Do you sometimes fear that your colleagues, managers or clients are judging you when you express your opinion or when you speak in public?
If you do, join the club that most people belong to!
We live in a competitive society where judgment is ubiquitous. Children are graded at school for their work, encouraged to be good at sports and to be top of the class. As adults, employees receive performance reviews that affect the salary and promotion they receive. Entrepreneurs need to constantly prove that their services or products are better than their competitors.
So, it’s hardly surprising that so many of us feel like we’re being judged. Negative judgment has pervaded our lives since an early age and it continues to do so today.
What is the fear of judgment?
It starts with that little voice in our head saying something like: “What are people going to think of me? Will they think I’m stupid? Or incompetent? And if I show too much authority, they’ll think I’m arrogant and they won’t like me”.
When we need to speak in public, this nagging voice may cause us to blush, tremble, sweat, have a dry mouth, lose our train of thought, etc.
In other situations – speaking in public in a foreign language, expressing an opinion in meetings, showing authority in a work situation, meeting our boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s friends or family for the first time, etc. – it makes us feel uncomfortable and stressed. It may also mean we avoid speaking up altogether.
The basic cause of this fear of what people are thinking of us is the same: the fear of not being accepted and fitting in.
It stems from our childhood, when we needed to be accepted and loved. Maybe as a child, we had been told that we were stupid or useless. Without realizing the negative consequences of such words, parents, brothers, sisters, teachers or classmates make this type of remark. Or maybe we were just afraid of disappointing our parents because we weren’t clever enough.
Later on, as grown-ups, we continue to look for approval from other adults – our boss, colleagues, wife, husband, friends. – to prove to them and to ourselves that we’re worthy of their admiration or love. When we don’t receive that approval, or even worse, we receive criticism, it sends us back to our childhood fears of appearing ridiculous and not being accepted and loved.
5 practical tips to stop this fear judgment
During the individual coaching sessions that help my clients to gain self-confidence and self-belief, I use tools such as transactional analysis, hypnosis and family constellations*. The aim is to help them to quieten that little voice in their head telling them they’re not intelligent or competent enough. Instead they learn to believe in their self-worth and they also gain assertiveness.
I also share these practical tips that help to overcome the fear of judgment in order to obtain a better self-image:
1. Be careful how you talk to yourself.
All too often we automatically tell ourselves things like: “I’m so stupid”, “He/She must think I’m so stupid”, ‘Why did I say something so stupid?”
These thoughts in our mind are registered by the brain and we end up believing them. This causes us to have a poor self-image, leading to low self-esteem. We then imagine that others are judging us just as negatively.
2. We often judge ourselves more harshly than others judge us
Ask yourself honestly whether people really think you’re stupid, incompetent, etc. or whether you’re just imagining it. You can ask trustworthy colleagues and friends to give you unbiased feedback.
Also, ask yourself if you would be as judgmental of a friend as you are of yourself.
Quite simply, be your own best friend!
3. Nothing lasts forever
Even if you do make a mistake and people criticise what you said, the impression they have of you at that moment in time won’t last forever. People remember the big picture of who you are, how you interact with them and how you make them feel over time. If you’re globally competent in your work, your colleagues and bosses will quickly forget about the one blunder you made during a meeting or presentation.
Most people want you to do well and if they don’t, they’re not worth knowing anyway!
4. If people want to judge you, let them!
Some people are particularly judgmental, and this is due to their own insecurities. Close and healthy relationships deepen when we reveal our true nature and we risk judgment.
You feel uncomfortable because your boss, colleague or partner has criticised you unfairly? Ask yourself if they really have enough inner security to be indulgent and understanding.
Be true to yourself. The people who are important to you should appreciate you for who you are, all faults included!
5. Accept that you’re human and not perfect!
People who fear being judged usually put enormous pressure on themselves to be perfect at all times and to be liked. Perfectionism is a quality when it allows you to do great work. It becomes a fault when it stops you from advancing because you’re afraid of saying or doing something wrong. If you don’t take risks, you won’t progress.
So, take the risk of expressing your opinion and see how it’s received. If it’s received badly this time, ask yourself how you can communicate more effectively in the future.
Be gentle on yourself and accept that you can’t do everything perfectly all the time!
Get in touch to find the solution that’s right for you
One of the main obstacles for people who are afraid of being judged is that they don’t make themselves visible enough. They lose promotion opportunities, miss out on new business deals or they might be underpaid.
If this sounds like you and you feel like your lack of self-confidence is stopping you from achieving your full potential, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Each person is different, so I’ll take the time with you to discuss a coaching programme that’s adapted to your individual needs. You’ll learn how to gain self-confidence and improve your self-esteem.
* Family constellations are a transgenerational therapeutic tool, founded by Bert Hellinger. The underlying principle is that when we repeatedly reproduce negative behaviour, the cause often stems from the suffering and secrets of previous family members. Unconsciously we remain loyal to our ancestors’ suffering and reproduce destructive family patterns of anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, solitude, alcoholism and even illness. This is as a way of belonging in our families. Family constellations allow us to clarify, repair and bring order to the situations lived by our ancestors. Thanks to this powerful work, we can break the negative patterns we unconsciously reproduce in order to live more freely and more happily.