We all make judgements all the time. We take in information and filter it through our own experiences, knowledge, and understanding of the world to make meaning and draw conclusions. But when we talk about feeling judged, we’re referring to people making critical, unhelpful judgements about us or our lives.
As social creatures, connectedness and belongingness are essential to our wellbeing and even to our survival to a certain extent. To feel connected and belong, we need to be accepted by others, so if you care about what others think, this isn’t something wrong with you. It’s part of being human.
Judgement can bring a fear of rejection, which is a threat to your belongingness and connectedness. This is a social threat.
Social Comparison Theory also suggests that people have a natural drive to compare themselves to others, in order to understand themselves, make themselves feel better, or inspire themselves to improve.
So, again, if you find that you constantly compare yourself to others, there may be an underlying natural tendency. However, that doesn’t mean that excessive comparison is healthy or supportive for us. When we compare ourselves unfavourably to others, it can trigger our fear of being judged.
Our inner critics are very good at stopping us from doing anything unfamiliar and potentially risky, and invoking the fear of judgement can be a highly effective strategy. By telling us stories about how we are likely to be judged, we might be convinced to avoid the situation altogether or at least never let anyone know about it.
Additionally, when we believe we are likely to be judged our brain looks for evidence to prove this correct. We are then more sensitive to signs of judgements and more likely to interpret ambiguous expressions or interactions as judgemental. For example, “No one has said hello to me yet so they must think I’m boring”.
As you can see, there is a lot going on in our minds (and as a result, our bodies) when we feel we might be judged, or when we have been judged. It makes sense why it’s so unpleasant, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, we can’t avoid judgement because we can’t control what other people do, think or say. However, we can choose what we do in the face of judgement (either real, perceived, or expected).
7 questions to ask yourself when you feel judged
Here are 7 questions you can ask yourself if you are feeling judged, or worried about being judged, that will help you work through the uncomfortable feelings and regain your confidence.
1. Am I judging myself?
We fear judgement about the things we are judging ourselves for. These may be areas we already feel guilty or inadequate and the judgement reinforces these feelings. For example, we might fear judgement about letting our kids eat too much sugary food because we believe that too much sugary food is unhealthy.
If you are judging yourself, try to identify the belief that underpins the judgement and whether this belief is your own, or something you don’t feel aligned with, but feel obligated to uphold. You can choose to redefine beliefs that don’t feel aligned for you.
If it is something that is important to you, then explore two things:
a) How you can be kind and compassionate with yourself in the situation.
b) What you need to do to bring yourself back into alignment with your belief.
2. Why might they be judging me?
People often judge others to make themselves feel better. This is usually subconscious so they will not be aware of it. Perhaps they feel threatened or triggered by you, feel judged themselves or have something to lose from what you are doing.
Understanding the perspective of the other person, or finding compassion for them, can lessen the intensity of your feelings. This doesn’t mean you like being judged or agree with their judgements, rather it helps you reach acceptance of the other person’s actions and situation.
Remember, people judge based on their own values and worldview, and if these are different from yours (they are never going to be identical) then they may judge you for the differences. This doesn’t make what you are doing wrong. It’s just different from what they would do.
3. Does their opinion matter?
This can be examined from two perspectives:
a) Is this someone whose opinion you highly value?
b) Does the situation affect them?
You are responsible for making decisions about your own life and family. There may be key people, such as your partner, or others who are impacted by your decisions or who you look to for guidance, whose opinions you take into account. However, the opinions of most people don’t really matter. They can have their opinions (we can’t control them) and we can live our lives the way we want regardless.
4. Am I now judging them?
When we feel judged, it can be easy to slip into a defensive judgement cycle. For example, I feel like you’re criticising my parenting, so I start to think about all the ways you aren’t a good parent. This doesn’t help anyone or make us feel good, so if you feel like you’re about to judge them back, choose to disengage.
5. Am I living in alignment with my values and what feels true for me?
Everyone lives their lives differently and has different values, experiences and challenges. This means that we each will make unique decisions about our own situations and what’s right for me might not be right for you.
People who judge us often don’t know all the nuances of our situation and therefore will not be able to make the best decisions or draw the most accurate conclusions. Only we can and a great way to do this is to tap into your inner wisdom and come back to your values.
Even when we seek advice and opinions from others, we should still check whether it feels aligned and true for us.
So, if judgement makes you doubt yourself, check if you are in alignment with your values and what feels true for you. Why are you doing what you are doing? If you have a strong personal “why”, a reason for doing what you are doing, then the judgement much less important.
6. Can I keep living my life my way even if people are judging me?
Spoiler alert! The answer to this question is YES! But you need to believe it for yourself. It might feel like a no right now or a yes may come with a lot of fear. Let me assure you, it is possible but it can take a decent dose of courage and determination.
You get to choose how much power you give the judgement. Do you let it into the driver’s seat of your life? Or do you make it sit in the back with no input into your navigation?
7. Who can I talk to about this?
Feeling judged can create feelings of shame. We don’t want to feel inadequate or expose our inadequacies. Dr. Brene Brown says that shame cannot survive being spoken about. To stop the shame from growing, you need to find the courage to be vulnerable with a trusted person who can offer you empathy. The empathy and connection help combat the feeling of being alone and the painful feeling of shame subsides.
Feeling judged is a common motherhood experience, and it isn’t a pleasant one. However, we don’t have to give it any power in our lives.
Which of these questions resonate most with you right now?
For more on what to do when you feel judged, check out my previous blog article here.