Fear Series: How to Overcome Your Fear of Being Judged

From Fear to Freedom
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Being afraid of being judged can cause immense heartache, so much that it can stop you from doing what you were meant to do. It can keep you from happiness, from pursuing your career, from love, from being who you want to be.

Fear of being judged pulls you down and holds you back from your dreams and living the life your soul intended.™

When I first started Fearless Living, I was consumed by a fear of being judged. It was all new to me, and I didn’t know how people were going to react. I didn’t have confidence in myself yet. I didn’t know what people would think of me, and that was terrifying.

I remember holding my first workshop in my home. And at the time, I hadn’t redone my kitchen yet. I distinctly remember looking at my kitchen floor and thinking, “Look at those cracks. Look at that kitchen. Why would people want to learn from someone who has cracks in their kitchen floor?”

Three hands pointing - fear of judgment

At the same time, I was a lot heavier, and I wasn’t feeling confident in my own body. Thanks to my inner critic, I was full of self-doubt. Fear of judgment came in here too. I thought, “Why would anyone want to learn from someone who’s overweight? Why would anyone want to learn from someone who looks like me?”

I had all these fears about being judged by my home, by my weight, by my looks, and by the fact that I didn’t have a PhD.

I had all of these excuses and rationalizations to say a workshop wasn't a good idea in my home. But that was all fear, and when it came down to it, I was new in the business, which meant I didn’t have the money to run a workshop anywhere else.

I had to pull myself back and realize that I was trying to teach others all about fear. It was okay and natural that I had these fears, but I couldn’t let them stop me from pursuing my newfound dream.

The show had to go on. I had to overcome fear.

Slowly but surely, I learned people were only judging me by my content and ability to help—not by my looks or my weight, and certainly not by my kitchen floor.

And this is only one example of my being afraid of being judged. I feared being judged when my parents died. I feared being judged when I moved to Los Angeles. I feared being judged when I started my own business. I feared being judged when I published my first book.

I wanted to share this small story with you because I want you to know that you are not alone—very far from it. We all feel judged at times, and we all worry about being judged.

With that, let’s get to it because there’s so much to share about this topic. In this guide, I’ll share what fear of being judged looks like, the symptoms of this fear, and the strategies you can begin employing today to move beyond this fear.

A Fearless Living Introduction: Overcoming Fear

Often, when we think about fear, we automatically gravitate to common phobias, like a fear of heights, clowns, snakes, and what have you. While these are certainly real fears, they are not the kind of fears we speak about at Fearless Living.

We focus on emotional fears at Fearless Living. And what are emotional fears? Emotional fears pierce right to the core of our mental health, wellbeing, and humanity. Consciously or unconsciously, they negatively influence our decision making, leading us down the wrong path—one that doesn’t allow us to pave our own way or live the life our soul intended.™

The 10 most common emotional fears are:

I am posting an individual article about each of the fears we discuss at Fearless Living right here on this blog. If you’re looking for a more general overview of each type of fear, as well as the difference between emotional fears and common phobias, read my guide: 10 Common Types of Fear and How to Overcome Them.

What Is the Fear of Being Evaluated by Others?

Two girls in the background laughing at another girl with her head down

Everyone wants to feel approved, to feel accepted, to feel respected. After all, it feels good, doesn’t it? But when you are judged or imagine people's judgments, you don’t feel liked, understood, approved, respected, or accepted, and that can do real damage to your wellbeing, self-esteem, and confidence.

Is there a phobia of judgment? Absolutely! But when a fear turns into a phobia, there’s usually something more serious going on that may require the attention of a medical mental health professional. At its worst, a phobia of being evaluated by others may be classified as a social anxiety disorder that can affect relationships and make the afflicted person feel like absolutely everything is wrong with them.

But a fear of being judged comes in all shapes and sizes. Just because you don’t suffer from a phobia doesn’t mean that an underlying fear isn’t negatively affecting your life.

You want to be understood because you want to belong. Your social anxiety often comes down to one thing: The fear that others will judge you.

When you start a new project, do you worry your boss will judge you?

When you go on a date, do you feel like your date is judging you?

When you walk down the street, do you feel like every person is looking at you and judging you?

A study co-authored by Rebecca Ratner and Rebecca Hamilton found people worry that if they engage in activities alone, other people will infer they could not find friends to join them. They believe they will be judged by others if they partake in a social activity alone, such as going to the movies or going to a restaurant to eat alone.

