Let’s face it, humans are always judging others—good/bad or like/dislike, with lots of nuance in between.
“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
It can be surprising how far people will go to do things “accepted” by others. In order not to be judged, people can really limit their participation or experiences with others.
For example, someone might not speak up in class for fear of looking dumb, someone might not tell their crush how they feel because they don’t want to be rejected, and some may not even tell their lover their desires for fear of being understood.
However, to be liked and accepted all the time is impossible. Humans are judgmental, it’s both part of how the mind works, and how society is. But you don’t need to live within the confines of being acceptable to others and society. Here are some ways that you can stop fearing judgment and start living authentically.
1.Accept who you are.
No one knows you better than yourself and this knowledge is more than enough for you to understand that what others say about you is their opinion and may not be true at all. People may see you in a different way but you know what you are capable of and as long as you accept yourself for who you are and what you can do, these opinions shouldn’t matter. It’s your life, your dreams, and your happiness that counts and not what others think you should be.
2.Nothing lasts forever.
The reality is that the human brain has limited data reserves. Although we may make judgments, they are not significant enough to earn a place in our memory banks for eternity. So when someone makes a judgment about you, chances are that moments or days later that judgment will have left their conscious awareness. We build up our understanding of people, not on the minor mistakes or setbacks we observe, but by creating a schema based on the big things they do and say, and the patterns of how they interact with us and make us feel over time.
3.Judgment is unavoidable.
Stop trying to control the judgments of others. It has become part of our zeitgeist to demand that others not judge us. Think about popular statements such as, “No judgments” and “This is a non-judgment zone.” None of this really helps: You can’t control what others think. Maybe they won’t express their judgment, but it doesn’t mean they can stop a physiological brain process. Instead, try to explain the context of what you are feeling so that those you are opening up to understand you and have compassion for you. Compassion is judgment’s kryptonite. When it is present, judgments have little weight because people can imagine themselves feeling the same way.
4.Focus on your goals
Don’t waste your time worrying what other people may say or think about you. Instead, focus on whatever it is you are trying to achieve. Set your sights on the result you are after and pay no attention to the negative things people say about you. Focusing on the more important things will take your mind off people’s criticism and if you really want something so bad, you won’t be giving too much weight on what other people will say.
5.Notice your own judgments.
There is no better way to care less about the judgments of others than to judge yourself and others less. Of course judgment is unavoidable, but watch the language you use in your own head about the people and events in your life. Change the focus of your judgments: Instead of “she sucks” or “he’s a loser,” ask yourself what effect the person has on you that you want to avoid or be aware of in the future. For example, “She never follows through with her commitments to me.” Or, “He tells me he’s trying but I always end up disappointed.” Move away from the good and bad character traits of those in your life to what is healthy and unhealthy for you.
6.Stop trying to win everyone’s approval
Before you make everyone around you happy, make yourself happy first and you can only achieve this if you do things your way. Be intentional, live your dreams and don’t allow others to take it away from you by giving in to what they want you to be. You will be living other people’s lives if you live your life according to how others want you to. Take ownership and live it based on what you want and how you want.
It’s common knowledge that we cannot please everyone.
7.Let them judge!
It can be liberating in an intimate relationship to just allow judgments to be present. Instead of stopping yourself from being open or vulnerable or from sharing something negative but important about yourself, do it anyway. As I relate in my book, Building Self-Esteem 5 Steps, If you notice yourself holding back out of fear of judgment, ask yourself first: “What judgment do I fear will come from my opening up?“ and, “What is it I fear will occur if they make that particular judgment about me?” Once you identify the fear, try to reassure yourself or find a way that you could manage the fear if it did come to be. Remind yourself that close and intimate relationships deepen when people risk judgment. If this openness doesn’t happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have done something wrong, but it may mean the person you are working to connect with doesn’t have the capacity for an emotionally intimate relationship.