It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are trying to do. Fear of judgment by others is, in my experience, one of the most common and most powerful reasons people don’t take the steps to follow their dreams.
This can be a fear of what people might think of you for pursuing this particular goal or dream and fear of how people will judge the work you do.
If you are like me you have heard people say to you “don’t pay attention to what others think” or “what they think doesn’t matter” when trying to help you get past the fear of judgment. Then you say to them “ok, I’ll try not to” all the while thinking “yeah right, easy for you to say.”
We sometimes go out of our way to avoid being judged by people due to our fear. So much so that we don’t speak up in meetings with ideas and input, don’t put any of our work out in front of others, and give up on our passions and dreams.
Can you identify with any of these ways you have been holding back or missing out? These are more common than you think. You are definitely not alone with these fears.
I am certainly one of the many that suffer from this very debilitating issue. It is something I have been focusing on improving for quite some time now. So please don’t judge me for this post. 😉
You might be asking, how can we avoid all of the judgment?
Face Your Fears
Fear is a natural human emotion. It has been necessary for survival throughout evolution. It gives us the fight or flight response and helps us to avoid potentially harmful situations. In this way, fear is can be a good thing.
Getting rid of fear is not the goal here. Rather the goal is to deal with fear more productively.Scott Winterbourne
A quote by Leo Babauta of Zenhabbits.net “when you’re feeling fear, instead of turning away from it or trying to escape/avoid it … try turning towards it.”
I know this isn’t necessarily what you wanted to hear, but it is true.
Allow yourself to feel the fear and get used to it. You can think of this as a type of Exposure Therapy. The more you allow yourself to face the fear, the better you will become at dealing with it.
It’s Not as Bad as You Think
When we start to feel a little fear, our minds often imagine the worst possible scenario.
“What if I publish this blog post and I get tons of negative comments? I can’t handle people telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about and telling me I’m an idiot?”
“If I post this YouTube video, I might get lots of thumbs down or negative comments saying I suck”
“What if I speak up in the meeting with my idea and I am told it is a stupid idea?”
I have experienced every one of these fears and thoughts of the worst-case scenario. There was no doubt in my mind that each would happen to me if I tried.
I have been working on overcoming this fear in myself. From speaking up in meetings more to starting this blog. I have tried to meet this fear of being judged head-on (not always succeeding). The response to each has been far more positive than I could have imagined.
Yes, I have received some negative comments, negative feedback, and thumbs down. But they have been far surpassed by the positive feedback.
When I started my YouTube channel, I remember when I got my first thumbs down. It did make me feel a little bad at first. I shared the experience on Twitter and had many people share their stories. Hearing the different stories regarding thumbs down or negative comments really made it seem much less scary than I used to think.
As we shared our stories we had a great laugh about how absurd some of the comments were. We joked that it was a right of passage. Once you get your first negative comment or thumbs down, it means you’ve “made it”. You are important and successful enough for the trolls to find you.
You Are Not Alone
As I stated earlier, this is one of the most common and most powerful reasons people don’t pursue their dreams. I am certainly included in this.
Many friends, family members, and coworkers that I have spoken to share this fear. They have shared that putting ideas out in the open to a group or onto the internet scared them. The reason was they feared to look stupid or of being told they don’t know what they are talking about.
Most people have felt the same way you do. Even the people viewing your content or listening to your ideas. They can relate to how you feel about putting yourself out there.0
Even Charles Darwin waited 34 years to publish his theory of evolution. Some scholars call this “Darwin’s Delay” and many scholars believe it was due to Darwin’s fear of being judged a heretic for his theory.
Be Genuine And True To Yourself
One thing that has helped me worry less about judgment is by being completely genuine and true to myself.
Don’t try to fake it or be something you are not. It can be tempting to act like an expert when you are not or BS some information to create content. You will have more fear and worry in the back of your mind that somebody will see through it.
By being genuine and honest, people can relate to you and can empathize with you. Judgment is not always negative. When somebody can relate to you and empathize with you, their judgment of you is more likely to be positive.
Start Slow, But Make Sure to Start
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to shoot for the stars and be successful in a very short amount of time. We want to look good and successful for our friends, family, and strangers on the internet.
It’s basically the equivalent of us wanting to look like a personal trainer even though it’s our first day in the gym. While this sounds good, it very often adds way too much pressure and fears that people will see right through us.
Also trying to start too big can feel very daunting and overwhelming and makes us doubt that we can do it. This also adds to the fear and we end up not even starting.
If you have high aspirations and want to shoot for the stars, that is great. But when you are trying to get started, I suggest you try starting small and build your way up.
This takes some of the pressure off and lets you experiment a bit more. In the end, it will reduce the fear that somebody will judge your work negatively.
See also the “Break it Down” section of my How to Find Your Motivation post for tips on breaking a project down into smaller pieces to help you get started.
These are just a few of the thoughts I have had while trying to overcome this fear in myself.
Take the steps to face your fears. Remember, it really is not as bad as you think. I am living proof. If I, an introverted engineer can do it, certainly you can too.