And this was a big one for me. When I started practicing going to events alone and going to dinner alone, I had to ask myself, “Is this an activity I personally want to do?”

And if it was, then it was okay to do it alone. If I wanted to see a movie and didn’t have anyone to go with, that was perfectly okay. And sometimes it was because I didn’t want to go with anyone, and that was okay too.

The need for approval and acceptance is part of our DNA.

Since the dawn of humankind, it’s been necessary to our survival to belong to a group and to be loved and accepted by others.

We need each other. We yearn for human connection. Not getting these things feels terrible. It’s a human behavior that we all struggle to manage. It’s biological.

When you feel judged, you don’t feel like you belong. You feel disconnected. You are being left out of the tribe, and biologically, it feels dangerous because it means you could die out there on your own.

Even if that isn’t true today, it’s still what it feels like. And that’s why someone else’s judgment feels so hurtful. Even friendly, well-intentioned feedback can feel like judgment. It feels like being left out in the cold, apart from your tribe.

Do you believe you're someone who’s afraid of being judged? I guarantee that you suffer from this fear in some form or another. Let’s talk about the symptoms of a fear of being judged so that you can better recognize them in yourself.

What Are the Symptoms of Fearing Being Judged?

 

Not sure if you fear being judged? See if you relate to any of these symptoms.

  1. Do you hide who you are to avoid embarrassment?
  2. Do you try to be perfect to avoid being judged?
  3. Do strangers or authority figures intimidate you?
  4. Do you wait for others to go first and people-please to make sure they like you?
  5. Do you avoid doing things alone?
  6. Do you focus your energy on figuring out WHY someone doesn’t like you?
  7. Are you afraid to look stupid, selfish, lazy, etc., to others?
  8. Do you hesitate to share your dreams and be the real you?

I know I sure relate to a lot of these symptoms. And if I don’t right now, I definitely did at other points in my life.

So many women try to hide their bodies because of what they perceive as unattractive. They want to please people. They want everyone to like them. Have you ever sat at the back of the room to avoid interacting with people because you were worried about how you looked? What you were wearing? What your hair looked like? What your voice sounded like? What people would think if you struck up a conversation? This is your fear of being judged shining through in full force.

Fear of being judged can come through in everything we do.

Are you someone who doesn't put anything out unless you know it’s perfect? Do you refuse to try something if you’re worried you won’t get perfect results? If this is the case, you probably aren't trying too many new things or putting much out into the world. Your fear of being judged makes you think you need to be perfect, and that’s stopping you from ever trying to begin with.

But there is a path forward. I can't guarantee you’ll never again wonder about what other people are thinking, but I can help you navigate your fear of being judged. With practice, you can learn to manage your fears and put more focus on yourself—where it actually counts. No one ever gets ahead when they’re wrapped up in what other people think. So let’s get to those strategies.

How Do I Get Over the Fear of Being Judged?

Prioritize What You Think of Yourself

Are you afraid to look stupid, silly, weird, selfish, lazy, etc., to others?

Are you focused on other people's ideas of who you’re supposed to be instead of your own?

If you’re worried about appearing a certain way to people, ask yourself: Are you being any of those things? If the answer is authentically no, you can let it go.

But easier said than done, right?

When you don’t have a strong center and don’t trust yourself to have your own back, you become dependent on others. You need the approval of others because you don’t have your own approval of yourself.

But this way of thinking and living gives away all of your power.

You’re letting external factors determine how you feel and whether or not you are happy. Remember, other people’s thoughts are outside of your control. What another person thinks of you is completely up to them.

Do you only experience a boost in your self-esteem when other people approve of you? What about your own definition of success? What about your inner self-love?

Let me say this again: You are giving away your power by letting external factors determine your self-worth. 

You will never be free of your fear of being judged unless you take back your power and decide to see yourself and your critics differently. But if you've been dependent on other people for approval your whole life, making a change will be scary and difficult.

The first step is recognizing you do this. When you realize you are dependent on the approval of those around you, you’ll begin to notice what a stronghold this fear has on you.

Notice your own tendencies. Do you constantly ask people what they think? Do you wait to give an opinion until those around you do so first? Do you look for validation on social media? Do you fixate on people’s opinions of you or what you think they might be thinking?

