Fear of Being Judged

One of the most difficult struggles I have had in stepping out into the world with my voice and my gifts is that I have had to confront a lot of judgment.  In the world wide web, we have access to billions of people and every individual has their own belief system and their own opinions.  I respect that!  Each individual has the right to think and believe as they wish.  Who am I to judge?  But I often don’t receive that same respect.  Because when I put myself “out there” with who I am, what I have learned and what I believe, those who strongly disagree often feel it is their right to let me know this and let me know why.

I hate to argue with people and I normally will not engage in any kind of debate or argumentative behavior.  So, when someone finds fault with me, I agree to disagree and just allow them their ideas of who I am.  Ironically, we form our ideas about others based on our ideas of ourselves.  We judge others as a result of our own self-judgment.  But we also only allow the judgments of others to penetrate us when we have self-judgment.

I realized my fear of being judged is my own self-judgment and this is where the healing begins.  When I first decided to start writing articles and books, I was afraid to publish them, because I was afraid of how they would be perceived.  I was still not behind myself one hundred percent.  Even though I was strong in my beliefs and my research was strong, my fear of attack was also strong.  Why?  Because I had experienced so much attack and disapproval in my childhood.  I was different!  I didn’t fit into the norm.  In school I was so often the outcast, the one who didn’t belong.  And let’s face it; kids can be really cruel.  I also experienced some really cruel teachers who did a lot of emotional damage.

At some point in my journey through life, I realized I had something to say.  It became clear to me that not fitting in as a child was preparing me for my mission in life.  I was being trained how to be who I am, even when I was not liked or loved.  Although I feel I have done a really great job overcoming my history, my inner child still wants to recoil from the world sometimes.  I have fantasies of building a little cabin in a remote place in the mountains and just hiding away from the cruelty of the world.  But the still, small, voice within says “whoever told you your mission would be easy?”

Sometimes clients come to me with the same issues.  I will hear a client say “I feel like I want to write books or teach a class, but I fear rejection.”  Well, fear of rejection is right in alignment with fear of judgment.  When we are being judged, we are being rejected.  Fear of rejection is one of the most powerful fears that people have.  I see it in the majority of my clients.

Imagine what we could do if we didn’t have a fear of rejection?  Imagine the risks we would take?  Imagine what would be possible?

Our fear of rejection also comes from a form of self-rejection.  We so often judge ourselves based on how liked and accepted we are by others.  Look at social media with all the “likes.”  “Likes” are a form of approval and many people judge their “worthiness” based on how many “likes” they get on social media.  It’s good I don’t do this, because I am so inconsistent on Facebook that if I judged my value in the world by how many “likes” I received, I would not find myself very valuable.

One psychologist I was watching on youtube said that so many of her young clients; the teenagers and twenties group, put an enormous amount of weight on how many “likes” they receive on social media.  “Likes” were like life and death to so many of these youngsters.  Their whole self esteem is built on how they felt they were valued by the “friends” on Facebook or Instagram.  It is truly a sad thing.

Ultimately the world “out there” is a macrocosm for the microcosm, which is the world “in here.”  We all need to learn to build our sense of self-worth based on “liking” ourselves.  Liking ourselves is not narcissistic.  It is necessary!  Our ability to love and accept ourselves is core to our being a well-balanced, emotionally healthy individual.  We must find a way to unplug from the world “out there” and bring our attention and focus back to our inner world.  We need to find things about ourselves to approve of, to like and to celebrate, on a daily basis.

Even though I still struggle with a fear of judgment, especially before releasing a new book, CD, article or video or before performing or speaking in public, I face my fears and do it anyway.  Usually by the time I have found the courage within myself to “step out there” and speak my truth, I am amazed at how wonderful people really are.  Most of the time the audience who reads my works or listens to me speak or perform are very inspired and give very positive feedback.  Of course, there may be one or two who are negative in some way, but the positive approval far outweighs the negative.  The problem is  we tend to focus on the negative so much more than we do the positive.

I remember in my twenties, when I used to sing at a spiritual center on a regular basis, the minister was giving a talk on this very topic.  She was talking about how we tend to focus on what we perceive to be criticism or negative feedback and overlook the positive.  She used me as an example and said “Kaleah could give a smashing performance and receive a lot of positive feedback for the song she just sang and someone could come up to her and say “your legs were a little too far apart the way you were standing, and she might focus on that one thing for the rest of the day.”  Do you know what I did?  I said to myself “were my legs too far apart, the way I was standing?”  Why do you think I even remember that story?  It is actually quite hilarious.  Our mind tends to be drawn to anything that we feel perceives us in a negative light.

The biggest thing any of us may have to overcome in our lives is our self-judgment, our self-criticism and our self-rejection.  The antidote is self-love.  Self-love comes with self-understanding, and also a basic understanding of the human psyche.  When we can understand that others  judge us out of their own self-judgment or their own fears, it helps us to understand that the criticism from others usually has nothing to do with us.  We make it about us.  We take it on! But it is not ours!  It belongs to the one judging.

An important piece that I have discovered along the way, is the less I “take on” the judgments of others, the less judgments I received.  When I first started putting myself out there, I received a whole lot more nasty emails from people.  But when I started deleting the emails, stop defending myself and  stopped taking it personally, they seemed to stop coming.  It was a lesson I needed to learn.  Once I learned the lesson, I no longer needed the teacher.

Now and then I still get some very nasty emails from people asking me to take them off my mailing list.  These are usually people who say they didn’t sign up for my list and angry because they are receiving messages from me.  I have a double opt-in mailing list, so someone must sign up, get an email in their inbox and confirm their desire to receive email from me in order to be put on the list.  So, either they have signed up and don’t remember, or someone signed them up who has access to their email password and managed to confirm the message and delete it before they could find out.  There is a very simple unsubscribe button at the bottom of each mailing that would take two seconds to complete the process.  It would be much quicker to unsubscribe then to write me an email.  I end up being the punching bag for the unresolved and misplaced anger of the attacker.  I understand this now and since they usually reply to one of my emails, I just scroll down to the unsubscribe button at the bottom of their email and unsubscribe them without comment.  I don’t want these people on my list.

Engaging with an attacker is the last thing we ever want to do.  It is pointless.  The attacker is usually attacking from their own fear and misplaced anger and it really has nothing to do with you.  Most of the time they completely misinterpret my message anyway and have absolutely no idea what I am talking about.  This shows me they have a whole conversation going on in their own mind that has nothing to do with what I am writing about.  They are being triggered!  Something unresolved within them is coming to the surface and rather than finding the self-awareness to heal it, they attack the one triggering them.  A very common dynamic.

Understanding human nature helps us not to take others so personally.  We need to develop enough self-awareness to heal what is being triggered in ourselves and go deeper into self-acceptance, which is the opposite of self-judgment.

We may never completely eradicate our fear of judgment, but we can minimize it to the point where it doesn’t stop us from stepping out in the world with who we are, unashamed, courageous, and filled with a sense of mission and purpose.  This is the work I do every day and I can say “I am proud” that I have found the strength and courage in myself to truly embrace this mission.