Worrying what others think?
One of my favourite parts of coaching is seeing my client’s eyes lit up when they are having big aha moments. In a recent coaching session one of my clients realized that she was blocking her own success because she was so held back from fully expressing herself for the fear of being judged by others. Her eyes lit up...
I’ve certainly struggled with being paralyzed by ‘what others’ think.’ It has actually been one of my biggest roadblocks when I started my own business; to the point that it probably wouldn’t have happened had I not faced and worked through my fear of judgment.
I’ve seen this same pattern play out in the lives of the women I coach. They come to me feeling stuck, held back, wanting their life to be an expression of who they are. When we start unpacking their outdated stories and limiting beliefs it is evident that so many of their roadblocks come from worrying about other people’s opinions.
They stay in a relationship they are no longer happy in because their parents think ‘he’s such a great guy’.
They stay in a job that is no longer satisfying because ‘you’re crazy to leave such a good job’.
They don’t advance in their careers because they are afraid to speak their truth and therefore hide their brilliance, too.
They don’t start that passion project because they are afraid of being laughed at.
They don’t launch their business because they are afraid of people judging them because ‘who do you think you are?’ When how we see ourselves is greatly dependent on how other people see us, we tend to edit who we are, lessen parts of ourselves and hold back on opportunities. We limit our capacity to grow and evolve, and experience our life to the fullest.
For me, the big shift happened when I decided this is not a way to live my life. It didn’t happen overnight though... I knew I no longer wanted to shrink myself to fit into other people’s perception of me (or at least what I liked to think they thought of me), I knew that ‘what other people think of me is none of my business’, but it took time to internalize that intellectual understanding and believe it in my bones. Many of my clients confide that they worry what others will think of the choices they wish to make. The truth is, when it comes to judgment, we are typically our toughest critics. We fool ourselves into worry — because maybe, if we worry long enough, we will have an answer that will please everyone. But worry rarely makes the outcome better, because we haven’t stopped judging ourselves. We tell ourselves that we're scared of what other people would think of us (which feel so real!) but what it really boils down to is being scared of ourselves, of our own inner critic and self judgment. The reality is that we’re unlikely to be judged for our life choices and/or how we express ourselves. If anything, ‘our people’ will actually find our truth inspiring. When we do something scary such as following our heart (whether it’s leaving a ‘good job’, ending a relationship with a ‘great partner’ or expressing ourselves fully in our life) we inevitably experience fear and doubt for the precise reason that we’re doing something new and different. What often scares us is not the worries, questions and judgments of others; what scares us is that they’ll confirm the fear we hold within. Others’ fears and judgments often mirror our own fears and judgments about ourselves. In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes “Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” The truth is, people live in their own mind, they are focused on their own challenges and issues. If someone has the time or energy to think negatively about you it’s only because your spoken truth is triggering their own unspoken truth. When you’re being yourself, living your authentic life, expressing yourself fully, going after your dreams, pursuing your aspirations, living your values and priorities, making your own decisions… it forces those around you to look at their own lives. You will come across people who are not ready to face their own truth, and so yes, they might judge you (but the person they’re truly judging is themselves). And, you’ll also come across people who will be inspired by your truth and who will, thanks to you, muster the courage to be true to themselves. All relationships are mirrors and people will reflect back to us what we believe about ourselves. Rather than making it all about others, we need to come back to ourselves and notice what we are thinking and feeling within us that is causing us to fear their judgement. Many of us, subconsciously (it’s an instinctual protective mechanism), use the fear of others' opinions as a reason to not do what we want to do in the world. What we really need to do is face up to what is actually going on. If this resonates, I invite you to reflect on the following: 1. Write out some things about you, whether it is certain qualities, dreams and desires, choices you wish to make or things you wish to express which you worry about other people’s opinion of.
2. Look at each of them and ask yourself “Where am I judging this as being bad/wrong/strange/unloveable?” Or “Where am I not yet loving and accepting this part of myself?”
3. Notice how you have pushed away, avoided or denied these aspects of yourself as you have a judgment on them.
4. These parts of you need your love and acceptance. They are what make you unique, special and individual. Open up to them. Embrace them and own them completely and wholly. Know that the people who matter most will want you to thrive. Eventually, you will kick more worries to the curb than you keep, and it will be exhilarating. There’s great liberation in developing immunity to other people’s judgments and opinions, and, even more so, in letting go of your own self judgment. So long as you’re judging yourself you’ll always fear being judged by others. Much love, Naama