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Can I let you in on something?
I feel fear and self-doubt about my business and passions every single day. That’s feel, present tense — and I’ve been running this business for over 20 years.
In my early 20s, when I made my living doing many things — coaching, bartending, waiting tables, cleaning toilets, personal assisting, teaching fitness and dance — I was terrified of being judged by others.
I had self doubt out the wazoo, especially when it came to talking about my work with family and friends. I started my life-coaching practice at age 23. What did I even know about life? What would people think? Most people had never even heard of a “life coach” in the nineties.
When you forge your own path and step outside of the norm, you will be judged by others. And often, that judgment can feel harsh.
Often, the more unconventional you are, the more you can expect to have that “nobody gets me” feeling and all the fear and anxiety that comes along with it.
Especially in the beginning stages, when the people around you may not even understand what you’re trying to do, it’s crucial to get this fear under control.
Today I’m answering a question from Shannon who wrote in to ask:
I often feel like my family and friends don’t understand me, my passions, or my business. How do you get over the fear of judgement by others, especially from your family?
This is such a common question, especially from those of us following a different path than our friends and families.
How do you get over the fear of being judged by others so you can stay true to yourself and keep on truckin’ toward your dreams?
The Psychology Behind the Fear of Being Judged
To get over your fear, you should first understand where it’s coming from.
Let’s start with some A’s to your Q’s…
What Is the Fear of Being Judged?
We all have moments when we’re afraid of people’s judgment, no matter how confident we are.
It’s that feeling of stiffening up before you speak or biting your tongue because you’re worried what someone might think.
Sometimes this fear manifests as going along with something you don’t agree with just to be liked. Or feeling indecisive when you know you can’t please everyone.
You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others. Here’s advice from Mark Manson how to stop caring about things that don’t matter and get on with what does.
An extreme fear of being judged in social situations might be a symptom of socialized anxiety disorder (a.k.a. “social anxiety”), which you can learn more about from the National Institute of Mental Health.
These tips for confronting your fear will help you build confidence and reduce your fear, but you may want to talk to someone about mental health treatment if you think you suffer from social anxiety.
Why Do We Care about Other People’s Judgments?
Have you ever felt insecure talking about what you do for a living? Or worried that everyone thinks you’re a fraud?
Your specific fear usually points to what’s most important to you, not necessarily to other people.
For many of us, we fear others will judge us for the things we judge in ourselves. We internalize critical thoughts like:
You don’t make enough money.
You should be married by now.
You have no idea how to run your own business.
You’re not good enough.
When you tell yourself these nasty lies, it’s easy to believe everyone else is thinking them, too.
I’ve been there.
When I was working several side jobs and launching my business, I was so scared people would think I was unfocused, flaky, or unprofessional. Why? Because I believed the myth that successful professionals stick to one thing.
Now, instead of trying to force myself into a career box, I embrace the power of being a multipassionate entrepreneur.
Caring about what others think of you doesn’t mean you’re weak, immature, or broken. It means you’re human.
Why Do We Hate Being Judged?
Humans are social animals. We crave community. Not in the way we crave mint chocolate chip ice cream, but in the way we crave broccoli. It’s essential to our well-being.
In psychology, our need for community is called “belongingness” (which sounds like a word a blogger invented, but it’s the real deal).
According to researchers, the need to belong “is so basic to human behavior that the first premise of virtually every theory of social or cultural behavior could be that people have a pervasive drive to form and maintain at least a minimum quantity of lasting, positive, and significant interpersonal relationships.”
On a biological level, feeling socially anxious stems from our need to be socially safe to survive.
And judgment = threat to your belonging. No wonder judgement is scary AF.
6 Steps to Get Over the Fear of Being Judged
Fearing the judgment of others is natural, normal, and no one escapes it entirely. So what’s the big deal? Especially if you do unconventional work or have unusual life goals, this fear could be holding you back.
Don’t let it. The world needs what you have to offer.
In this MarieTV, I share four action steps to help you get over the idea “Nobody gets me!” Keep reading after the video for two more ways to dissolve your fear.
DIVE DEEPER: Setbacks happen. Here’s how to stop feeling like a failure, get back up, and keep moving forward.
You’ve got important work to do. Take these six steps to let go of self-doubt and avoid being paralyzed by the fear of being judged:
- Don’t invite judgment. When we’re insecure about what we do, we might unwittingly nudge others to judge us for it. Like when you steer the conversation toward what you do for a living or nudge someone to ask you about your dreams for your future.
- Stop judging yourself. When you stop judging yourself, people will miraculously find less to judge about you. This doesn’t mean you have to be confident 100% of the time — all of us feel fear and self-doubt regularly. To keep working anyway, turn your focus outward to the people you serve, and away from your inner critic.
- Don’t assume people are judgmental a-holes. Sometimes, what you interpret as judgment from someone is just a lack of understanding. Have you ever taken the time to explain to them what you do? Give them a chance to get it before dismissing their lackluster response as judgey.
- Stop chasing people’s approval. OK, so maybe they are judging you. So what? You can’t change what people think about you, so don’t waste energy trying. Be true to yourself to achieve your true purpose.
- Be happy. I know that sounds trite, but here’s the thing: It’s hard for people to judge or criticize you if you’re happy, making money, and enjoying your life.
- Get a power posse. Pull together a group of people you can hang with and never have to explain what you do for a living. For me, that’s a group of other online business owners. When I’m with them, I never have to explain what a “funnel” is — that’s how I know I’m home.
Let Go of Judgment
The fear of harsh judgment can be creatively and spiritually debilitating, but only if you let it.
When you surround yourself with people who get what you do, let go of your own self judgment, and learn to love your life without others’ approval, you can let go of the fear and get on with sharing your special gifts with the world.
Now it’s time to turn this insight into action.
Grab a notebook, and spend five to 10 minutes writing your answers to these questions:
- Imagine the criticism you fear actually happens. What are three constructive and healthy ways you would deal with it?
- Write down 10 things you’d do if you had absolutely zero fear of judgment or criticism. Then pick one — and do it!