How to Free Yourself From Fear of Judgement

judgementSearch youtube for ‘babies dancing’ and you’ll see video after video of children moving to the music in the only way they know how: to the beat of their heart.

There’s not one child postering or monitoring his movements in the mirror. You won’t find any video’s of kids apologizing for their horrific dance moves. All you’ll see are naked souls set free by music. Souls that don’t yet know enough to be self-conscious. Souls that haven’t learned to fear judgement.

But then, something tragic happens.

At some point we become ashamed of the nakedness of our souls and so we start to cover them up.

At some point we become afraid of judgemental eyes, furtive whispers, and hostile snickers.

At some point, we lose the ability to be free in ourselves because the fear of being un-liked, unwanted, unattractive, or unworthy is too great to overcome.

We learn the rules of engagement for socialization and we start to judge and accept judgement from others. Negative judgement is a death sentence to our self-esteem. Better to be invisible than judged negatively by our peers.

You foster this fear every time you say ‘no’ when you really want to say ‘yes,’ because you don’t want to look like an idiot/a crazy person/silly/etc.

You nourish this fear by hiding who you are to avoid embarrassment.

If you’re like most people you want to be able to walk around without fearing judgement. You want to ‘not care’ what people think, but you just can’t seem to bring yourself to do it.

You don’t feel brave enough. You believe you just weren’t blessed with that kind of DNA. You think you aren’t that courageous.

It’s hard to believe, but you don’t need to be born audacious to stop fearing judgement. You don’t need to be exceptionally brave and courageous. You just need to make a few small changes in how you see the world and how you interact with others in it.

If you want to stop enabling the fear of judgement living inside of you, read on because this article is just what the doctor ordered. 

Judgements Say More About The Judge Than What’s Being Judged

We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. – Anais Nin

It’s never about you.

I repeat: It’s never about you.

Whatever judgement is being passed on you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the judges opinion about what you should be like.

For example, think of the craziest most out-there outfit you’ve ever seen. The kind of outfit that makes you stare and think ‘wtf is wrong with that person?!’ Now consider for a moment that there are people in the world who think it’s the most attractive getup possible. It’s a fashion phenomenon. It’s wildly fabulous!

Your judgement has nothing to do with the individual you’re judging and everything to do with how you think that person should dress. You might not know exactly what they should be wearing, but in that moment, you know what they shouldn’t be wearing.

This is exactly what happens when others judge you.

When you succumb to judgement you’re saying that the judges opinion of you has more value than who you are as an individual. That is not a healthy message to be sending to your subconscious and self-esteem.

Being Less Judgemental Frees You From Being Judged

Every time you judge someone else you perpetuate the cycle of judgement.

Consider the example above. If you judge someone’s clothing, you’re going to expect others to be judging your clothing as well.

The best way to show how true this is, is for me to ask you if you commonly judge the state of someone’s metatarsal flexibility in their foot. I’m going to assume that you don’t.

Now ask yourself if you’ve ever been afraid of the state of your metatarsal flexibility being judged. No?

If we went and asked a ballerina if they commonly judge metatarsal flexibility in their peers, they’d probably say yes. Having a flexible foot is part of having good feet for ballet. It’s something they judge on their peers and, in turn, will fear judgement on.

You’re only afraid of being judged on the things you find yourself judging others on.

The less you judge others, the less you’ll expect to be judged by others and the freer you’ll feel.

The Difference Between Moral Judgement and Character Judgement

The principles above apply to all kinds of judgement. They apply to judging someone’s cultural beliefs and ‘norms’ as well as judging someone’s morality and ethical behavior.

While abstaining judging someone’s personal character can lead you peace, abstaining from making judgements on morals is irresponsible and cowardly.

You are no such coward. You allow people the freedom to be individuals, but you don’t allow people the freedom to do what they want regardless of the consequences to other’s. It’s within your right (and obligation), to judge stealing as wrong.

If you wanted to feel better about stealing yourself, you could refrain from judging, but that doesn’t make your actions any less wrong as well.

Replace Judgement With Curiosity

So if you’re going to stop judging people, what are you going to do when you see something out of the ordinary? Do you block the thought? Hit yourself in the face so you can’t think about it? Walk away calmly but quickly?

The best way to eliminate a habit is to replace the bad habit with a better habit.

I suggest replacing judgement with curiosity. The moment I started doing this, the moment I started choosing acceptance over rejection, is the moment I began to feel like I was free to be me.

If you think about it, what’s normal to you is really just what’s commonplace. It’s what’s expected, predictable, boring.

When you see something ‘abnormal’ or uncommon, you judge because it doesn’t fit into your view of the world. The best way to stop judging is to make it less ‘foreign’ so it can fit into your world view. The only way to do that is to learn about it, and the only way to learn is to be curious.

So next time you see someone sporting a live chicken on their head for a hat, don’t stop your thought process at ‘that’s weird.’ Continue on and marvel at how strange and new that is to you. Think about how interesting the reason behind the chicken hat must be, and vow to find out what kind of cultural norm this is. Learn about it, be curious, carve a space out in your world for this new information.

