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  • Sarah Connell

Fear of Being Judged

Updated: Oct 16, 2019

I want to write about something that I see time and time again when Coaching. Something that affects almost every person I know and underlies lots of confidence problems-Fear of Judgment, i.e. being worried about what other people think of you.


A lot of the time people do not realise that fear of others negative evaluation impacts so much on how they feel and behave, it has a big part to play in compounding anxiety. If you really explore your thinking, it makes sense why. We live in a world where performance assessment or judgment is common. It happens throughout academic life, in the parenting world, in work and life in general. We see it when we go for interviews, enter competitions, on TV shows like X Factor, Strictly, Masterchef etc


Evaluation and Judgment do have benefits. They allow us to distinguish exceptional performance. They encourage us be more attentive and to keep improving, developing and mastering our skills. However it can cause many negative effects. People can express negative anonymous judgments without any consequences. I was shocked when I read some of the comments under a recent BBC news article about ‘skinny genes’. People can, and do leave cruel comments. These comments can have a damaging effect. Cases of cyber bullying are on the increase for both adults and children, and the frightening thing about this is that it is extremely difficult to get away from it. Technology and devices surround us.


Fear of negative judgment can affect people in so many ways. It can cause sleepless nights, It can stop us from being assertive, cause us to avoid situations where we feel uncomfortable, stop us from getting our needs met at work or in relationships, it might cause us to engage in negative coping strategies and rely on drugs or alcohol to ‘get through’ situations.

Humans are predisposed to see negatives, we notice and react more strongly to negative information. If the subject is one we feel strongly about or sensitive to, the outcome can be more damaging to us.


I realised recently how even making a negative assumption about yourself can have a negative impact. I wasn't being asked to work at as many Assessment Centres after going through a period of being extremely busy doing this work. I started to worry that I was no longer good enough. I assumed that people thought I wasn’t up to it because I cant walk very well and need to use two crutches. I would never think this of anyone else but I assumed people thought I didn't look professional enough.


I know from 12 years working in Assessment, Personal Development and Coaching, that people really focus and fixate on negative feedback, perceived or actual, from colleagues and managers. This happens even if most of the feedback they receive is positive. Maybe that's what I’m guilty of here?


So what can we do to help ourselves overcome fear of Judgment?

It is imperative to identify and focus on the things we can control. There isn’t much I can do about what others think. I can keep in touch with colleagues and let them know I’m still interested in and would like to be involved in the work. After challenging my thinking I realised that maybe having less of this work is due to the fact that I no longer live in England.

What I can concentrate on is all of the fantastic feedback I have received from clients over the years. The experience encouraged me to ask some of my past and current clients to leave some reviews. It encouraged me to concentrate more on marketing my Coaching business, so for me, I have tuned the negative assumption into a positive.

Some things you could try to help you deal with worries about what other people think are:


Be compassionate

It is so important to be on your own side. We are notoriously self critical and very adept at telling ourselves when we haven’t done well, that we won’t do well and that we just aren’t good enough. Pay attention to your self-talk and when you notice yourself being harsh, challenge that thinking and replace it with something more helpful. Instead, look at the things you do well and reward yourself for stepping up to challenges.


Feel the fear and do it anyway

It’s easy to avoid situations we fear, to stay in our safe space, in our comfort zone. If you avoid situations where you might be ‘judged’, worries fester. Inaction strengthens any feelings of self-doubt. Take action, do the things you fear most and desensitise yourself. Look for more opportunities to throw yourself in and just do it. E.g. if the thought of giving a presentation fills you with dread, look for opportunities to do this, start with small groups, build your confidence and soon it will become a lot easier.


Others are on your side

It is helpful to remind yourself that on the whole, other people want you to do well. They are pleased to see things going your way. See the best in people and avoid making incorrect assumptions about what people think.


Put things in perspective

Take a step back and think about how quickly time passes by. I often look back at photos that seemed like only yesterday, but then realise they were taken 10 years ago or more. Remember the only guarantee we have is the present moment. If you were told you had a terminal illness, would you really be worried that John thinks you’re rubbish at giving presentations?


"Reality is created by the mind, we can change our reality by changing our mind." --Plato


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