The next step is to harness the power of self-love. Because if you’re no longer looking for approval externally, you need to find it internally.

You’re Going to the Wrong People for Acceptance

Young woman tired of listening her talkative girlfriend

We don’t want to be judged, and we’re afraid of being judged because we all want to belong. It’s human nature. To belong is to be part of the tribe. To belong is to be safe.

And because we want that sense of belonging so badly, we’ll often seek it out in the wrong places. We want that acceptance, so we make decisions that are bad for our physical, mental, or emotional health just to keep our current “tribe” around.

I’m sure you’ve been there, and I’ve done this so many times before too. I’ve kept toxic friends. I’ve been in abusive relationships. I’ve allowed my family to disregard my boundaries. And I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was doing it because I was so desperate for acceptance. I couldn’t bear to lose the acceptance I had, so I clung to it. I did everything I could to keep those toxic relationships.

But the truth is a toxic relationship isn’t offering you acceptance. It’s perceived acceptance. The people in your life who are causing you pain make you feel like you need them. You might keep friends who are toxic because you’re afraid of what will happen if you lose them. You might be in a romantic relationship that’s holding you back because you're more afraid of losing that acceptance than you are of the turmoil it is causing you.

The people you spend your time with profoundly affect your life.

If you surround yourself with negative influences who are always bringing you down, it will be that much harder to pull yourself up. And you may never find the strength to break free and live your own life if you are trapped in relationships with people who put you down, never see things in a positive light, and are ALWAYS COMPLAINING.

You know the people I’m talking about. I call these people complaining buddies. They feel trapped, and so they want you to stay trapped with them—all mixed up in a cycle of ongoing complaining and excuses!

When you’re their complaining buddy, they feel better about themselves. They feel understood, correct, and accepted because you’re there right alongside them complaining too. They still have their tribe.

Learn why complaining is so harmful and how you can use the practice of venting to work toward solutions in my guide: Expressing Feelings Through Venting (Instead of Complaining)

And then there are the critics. Critics can be just as harmful to your health as complaining buddies. They are the people who aren’t ready to face their own fears. When you accomplish something great, they can’t handle it. They may even call your achievements and newfound happiness crazy or impossible.

They put you down because they aren’t ready to face their own limited beliefs. They see you as someone who could do harm to their wellbeing because you’re no longer trapped in fear. You are challenging their beliefs with your success.

And this success doesn’t have to be what society typically views as success. Your achievement could be finding more balance in your life, pursuing a hobby you’ve always dreamed of, or gaining a new outlook on life that allows you to feel grateful for what you have. These are all forms of achievement and success—ones that complainers and critics hate.

So what does this all mean?

You may be going to the wrong places for your acceptance. Because even though so much of your journey is only about you—your own self-love, your own destiny—an aspect of your wellbeing will always be tied up in people.

You need a tribe who gets you.

When I quit drinking, I had to find a whole new tribe. Not one person I was friends with that drank with me in Los Angeles is my friend now. When I made the choice to quit drinking and again when I started my own business, I had to find my own tribe. The people I was surrounded by, the people who I counted on for my acceptance, weren’t my tribe anymore.

And it was impossible to hold on to these people. I couldn’t spend time with my drinking buddies when they were constantly judging me for my decisions. They weren’t able to support me because they were on a different path.

When I started my own business, the same thing happened. People who I thought were my tribe, people who I thought supported me and had my back, suddenly became huge critics. They weren’t able to comprehend the path I was taking. It threatened their own views. I had to find a new tribe.

So, as much as I’m always asking you to pay attention to yourself, the people you surround yourself with matter too. They don’t control your life, but they can severely impact it and make it more difficult to push forward on your fearless journey. As hard as it may be, you may need to make changes to your circle.

Choosing your own path and following your soul’s calling is liberating, but it can also be lonely. That is until you find your new fearless tribe, the people who get you no matter what. Trust me—it’s worth the wait, as well as the time and effort it takes to build a new tribe who can be with you every step of your fearless journey.

See Feedback as an Opportunity, Not Judgment

Your ability to accept feedback and not see it as a crippling attack is a valuable asset. Don't get me wrong—some people are judging you when they give you feedback. There is judgment in feedback, but it’s up to you to frame that feedback positively and constructively.

