The fear of being judged by others, and letting that fear stop you from going after what you want, has got to be one of the most common reasons why people get stuck in life.
Many of the excuses I constantly hear about why people haven’t:
- started their dream business
- changed careers
- set and pursue an ambitious goal
have to do with this fear: the fear of what others may think or say about your decision.
What are my peers going to say if I quit my job to start a side hustle?
What are my parents going to say if I pursue this other thing I’m very good at and passionate about?
What are my high school friends going to say about my business?
And so it goes.
Now, listen, many of us are surrounded by people who love us and have our best interests in mind.
Maybe your parents are right.
Maybe quitting your job right now without having a more solid side hustle first isn’t your most brilliant idea.
However, for this article, we’re considering only those scenarios where you are, in fact, trying to set a good goal for yourself but are more preoccupied with others than with your own progress.
In this article, you’ll learn about where this common fear comes from and what you can do to start overcoming it.
Let’s get started!
What Is the Fear of Criticism and Judgment?
As humans, we have an innate need to belong and be accepted.
Just think about it. It’s part of our survival mechanism.
It’s a natural instinct that has evolved over time to help us survive and thrive in social groups.
And because of this, we place a lot of importance on what other people think or say about us.
From an early age, we learn that what we say or how we behave can have an impact on our relationship with others and how they perceive us.
For example, if we’re praised for doing well in school or helping others, we learn that these are actions that people tend to value.
On the other hand, if we’re criticized or rejected, we may feel like we don’t fit in or belong.
This need for acceptance and validation can be particularly strong during your teenage dreams, when we may feel like our entire self-worth is tied to how others perceive us.
In addition to our natural desire to belong, there are also cultural and societal factors that influence how much we care about what others think or say about us.
For example, in some cultures, fitting in is the ultimate goal, especially when we’re young.
According to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, belonging is a fundamental human need.
No wonder why we care so much about it, right?
However, there are limits. The fact that belonging is an innate human need doesn’t mean you’re going to let that dictate what you do with your life.
So, here’s a list of actionable steps you can use to leave this fear behind when your dreams are more important than other people’s opinions.
How to Overcome the Fear of Judgment
1. Stop judging yourself
If you’re too afraid of what others think of you, it could be a sign that you’re also judging yourself.
How can you get the idea of someone saying something about you without you thinking about it first?
Whether it’s them who planted the idea in your mind before or just your inner voice putting words in someone else’s mouth, not judging yourself is the first step toward freedom.
One way to stop self-judgment is by practicing self-compassion.
This means treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer to a good friend.
It’s also important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. It’s a normal part of life and an opportunity to learn and grow.
Try to embrace your imperfections and focus on your strengths and accomplishments. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Stopping self-judgment requires a combination of:
- challenging negative self-talk,
- understanding the root cause,
- taking care of yourself,
- and embracing your imperfections.
It sounds like a lot, I know, but the journey’s well worth it.
You’ll get there with practice AND patience.
2. Understand and invest in your insecurities
If you’re too worried about what others might think of you, understanding yourself and your insecurities (what they are and where they come from) can be an important step in overcoming this fear.
When you understand the root of your insecurities, you can begin to challenge the negative self-talk that holds you back.
And you can also start replacing those thoughts with positive, empowering ones that help you feel more confident and secure in yourself.
Where do these negative thoughts come from? Who told you that for the first time?
Additionally, understanding your insecurities can help you identify the areas or skills you need to work on.
Let’s say you’re really insecure about giving presentations at work, for example. Analyzing this fear will lead you to a probably obvious conclusion:
“If I’m so worried about my public speaking (lack of) skills, I’ll take a course or read a book to see how I can improve.”
And that’ll take you on a personal growth journey that’ll help you feel more confident.
Investing in your personal growth and self-improvement can be a powerful way to build confidence and let go of the fear of judgment.
Remember that investing in your insecurities takes time and effort, but it will definitely help you live a more fulfilling and confident life.
