Overcoming Fear of Judgment (#3 of 5)

April 11, 2021

In episode #1 in our Getting Unstuck series, we're exploring Fear of Judgment.

Or as I like to call it, Fear of  What THEY Will Think.

This is where we avoid taking a risk or trying something new because we fear what OTHERS will think of us if we do.

For so many of us – especially in the age of the internet and social media where, to some extent, it’s about portraying the ideal external image to others – it’s even more prevalent than maybe ever before in history.

We worry how we’ll look – literally and figuratively.

We worry about our image, about falling short of our peer group or being less than or different from the “tribes” we associate with or relate to.

Given that humans are tribal by nature, it’s no wonder we are so concerned with fitting in.

For our caveman ancestors, being part of the TRIBE or saying with the tribe equated to safety.

Being different from might get us cast out, which for our caveman ancestor might have meant death.

That instinct is part of our primitive brain, the part that is about keeping us safe from danger. 

So, while humans have come a long way from our caveman days, there are not lions roaming our streets, we still have the deep desire to belong.

To be accepted.

To be part of the tribe.

It’s part of how we’re socialized.

So when we’re growing up, some of us were taught it was important to look respectable to others. “What will the neighbors think?” 

That’s what middle school is all about right? Fitting in. Wearing the right brands. Going to the right parties. Fitting in.

Now with social media, people use photo filters or other apps to make themselves look better. They curate their image so they portray a certain image to the world.

It’s about managing our image; another form of caring what THEY will think.  

And, we carry this into our professional lives by focusing a lot on fitting in with our work culture and conforming to other others in your work tribe present themselves.  

All of these can become reasons we hold ourselves to a certain standard.

And why we fear so deeply what moving on from or evolving our career or life can mean.

We worry what “THEY” will think about us if we change.

How we will be judged – whether we success OR fail.

And what will happen as a result.

Could we lose our job?

Our friends?

Will we hurt our relationship with our family?

That’s why so many of us don’t pursue those big dreams if they differ too much from the tribe we identify with – whether family or friend or company you work in.

We worry THEY’LL think we’re foolish.

Or that they’ll talk about us behind our back.

Or whatever.

But I would submit that it’s really about something much deeper.

When we concern ourselves with what THEY will think, there’s a much deeper reason that we’re probably not connected to.

It’s less about what OTHERS will think – even though that’s what we’re telling ourselves – and MORE about how WE see OURSELVES.

I know from my coaching practice that most people – to some degree – believe that on some level, they are not enough. 

Not good enough.

Not perfect enough.

Not whatever enough.

That’s where this Fear of What THEY Will Think comes from.

We first wonder whether we’re good enough. 

Because most of us deeply believe that we’re lacking in some way.

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