Some judgment is actually a good thing, even if we don’t want to hear it. Because without feedback, we never grow. We never learn. We never change for the better. We get stuck in our ways.

As a Life Coach, I live in the realm of feedback. It’s my job to help my clients grow by giving them feedback, being honest, and telling them cold hard truths when they’re needed. And although it took me a long time to get used to it, I now know that feedback is one of my most important tools for bettering myself and my company.

Without feedback on my coaching style, lessons, training program, books, and my own bad habits, I’d be stuck living in the past. I’d had services and products designed based on my first instincts, not based on what people need and want. And without feedback, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. We need to hear from others in our career and in our lives.

Now, feedback is not an excuse for someone to constantly put you down or tell you what to do. And feedback should never be hurtful in nature. Feedback is also not the chance for you to give up the reins again out of fear and let other people guide your life.

It’s your show. It’s your journey. It’s your life.

But the feedback you receive from others can help guide you into becoming a better coworker, friend, partner, person, etc.

So why does it feel so gosh darn bad when someone gives us feedback?

Getting feedback or constructive criticism can trigger our survival instinct. Remember when we discussed our biological instinct to belong and be a part of a tribe? When someone gives us feedback, suggests we’re doing something wrong, or implies we’re not perfect 😱, it sparks fear in our DNA.

“Oh no, we no longer belong. Our tribe doesn’t think we’re good enough. They don’t like us anymore!”

But, in many cases, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s important to take a deep breath, step back, and try to look at the situation from the other person‘s point of view.

If it’s your boss giving you feedback about your work or a project, even if you disagree, it’s important to listen and take in what they’re saying. After all, you report to them and must work to build a strong, or at least functional, relationship.

If your friend gives you feedback, don’t automatically ignore what they have to say. Where are they coming from? If you don’t understand, take the time to ask more questions. How does what you’re doing make them feel? What could you do to change that?

Of course, some feedback will be good and some will be bad, and it’s not up to you to change everything about yourself to become what other people want. But it is up to you to hear people out. And what’s most important is that you use the information you receive from other people to help better yourself.

Getting used to receiving and utilizing constructive criticism takes time and practice. If you want to get better at it, begin intentionally asking for it.

Get in a good headspace and ask the people around you, such as your boss, your friends, or a family member, to provide you with feedback. It could be about something specific or about your relationship with that person and how you communicate.

Use this simple format: Ask people what they like, what they don’t like, and what they might change. Hearing feedback from your peers, friends, and family members more frequently will help you become more comfortable with it.

You won’t be thrown off guard and feel like you’re tossed out in the cold the next time someone makes a suggestion. You’ll be used to feedback, and even if you don’t agree at the time, you’ll be able to take it in stride and see it for what it is—simple feedback, which is an opportunity to learn. It’s not a personal slight or an indication that you no longer belong.

I’ve only scratched the surface of this topic in this article. A fear of being judged is so hard to get over because it is deeply ingrained in every one of us. That desire to belong and that desperate need for a tribe is not going away, but you can help manage these negative feelings to ensure fear doesn’t rule your life.

I’m glad you made it this far, but please, don’t stop here.

In my full How to Overcome Fear of Being Judged course, which is available inside Fearless You, I dig deeper and share additional insights we didn’t have time to cover here. Throughout this course, I also share more personal stories from my own life, as well as stories about clients who have overcome their fear of being judged.

Continue practicing these strategies and implementing them in your daily life and routine. Save this article, and whenever you need a refresher, come back here to remind yourself of all that you’re striving for.

Cracking Your Fear of Being Judged With Fearless Living

Fearless You Membership Product Image

Deciphering the code to your fear of being judged is only a tiny aspect of what we discuss in the Fearless Living community. A Fearless You membership gives you access to the entire How to Overcome Fear series, which covers the 10 most common fears, such as Fear of Failure, Fear of Rejection, Fear of Loss, and more.

As long as you have a Fearless You membership, the How to Overcome Fear Series will be available to you, along with dozens of other courses, lessons, and live sessions. The complete Fearless You library will be a few clicks away as you continue your journey toward living the life your soul intended.™

Learn more about Fearless You and continue following the Fearless Living blog for free weekly content on everything from How You Can Start Living Your Dream Life to How to Follow Your Intuition to How to Forgive Even When It Feels Impossible.

