Is it time for you to silence your inner critic and stop fearing what others think about you?
Fear of judgment is a familiar feeling for most of us. It happens when we give too much power to the opinions of others and when outside influences easily taint our internal views. This fear becomes so burdensome that it causes social anxiety that prevents us from appreciating the present moment and enjoying our lives.
In her study, author Elizabeth R. Thornton found that 23.4% of participants said they misjudged someone based on their appearance two or three times per month, and 4.7% said they misjudged someone daily simply based on their appearance. Science has proven that we form a judgment about someone in 0.1 seconds. This tells us that people are constantly making judgments and misjudgments about one another. So, why do we care so much about what other people think?
From an evolutionary perspective, we strive to belong, be accepted, and be loved. The seemingly positive and negative appraisals we receive could determine our livelihood. Being judged for having shortcomings could mean rejection from the community resulting in a lower chance of survival. Psychologists refer to this as a “fear of negative evaluation.”
This fear of being outcasted no longer serves the same practical and survival purposes our ancestors had to deal with. This showcases that fear of judgment is an acquired fear, something we are not born with; instead, it is developed based on our past interactions and experiences. The good news is that we can reprogram it and overcome it.
Here are five practical ways to conquer your fear of judgment and stop worrying about being judged by others:
1. Be careful who you listen to
Ignoring every opinion you receive is challenging, so learning to filter out the noise from essential input is crucial.
When listening to criticism from others, ask yourself who that person is to you. Is it someone I respect? Is it someone who does similar work as me? Is it someone who is showing up and putting himself out there at the same level as me? Is it someone struggling with the same challenges and aiming for identical goals?
If they are someone who knows very little about you, has no idea about the work you do, or keeps themselves hidden behind a screen of anonymity, then their opinion should hold little weight and affect you minorly, if at all. Brené Bown says it so beautifully “If you are not in the arena, I don’t care about your opinion.”
On the flip side, the opinion of someone who knows you well or is involved in similar work to yours, in other words, someone who is in your “arena,” this person’s opinion will matter more. Receiving views, input, or advice from those in your field or industry provides the chance for appreciative discussion, constructive feedback, mutual empathy and understanding, and the opportunity to learn and grow.
2. Stand up to your inner critic
We live in a society with a substantial deficit bias. We tend to focus on what’s wrong with us while discounting the positive. We become experts of our problems, extraordinary hosts of our pity parties, and we spend long hours dwelling on our weaknesses and faults. In a way, we end up giving the spotlight to our inner critic that is feeding on our feelings of shame, comparison, scarcity, rejection, and encouraging our negative thought processes.
By becoming aware of your self-judgment tendencies and recognizing the voice of your inner critic, you start to be curious about your triggers and explore where this voice is coming from. Is it an old story that got you stuck in that feeling? Is it a hurtful conversation you can’t let go of? Is it a label someone put on you and you are having a hard time shedding? You will learn to listen courageously to your internal conversation when you choose to think and feel differently about yourself.
The idea is not to reject your inner critic but to listen to what it has to say in a way that you are giving it a voice, but you are not giving it a vote. By doing so, you acknowledge your version of the reality that your fears have tainted and you recognize the weights you put on other people who are stating the same lies as your inner critic. The transformation happens when you listen with compassion, then give yourself the power to reject what isn’t serving you and move forward.
3. Don’t let people define you
The unwavering truth is that you are meant for greatness. There is only one version of you in the universe. Even with this knowledge, many of us keep ourselves small and we remain paralyzed by fear. We end up easily influenced by people’s opinions about us and we begin to believe them instead of trusting ourselves.
Cultivating a solid stand without letting other people define the depth of your talents and the brightness of your genius takes practice. By taking daily action – even a tiny step – and staying committed to your goals, you rewire your beliefs and people’s hold on you weakens with time.
Remember, fear is a natural human emotion that keeps you safe from dangerous situations. But when your fear of what other people think about you prevents you from believing in yourself, leaves you stuck in a loop to prove them wrong, or gets you desperate for their love and acceptance, that’s when you need to start saying the Wayne Dyer’s mantra: “What other people think of me is none of my business.” It worked wonders for me.
4. Increase your internal validation
Accepting what other people think about you without negatively impacting how you feel about yourself relies on your ability to increase your internal validation.
When you cultivate your inner validation, you will find that you no longer seek the approval of others. Being unapologetic about who you are, what you stand for, your strengths, and your weaknesses will make it easier to move forward, even when other people judge you. Developing a well-formed sense of self-awareness supports feelings of strength, courage, and acceptance that don’t rely on external validation.
It is important to understand that seeking praise from others is another type of external validation. Receiving both compliments and criticisms in an objective light, without giving too much weight to either, will remind you that the way you feel about yourself is what matters most. So, don’t make praises the center of everything you do.
5. Reframe your fears
Outrunning your fear of judgment is exhausting. An effective practice is to reframe your fear by reducing your deficit-biased thinking.
A powerful question to ask yourself is “What if?.” For every situation, be curious and ask yourself: “What is the best-case scenario? What is the best thing that could happen to me at this moment?”. Using your imagination to create the desired outcomes will help reframe your fears into excitement and nourish trust in your capabilities without needing external praise or acceptance.
By becoming intentional when our fears show up and choosing to reframe them consciously, we start to remove the invisible shackles that hold us back and we regain our power to stand in our greatness. At that moment, we move forward confidently to publish our book, unveil our art, deliver a keynote, create a new course or build our dream business.
The moment we let go of how other people see and think of us, we take back our freedom and rebuild a more authentic, healthier opinion of ourselves. Not all people who judge us deserve equal attention. There will be those who criticize us based on their fears and limitations, and these people will try to bring us down and make us feel small. There will also be people we can learn from and who inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves as we continue to harness our inner critic and move toward all that we seek.
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