ourselves first, hoping to minimise the pain. On some level, it all makes sense and is trying to protect us in some way, but in classic fear form, it’s incredibly irrational and based on a lot of made-up stories and assumptions.
So, acceptance is key to letting go of the fear of judgment. Because the more we accept ourselves, the more that voice of fear quietens down; it becomes irrelevant. When we accept ourselves, we’re not going into the world projecting our internal judgments onto everyone else. We have no need to worry about what they think because what does it matter? We know we’re all good. We know we’re enough. We know that judgment arises from fear so if others do have any comments, we rest easy in the knowing that it’s all about them and their own stuff, not us.
I believe we are here to live lives that are truly our own. I believe that we each have our individual, true, and authentic stamp to put on the world, and if we keep that stamp small and insignificant for fear of what others might think of it, we are missing out on what we’re here for.