From Fear to Freedom
From Fear to Freedom GUIDE topaz enhance sharpen hiresDOWNLOAD GUIDE

Being afraid of being judged can cause immense heartache, so much that it can stop you from doing what you were meant to do. It can keep you from happiness, from pursuing your career, from love, from being who you want to be.

Fear of being judged pulls you down and holds you back from your dreams and living the life your soul intended.™

When I first started Fearless Living, I was consumed by a fear of being judged. It was all new to me, and I didn’t know how people were going to react. I didn’t have confidence in myself yet. I didn’t know what people would think of me, and that was terrifying.

I remember holding my first workshop in my home. And at the time, I hadn’t redone my kitchen yet. I distinctly remember looking at my kitchen floor and thinking, “Look at those cracks. Look at that kitchen. Why would people want to learn from someone who has cracks in their kitchen floor?”

Three hands pointing - fear of judgment

At the same time, I was a lot heavier, and I wasn’t feeling confident in my own body. Thanks to my inner critic, I was full of self-doubt. Fear of judgment came in here too. I thought, “Why would anyone want to learn from someone who’s overweight? Why would anyone want to learn from someone who looks like me?”

I had all these fears about being judged by my home, by my weight, by my looks, and by the fact that I didn’t have a PhD.

I had all of these excuses and rationalizations to say a workshop wasn't a good idea in my home. But that was all fear, and when it came down to it, I was new in the business, which meant I didn’t have the money to run a workshop anywhere else.

I had to pull myself back and realize that I was trying to teach others all about fear. It was okay and natural that I had these fears, but I couldn’t let them stop me from pursuing my newfound dream.

The show had to go on. I had to overcome fear.

Slowly but surely, I learned people were only judging me by my content and ability to help—not by my looks or my weight, and certainly not by my kitchen floor.

And this is only one example of my being afraid of being judged. I feared being judged when my parents died. I feared being judged when I moved to Los Angeles. I feared being judged when I started my own business. I feared being judged when I published my first book.

I wanted to share this small story with you because I want you to know that you are not alone—very far from it. We all feel judged at times, and we all worry about being judged.

With that, let’s get to it because there’s so much to share about this topic. In this guide, I’ll share what fear of being judged looks like, the symptoms of this fear, and the strategies you can begin employing today to move beyond this fear.

A Fearless Living Introduction: Overcoming Fear

Often, when we think about fear, we automatically gravitate to common phobias, like a fear of heights, clowns, snakes, and what have you. While these are certainly real fears, they are not the kind of fears we speak about at Fearless Living.

We focus on emotional fears at Fearless Living. And what are emotional fears? Emotional fears pierce right to the core of our mental health, wellbeing, and humanity. Consciously or unconsciously, they negatively influence our decision making, leading us down the wrong path—one that doesn’t allow us to pave our own way or live the life our soul intended.™

The 10 most common emotional fears are:

I am posting an individual article about each of the fears we discuss at Fearless Living right here on this blog. If you’re looking for a more general overview of each type of fear, as well as the difference between emotional fears and common phobias, read my guide: 10 Common Types of Fear and How to Overcome Them.

What Is the Fear of Being Evaluated by Others?

Two girls in the background laughing at another girl with her head down

Everyone wants to feel approved, to feel accepted, to feel respected. After all, it feels good, doesn’t it? But when you are judged or imagine people's judgments, you don’t feel liked, understood, approved, respected, or accepted, and that can do real damage to your wellbeing, self-esteem, and confidence.

Is there a phobia of judgment? Absolutely! But when a fear turns into a phobia, there’s usually something more serious going on that may require the attention of a medical mental health professional. At its worst, a phobia of being evaluated by others may be classified as a social anxiety disorder that can affect relationships and make the afflicted person feel like absolutely everything is wrong with them.

But a fear of being judged comes in all shapes and sizes. Just because you don’t suffer from a phobia doesn’t mean that an underlying fear isn’t negatively affecting your life.

You want to be understood because you want to belong. Your social anxiety often comes down to one thing: The fear that others will judge you.

When you start a new project, do you worry your boss will judge you?

When you go on a date, do you feel like your date is judging you?

When you walk down the street, do you feel like every person is looking at you and judging you?

