On stage, on camera, in a meeting or at a networking event — there is something that makes us feel awkward and anxious — the fear of being judged.
The fear could be preventing you from presenting, innovating and leading! So it needs to be deconstructed and managed. This short article aims to help do just that.
Fear of being judged — the forensics
- What is your brain doing
- How to re-frame
- Action plan
What is your brain doing?
Let’s start with a quote from a brilliant book called The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters. This irrational fear thing is coming from your very forceful ever present and playful chimp brain — rather than your more rational but harder to access human brain!
“The Chimp does not necessarily work with facts but it works with what it believes is the truth or with a perception of the truth or, even worse, with a projection of what might be the truth. It is quick to form an impression on little, if any, evidence and usually won’t give way. Of course, some impressions that the Chimp gives us are accurate and helpful, but they can just as easily be wrong. Searching for some accuracy and truth would help us to reach a sensible conclusion.”
― Steve Peters, The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness
Fear is a human survival emotion — it is powerful and takes effort to spot and manage appropriately.
Your brain is working on caveman rules.
What is your brain saying?
‘If I stand out from my group I will be seen as a stranger and potential danger. I will be thrown out and be unlikely to survive on my own. This is not a good option so I will keep my head down and blend in.’
You brain is also tricking you by allowing the forces of feeling overpowering the force of reality.
‘I feel nervous, awkward, embarrassed, stupid, like a fraud… I am therefore not going to carry on — I will retreat and hope nobody has noticed me and my uselessness.’
How to re-frame
Let’s start with a quote from a guy who knows his stuff — and still gets a nervy feeling before presenting — because he is human.
When I begin to feel anxious, I tell myself, My body is just preparing itself for peak performance: I’m amped, alert, and ready for action. By reframing my emotion, I can turn what’s otherwise debilitating into something motivating. Michael Hyatt — Leadership Mentor and author
The first step to re-framing your fear (in this case — fear of being judged) is to recognise the feeling and start getting rational with it — conduct a ‘feelings forensics’ as I call it.
You will not eradicate fear — I have already pointed out that it is part of our primitive survival brain! The problem is that the same part still fires up in today’s less life-threatening situations — the brain is not able to differentiate. You have to do some work to train your brain basically.
Start with the 5 why exercise
Q: What am I afraid of
A: Being judged
Q: What judgments are they going to make?
A: That I am fat/a fraud/arrogant/bad at public speaking/opinionated/weak/unoriginal…(your choices)
Q: Why does it matter if they think you are fat (or others from list)
A: Because I think it is bad to be fat
Q: Is being fat all you are?
A: No — I am lots more
Q: Like what?
A: (you complete)
Q: Why won’t they judge you on those things then?
A: Good point — I guess they might!
You can continue this game and take it off in all sorts of different directions — give it a go! Just doing this process will start to get your brain veering of it’s well laid tracks into new territory — and that is what you need to do.
Next bit of re-framing
Are you a mind-reader?
When you say to yourself ‘I have a fear of being judged’ you are effectively saying ‘they are going to judge me’. Are you a mind reader — time traveler?
Ok — so instant judgment is a human thing — we all do it — fair cop.
However — the bit of your brain that tells you with certainty that the judgment is going to be a negative one — well that bit is not rational. You are doing that to yourself — and you are in control of things you are doing to yourself!
Next bit of re-frame
So what if they do make that ‘negative’ judgment — you can’t please all the people all of the time. If you have prepared,are acting with empathy and compassion, are speaking from the heart… and know your stuff…. you simply need to just be present and get on with it!
- Have a word with your ‘chimp brain’ — I recommend the book (it is on audible too)
- Do the 5 whys exercise — here is a more background on why this works
- Be present! Take the focus of yourself and place it on giving value, listening, being curious and learning.
- Understand that things like impostor syndrome are playing tricks on you — and could well be bringing on ‘perfectionist’ and ‘people pleasing’ ways of thinking that are not helping with this fear of being judged.
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less. Marie Curie
A short video — part of my ‘labels’ series — all part of the judgment cycle!