Try to understand where they come from and how you can take action instead of just worrying about it.
But while you’re at it, don’t forget to recognize that everyone has flaws and imperfections and that it’s okay to make mistakes.
3. Shift your perspective
When I talk about “shifting your perspective,” I mean working to change how you view yourself and the world around you.
This can involve challenging negative self-talk and replacing it with more positive, empowering thoughts.
For example, if you tend to be overly critical of yourself, you might try to shift your perspective by focusing on your positive qualities and accomplishments.
Here’s how you can start doing it:
When you say nasty things about yourself, take a step back and question the thought. Ask yourself:
- Is it true?
- Is it fair to think that?
- Do I have evidence that supports the opposite?
To make the process easier, it can be helpful to identify the root cause of your self-judgment.
Are there certain situations or events that trigger these thoughts?
Another thing I highly recommend is that you try to identify the lesson within the problems you’re facing. So, every time you face a new challenge in life, no matter how negative it may seem, ask yourself:
- What is this teaching me?
- How is this making me a better person/sister/professional/etc.?
- What’s the most valuable lesson I’m learning from this that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise?
By consciously working to shift your perspective, you can start to develop a more positive self-image and feel more confident.
All of this will eventually help you become the person you want to be.
Remember that shifting your perspective takes practice and effort, but it’s absolutely possible. You’re capable of changing the way you think about yourself.
4. Evaluate your relationships
If you’re too afraid of what others might think of you, the people you surround yourself with can certainly have something to do with it.
Negative, unsupportive people can make you feel awful about yourself and contribute to your fear of judgment.
On the other hand, positive, supportive people can lift you up and help you feel good about yourself. They can help you feel encouraged, validated, and accepted.
To overcome your fear of judgment, it’s essential to evaluate your relationships and take stock of the people in your life.
Are there people who consistently bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself? If so, consider them the or one of the causes why you let other people’s judgment stop you from doing what you want.
Instead, focus on building relationships with people who accept you for who you are and make you feel good about yourself.
Remember that the people you surround yourself with can have a big impact on your mindset and the way you see yourself.
Don’t be afraid to prioritize positive, supportive relationships and let go of those that bring you down.
It may be hard to do, but it pays off.
5. Know people don’t think about you that much
Just like you’re busy thinking about your own struggles, most people focus on their own lives and worries.
As a result, they may not pay much attention to what you are doing or saying.
Or at least not as much as you may think.
It is true that there are people out there who seem to have enough free time and not enough problems of their own, so they stick up their noses wherever they can.
If that sounds like someone you know, try to find peace in the fact that you’re so important to them that they can’t concentrate on their own issues and are thinking about you instead.
But in reality, it’s common to overestimate how much others think about us, which can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress.
Most people don’t spend much time thinking about others.
They may notice you briefly, but then their attention will likely shift to something else: their own lives and problems.
6. Use positive affirmations
Affirmations are positive statements that can help reinforce specific ideas in your mind.
There are many ways to explain how they work, and many people would argue that their efficacy hasn’t been proven at all.
However, in my point of view and experience, they work just like any other statement you repeat to yourself constantly, whether consciously or not.
For example, the more you tell yourself you’re not smart, the more you’ll believe it and act accordingly.
If you’re dealing with the fear of judgment, chances are we wouldn’t hear a lot of encouragement coming from your inner voice.
Many people out there profoundly believe they’ll never amount to anything, for example. And I’m sure they’re constantly telling themselves things like:
And so on and so forth. And what happens? They end up believing all those things are true.
So, just like it works with the negative, it also works with the positive.
It helps to replace those negative thoughts with positive, more encouraging ones.
By using positive affirmations consistently, you can start to rewire negative thought patterns and develop a more positive self-image.
Try repeating your affirmations to yourself every day, either out loud or in your head. You might repeat them in the morning when you wake up, before bed, or throughout the day when you need a boost.