A study co-authored by Rebecca Ratner and Rebecca Hamilton found people worry that if they engage in activities alone, other people will infer they could not find friends to join them. They believe they will be judged by others if they partake in a social activity alone, such as going to the movies or going to a restaurant to eat alone.

And this was a big one for me. When I started practicing going to events alone and going to dinner alone, I had to ask myself, “Is this an activity I personally want to do?”

And if it was, then it was okay to do it alone. If I wanted to see a movie and didn’t have anyone to go with, that was perfectly okay. And sometimes it was because I didn’t want to go with anyone, and that was okay too.

The need for approval and acceptance is part of our DNA.

Since the dawn of humankind, it’s been necessary to our survival to belong to a group and to be loved and accepted by others.

We need each other. We yearn for human connection. Not getting these things feels terrible. It’s a human behavior that we all struggle to manage. It’s biological.

When you feel judged, you don’t feel like you belong. You feel disconnected. You are being left out of the tribe, and biologically, it feels dangerous because it means you could die out there on your own.

Even if that isn’t true today, it’s still what it feels like. And that’s why someone else’s judgment feels so hurtful. Even friendly, well-intentioned feedback can feel like judgment. It feels like being left out in the cold, apart from your tribe.

Do you believe you're someone who’s afraid of being judged? I guarantee that you suffer from this fear in some form or another. Let’s talk about the symptoms of a fear of being judged so that you can better recognize them in yourself.

What Are the Symptoms of Fearing Being Judged?

 

Not sure if you fear being judged? See if you relate to any of these symptoms.

  1. Do you hide who you are to avoid embarrassment?
  2. Do you try to be perfect to avoid being judged?
  3. Do strangers or authority figures intimidate you?
  4. Do you wait for others to go first and people-please to make sure they like you?
  5. Do you avoid doing things alone?
  6. Do you focus your energy on figuring out WHY someone doesn’t like you?
  7. Are you afraid to look stupid, selfish, lazy, etc., to others?
  8. Do you hesitate to share your dreams and be the real you?

I know I sure relate to a lot of these symptoms. And if I don’t right now, I definitely did at other points in my life.

So many women try to hide their bodies because of what they perceive as unattractive. They want to please people. They want everyone to like them. Have you ever sat at the back of the room to avoid interacting with people because you were worried about how you looked? What you were wearing? What your hair looked like? What your voice sounded like? What people would think if you struck up a conversation? This is your fear of being judged shining through in full force.

Fear of being judged can come through in everything we do.

Are you someone who doesn't put anything out unless you know it’s perfect? Do you refuse to try something if you’re worried you won’t get perfect results? If this is the case, you probably aren't trying too many new things or putting much out into the world. Your fear of being judged makes you think you need to be perfect, and that’s stopping you from ever trying to begin with.

But there is a path forward. I can't guarantee you’ll never again wonder about what other people are thinking, but I can help you navigate your fear of being judged. With practice, you can learn to manage your fears and put more focus on yourself—where it actually counts. No one ever gets ahead when they’re wrapped up in what other people think. So let’s get to those strategies.

How Do I Get Over the Fear of Being Judged?

Prioritize What You Think of Yourself

Are you afraid to look stupid, silly, weird, selfish, lazy, etc., to others?

Are you focused on other people's ideas of who you’re supposed to be instead of your own?

If you’re worried about appearing a certain way to people, ask yourself: Are you being any of those things? If the answer is authentically no, you can let it go.

But easier said than done, right?

When you don’t have a strong center and don’t trust yourself to have your own back, you become dependent on others. You need the approval of others because you don’t have your own approval of yourself.

But this way of thinking and living gives away all of your power.

You’re letting external factors determine how you feel and whether or not you are happy. Remember, other people’s thoughts are outside of your control. What another person thinks of you is completely up to them.

Do you only experience a boost in your self-esteem when other people approve of you? What about your own definition of success? What about your inner self-love?

Let me say this again: You are giving away your power by letting external factors determine your self-worth. 

You will never be free of your fear of being judged unless you take back your power and decide to see yourself and your critics differently. But if you've been dependent on other people for approval your whole life, making a change will be scary and difficult.

The first step is recognizing you do this. When you realize you are dependent on the approval of those around you, you’ll begin to notice what a stronghold this fear has on you.

Notice your own tendencies. Do you constantly ask people what they think? Do you wait to give an opinion until those around you do so first? Do you look for validation on social media? Do you fixate on people’s opinions of you or what you think they might be thinking?

