A common challenge that many people face is a concern that they are being harshly judged by others.
It might’ve originated within the family context and it also makes perfect sense when you consider the environment we live in. Bombarded with relentless images of “perfect-looking” people in advertising and social media aids and abets our natural human habit of comparing ourselves to others. We want to fit in, we want to feel like we belong and that we are worthy. It’s easy to feel “not good enough.” Given the recent desire and atmosphere encouraging people to “speak their truth” sadly seems to often be expressed as no-filter, low-empathy messages that are sometimes hurtful and harsh.
This is something I’ve had to help many people unpick, so I thought it might be useful to share some ideas here about how to loosen the grip of judgement.
Ask yourself some key questions
As you know, I believe it can be really helpful to use questioning when examining something we are trying to change. This is the basis of all talk-therapies and coaching, too. The great thing is that with focus and practice, we can learn how to use effective questioning ourselves.
Some questions to help you explore judgment are:
- How would you know what criteria you’re being judged by? What clues (if any) has the other person given you?
- How would you know the “right” or “wrong” way to be/act around this person in order to please them?
- Where does your feeling of being judged originate from? Is that fair? Is that about you… or is it about someone else’s needs/perception?
- Is what you believe you’re being judged harshly about actually true? Is the judgment deserved… sometimes? … always?
How to overcome it?
Self-judgment starts with us
Everything we see in others originates in what we see in ourselves. “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are”. So, if we feel like others are judging us, really, we are the one that is judging ourself. To overcome this, we can work on developing our self-acceptance, to treat ourselves more kindly and less harshly. If you’re trying to overcome this as a deep-seated longstanding habit, this might be a challenge. If you’re used to beating up on yourself, even thinking you’re worthy of being treated well by yourself or anyone else, could be a tricky first step, it might be something you need some help with. Consider this: it will be life-changing!
Whilst pampering and self-care are important ways to show caring to ourself, they are not enough to dislodge a nagging feeling of not being good enough. We will need to learn how to tell ourselves a different story about ourself and our worth. We’re often pretty good at boosting others, but not so good at boosting ourselves, and that’s a great shame, because if we’re not able to see our own worth and value, then we’ll probably struggle to believe it when someone else tries to give us a much-needed boost. It needs to originate with us.
Change how you talk about yourself and others
I can’t overstate the importance of speaking about yourself in positive and uplifting ways. So many of us berate and talk down to ourselves (often completely unconsciously) and the impact of this is huge. Make a conscious effort to catch yourself each time you do this and even if your first step is to be quiet, that’s a whole lot better than constantly putting yourself down. Try it and notice the impact this has. Accept compliments graciously.
Reduce your reliance on seeking external validation
Whilst it might seem like the quick fix is to have others give us a boost, the reality is that other people can’t actually validate or boost us very well. We’re all a walking bundle of contradictions and concerns, worrying about whether we fit, we belong, we’re good enough, we’re loveable enough, we’re doing the right thing, we’re smart enough/good-looking enough/wealthy enough etc etc.
So while you might be wondering whether they think you’re good enough they’re likely to be wondering whether you think they’re good enough. Also, the truth of the matter is that because we’re so preoccupied by our own “stuff’ we’re not very good at being present for other people and their “stuff”. Additionally, we can only guess as to what another person might be thinking about life, the universe, us – everything! We’ll never know for sure unless we’re really deeply connected to them, and even then we might not know because they might not be confident enough or articulate enough to tell us accurately. We never really know what’s going on in another person’s head because we’re not them. We don’t have their way of looking at the world, we haven’t had their experiences and we can’t know how they process information, so we can’t think the same way as them.
What I’m really saying here in a very long winded way is that you’ll never really know what’s going on in another person’s head – about you or anything else so rather than “waste” time trying to (second) guess how to “be” to please them and not be judged by them, alternatively invest the headspace getting a clearer idea about how you want to be yourself and developing the confidence to be that and communicate that. That way you also let them off the hook of having to validate you and build you up – you’ll already know how to do this for yourself when you get clearer about who you are and what makes you tick and live that even more.