Here are some that you may find helpful:
- I am worthy of love and respect, no matter what others think of me.
- I am confident in who I am and what I have to offer the world.
- I release my fear of judgment and trust in my own abilities and strengths.
- I am deserving of happiness and success, and I won’t let fear hold me back.
- I am proud of who I am and all I have accomplished, and I won’t let anyone make me feel otherwise.
Remember to use affirmations that resonate with you and feel authentic to your own experiences and personality.
Don’t be afraid to tweak these affirmations to make them work for you.
The most important thing here is using them to build your confidence and overcome your fear of judgment.
If you want to tweak these, here are some tips to help you come up with your own positive affirmations:
- Keep them short and simple.
- Use present tense language. Example: I AM capable, instead of I’ll be capable someday.
- Be specific about what you want to reinforce. Is it self-worth, self-love, skills, etc.?
- Use affirmations that resonate with you.
- Repeat your affirmations often and with intention.
Remember that using affirmations takes practice and patience, but it can be a powerful way to develop a more positive self-image and let go of insecurities.
7. Analyze your priorities
When you’re scared of being judged, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s truly important to you.
So you may end up prioritizing other people’s opinions and expectations over your own desires and goals.
However, to overcome obstacles in life, it’s essential to focus on what truly matters to you and let go of what’s blocking your progress which, in this case, would be the fear of judgment.
Remember that you are the only one who can determine what’s important in your life, and you have the power to pursue those things no matter what others may think.
The fear of judgment holds you back from pursuing your goals and dreams.
This fear can make you second-guess yourself and your abilities, and it can stop you from taking risks and trying new things.
So, take your journal and ask yourself:
- What am I NOT doing because I’m afraid of what others may say?
- If I could get over my fear of judgment, how would my life improve?
- What’s more important to me: my goals or what other people say?
Take some time to reflect on whether your fear of judgment is holding you back in any area of your life, and hopefully, the realization will motivate you to take action.
8. Picture the worst-case scenario and ask, “So what?”
The worst thing that can happen if someone judges you is that you may experience feelings of rejection, embarrassment, or shame.
So sure, it can be difficult to put yourself out there and face the possibility of negative judgment from others.
Nobody wants to risk having their feelings hurt, right?
However, emotions that don’t feel particularly great are a normal and natural part of the human experience.
And avoiding them is just postponing them, really.
Escaping from your fear of judgment and letting it control your life only means you’ll be full of regret, sadness, or disappointment a few years down the line.
You can’t escape negative feelings.
Right now, you’re just changing one negative feeling for the other.
If you allow your fear of judgment to stop you from pursuing the things you want to pursue, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities for growth, learning, and fulfillment.
So, let’s imagine you go after what you want, and people start judging you.
As long as you’re not harming anyone or doing anything immoral or illegal, what could be the consequences of their judgment?
Think about it long and hard.
Yes, people are always going to talk. So what?
Don’t let that stop you.
The Bottom Line
Probably, the more you expose yourself to other people’s judgment, the easier it’ll be for you to ignore them.
It’s completely normal to feel anxious or worried about what others may think of you. It’s just part of life and our innate need to fit in, be liked, and survive.
However, always remember that your own sense of self-worth and fulfillment should come first.
Overcoming your fear of judgment can be a difficult and challenging process, but it is absolutely worth it in the end.
Just think about what you’ll get from building the courage to get over this fear.
By overcoming your fear of judgment and pursuing your goals, you can:
- build confidence,
- reach your biggest goals and dreams,
- develop new skills and abilities,
- and experience a sense of accomplishment that can help you grow.
You’ll live a life that’s true to yourself.
You’ll be able to make your own choices, follow your own passions, and build a life that reflects your own unique values.
With patience, persistence, and a belief in yourself and your abilities, you can achieve your goals and build a life that’s true to yourself.
So don’t give up, keep working on yourself, and believe in all the fantastic things you can accomplish.