The next step is to harness the power of self-love. Because if you’re no longer looking for approval externally, you need to find it internally.

You’re Going to the Wrong People for Acceptance

Young woman tired of listening her talkative girlfriend

We don’t want to be judged, and we’re afraid of being judged because we all want to belong. It’s human nature. To belong is to be part of the tribe. To belong is to be safe.

And because we want that sense of belonging so badly, we’ll often seek it out in the wrong places. We want that acceptance, so we make decisions that are bad for our physical, mental, or emotional health just to keep our current “tribe” around.

I’m sure you’ve been there, and I’ve done this so many times before too. I’ve kept toxic friends. I’ve been in abusive relationships. I’ve allowed my family to disregard my boundaries. And I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was doing it because I was so desperate for acceptance. I couldn’t bear to lose the acceptance I had, so I clung to it. I did everything I could to keep those toxic relationships.

But the truth is a toxic relationship isn’t offering you acceptance. It’s perceived acceptance. The people in your life who are causing you pain make you feel like you need them. You might keep friends who are toxic because you’re afraid of what will happen if you lose them. You might be in a romantic relationship that’s holding you back because you're more afraid of losing that acceptance than you are of the turmoil it is causing you.

The people you spend your time with profoundly affect your life.

If you surround yourself with negative influences who are always bringing you down, it will be that much harder to pull yourself up. And you may never find the strength to break free and live your own life if you are trapped in relationships with people who put you down, never see things in a positive light, and are ALWAYS COMPLAINING.

You know the people I’m talking about. I call these people complaining buddies. They feel trapped, and so they want you to stay trapped with them—all mixed up in a cycle of ongoing complaining and excuses!

When you’re their complaining buddy, they feel better about themselves. They feel understood, correct, and accepted because you’re there right alongside them complaining too. They still have their tribe.

Learn why complaining is so harmful and how you can use the practice of venting to work toward solutions in my guide: Expressing Feelings Through Venting (Instead of Complaining)

And then there are the critics. Critics can be just as harmful to your health as complaining buddies. They are the people who aren’t ready to face their own fears. When you accomplish something great, they can’t handle it. They may even call your achievements and newfound happiness crazy or impossible.

They put you down because they aren’t ready to face their own limited beliefs. They see you as someone who could do harm to their wellbeing because you’re no longer trapped in fear. You are challenging their beliefs with your success.

And this success doesn’t have to be what society typically views as success. Your achievement could be finding more balance in your life, pursuing a hobby you’ve always dreamed of, or gaining a new outlook on life that allows you to feel grateful for what you have. These are all forms of achievement and success—ones that complainers and critics hate.

So what does this all mean?

You may be going to the wrong places for your acceptance. Because even though so much of your journey is only about you—your own self-love, your own destiny—an aspect of your wellbeing will always be tied up in people.

You need a tribe who gets you.

When I quit drinking, I had to find a whole new tribe. Not one person I was friends with that drank with me in Los Angeles is my friend now. When I made the choice to quit drinking and again when I started my own business, I had to find my own tribe. The people I was surrounded by, the people who I counted on for my acceptance, weren’t my tribe anymore.

And it was impossible to hold on to these people. I couldn’t spend time with my drinking buddies when they were constantly judging me for my decisions. They weren’t able to support me because they were on a different path.

When I started my own business, the same thing happened. People who I thought were my tribe, people who I thought supported me and had my back, suddenly became huge critics. They weren’t able to comprehend the path I was taking. It threatened their own views. I had to find a new tribe.

So, as much as I’m always asking you to pay attention to yourself, the people you surround yourself with matter too. They don’t control your life, but they can severely impact it and make it more difficult to push forward on your fearless journey. As hard as it may be, you may need to make changes to your circle.

Choosing your own path and following your soul’s calling is liberating, but it can also be lonely. That is until you find your new fearless tribe, the people who get you no matter what. Trust me—it’s worth the wait, as well as the time and effort it takes to build a new tribe who can be with you every step of your fearless journey.

See Feedback as an Opportunity, Not Judgment

Your ability to accept feedback and not see it as a crippling attack is a valuable asset. Don't get me wrong—some people are judging you when they give you feedback. There is judgment in feedback, but it’s up to you to frame that feedback positively and constructively.