Give space to other’s to be who they are, and you will receive ample space in return.

photo credit

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Miss Britt July 25, 2013, 9:30 pm

    I really liked the bulk of this article – but what purpose does it serve for anyone to be a moral judge? And that assumes that there is one set of values by which to judge what is moral, and there isn’t.

    Also, I’d suggest that most people are way more shackled by their fear of being judged morally bad than silly looking.

    • Liz July 31, 2013, 11:30 am

      Hey Miss Britt! Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you.

      I really do understand what you’re saying, but let me explain without getting too philosophical.

      Being a moral judge doesn’t mean you go around condemning people who don’t have the same morals as you, just because you can. It means having integrity for your own morals and never removing the freedom of choice from anyone. When you say ‘who am I to judge what’s morally right or wrong?’ you’re saying ‘my morals aren’t any more important than the morals of others.’ That’s a slippery place to be.

      Not holding a thief accountable because they ‘don’t know any better’ is what creates injustice in the world. You can empathize with a thief all you want, but refusing to say what the thief did was wrong sends a message to your subconscious that morals don’t really matter.

      As long as we are free to make choices in this world, morals matter – a lot.

      It’s not helpful for us to let liars lie because they really mean well, or let people cheat because they don’t know another way, or anything else that allows this kind of behavior to be acceptable.

      Also, judging isn’t about righteously and blindly sticking to your conceptions of what’s right and wrong no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary. It’s about objectively evaluating against your values and beliefs. You don’t have to go around branding people with scarlet letters, but in a case where someone who’s morally wrong needs to be held accountable, you do yourself harm by not upholding your own morals.

      By not having moral judgements, you can befriend a murderer and a philanthropist with equal ease.

      And if people are afraid of being judged morally, that means they need to evaluate their own beliefs about morality and what’s right or wrong. These people might just be accepting someone else’s morals and they never consider to develop their own. When they do develop their own and truly believe in them and live by them, moral judgement won’t scare them anymore. They’re confident in the ‘rightness’ of their actions, regardless of the morals that others hold. That’s another important reason to have strong moral judgements.

      Like I said before, it’s ridiculous to spend your life passing judgements on everyone under out loud for the world to hear the sun at every moment of your life. But it’s important to be able to judge morally when it counts.

  • Dijana July 26, 2013, 3:49 am

    Hi Liz!

    What a great article! The part I liked most was about judging someone’s metatarsal flexibility:-) I was thinking where did you come up with that and than came the ballet explanation. I love those cleverly put aha moments. Thanks!

    • Liz July 31, 2013, 11:33 am

      Thanks Dijana! I must admit, I was surprised when I came up with that too. We’re often smarter than we think.

  • Stephanie July 26, 2013, 4:19 am

    Hi Liz,
    This is exactly what I needed to read this week. I had my first review at my new job before the end of my probatory period on Wednesday and some of the critics I received really bothered me as I felt they were incorrect. So, the next day I asked for another meeting to share some points that came to me after the review because I didn’t have the courage to say much and it was an unplanned meeting so no time to prepare anything. I was caught offguard. I have so many fears that paralyze me, especially at this new company. I want to get rid of them so I can be free and shameless.
    Thanks so much for your article. It gives me strength and encourages me to speak my mind about the judgements I got the other day.

    • Liz July 31, 2013, 11:35 am

      Thanks for sharing that Stephanie. I’m curious to see how that goes. Being judged in that kind of situation is always disheartening, and you feel like whatever you say gets invalidated. I hope it goes well for you!

  • Kevin Cole July 26, 2013, 3:52 pm

    Hey Liz,

    Replacing judgement with curiosity is an awesome idea.

    I think a large part of judging others comes from who you surround yourself with. If your constantly hanging out with judgmental assholes who criticizes everyone for being “different” than chances are you will do the same.

    But once you ditch the shitty relationships, it comes down to becoming consciously aware of judgements and doing exactly what you said: replacing judgment with curiosity.

    Looking forward to implementing this in my own life. Good shit as always Liz 🙂

    • Liz July 31, 2013, 11:35 am

      Hey thanks Kevin!!! You’re right that who you surround yourself with DEFINITELY matters is so many ways. Let me know how curiosity goes for you. I’ve found it to be marvelous!

  • Coach Comeback August 12, 2013, 4:59 pm

    This is so so so true and timely for me right now! Going through another “critical” phase in my life right now and I found myself doing quite a bit of blaming and even hosting a few pity parties (cant believe you didn’t show up lol)

    When you are judging someone else you are pretty much seeing a projection of the part of yourself that haven’t accepted yet as well.

    Things will pick up… this I know

    Thanks Liz

  • Jennifer Kennedy August 13, 2013, 11:32 am

    I have a deep fear of being judged and at the same time judge others for their actions.

    My fear of judgement keeps me from creating things because I’m afraid of what others will say when it’s out there. But, your post is spot on — Don’t Take Things Personally! Everyone’s opinions are created by their experiences and have nothing to do with you.

    On the other side, you’ve inspired me to catch myself when I judge others. I want to do better at recognizing it and restructuring my thoughts! Thanks!


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