Some judgment is actually a good thing, even if we don’t want to hear it. Because without feedback, we never grow. We never learn. We never change for the better. We get stuck in our ways.

As a Life Coach, I live in the realm of feedback. It’s my job to help my clients grow by giving them feedback, being honest, and telling them cold hard truths when they’re needed. And although it took me a long time to get used to it, I now know that feedback is one of my most important tools for bettering myself and my company.

Without feedback on my coaching style, lessons, training program, books, and my own bad habits, I’d be stuck living in the past. I’d had services and products designed based on my first instincts, not based on what people need and want. And without feedback, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. We need to hear from others in our career and in our lives.

Now, feedback is not an excuse for someone to constantly put you down or tell you what to do. And feedback should never be hurtful in nature. Feedback is also not the chance for you to give up the reins again out of fear and let other people guide your life.

It’s your show. It’s your journey. It’s your life.

But the feedback you receive from others can help guide you into becoming a better coworker, friend, partner, person, etc.

So why does it feel so gosh darn bad when someone gives us feedback?

Getting feedback or constructive criticism can trigger our survival instinct. Remember when we discussed our biological instinct to belong and be a part of a tribe? When someone gives us feedback, suggests we’re doing something wrong, or implies we’re not perfect 😱, it sparks fear in our DNA.

“Oh no, we no longer belong. Our tribe doesn’t think we’re good enough. They don’t like us anymore!”

But, in many cases, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s important to take a deep breath, step back, and try to look at the situation from the other person‘s point of view.

If it’s your boss giving you feedback about your work or a project, even if you disagree, it’s important to listen and take in what they’re saying. After all, you report to them and must work to build a strong, or at least functional, relationship.

If your friend gives you feedback, don’t automatically ignore what they have to say. Where are they coming from? If you don’t understand, take the time to ask more questions. How does what you’re doing make them feel? What could you do to change that?

Of course, some feedback will be good and some will be bad, and it’s not up to you to change everything about yourself to become what other people want. But it is up to you to hear people out. And what’s most important is that you use the information you receive from other people to help better yourself.

Getting used to receiving and utilizing constructive criticism takes time and practice. If you want to get better at it, begin intentionally asking for it.

Get in a good headspace and ask the people around you, such as your boss, your friends, or a family member, to provide you with feedback. It could be about something specific or about your relationship with that person and how you communicate.

Use this simple format: Ask people what they like, what they don’t like, and what they might change. Hearing feedback from your peers, friends, and family members more frequently will help you become more comfortable with it.

You won’t be thrown off guard and feel like you’re tossed out in the cold the next time someone makes a suggestion. You’ll be used to feedback, and even if you don’t agree at the time, you’ll be able to take it in stride and see it for what it is—simple feedback, which is an opportunity to learn. It’s not a personal slight or an indication that you no longer belong.

I’ve only scratched the surface of this topic in this article. A fear of being judged is so hard to get over because it is deeply ingrained in every one of us. That desire to belong and that desperate need for a tribe is not going away, but you can help manage these negative feelings to ensure fear doesn’t rule your life.

I’m glad you made it this far, but please, don’t stop here.

In my full How to Overcome Fear of Being Judged course, which is available inside Fearless You, I dig deeper and share additional insights we didn’t have time to cover here. Throughout this course, I also share more personal stories from my own life, as well as stories about clients who have overcome their fear of being judged.

Continue practicing these strategies and implementing them in your daily life and routine. Save this article, and whenever you need a refresher, come back here to remind yourself of all that you’re striving for.

Cracking Your Fear of Being Judged With Fearless Living

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Deciphering the code to your fear of being judged is only a tiny aspect of what we discuss in the Fearless Living community. A Fearless You membership gives you access to the entire How to Overcome Fear series, which covers the 10 most common fears, such as Fear of Failure, Fear of Rejection, Fear of Loss, and more.

As long as you have a Fearless You membership, the How to Overcome Fear Series will be available to you, along with dozens of other courses, lessons, and live sessions. The complete Fearless You library will be a few clicks away as you continue your journey toward living the life your soul intended.™

Learn more about Fearless You and continue following the Fearless Living blog for free weekly content on everything from How You Can Start Living Your Dream Life to How to Follow Your Intuition to How to Forgive Even When It Feels Impossible.

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