Recently I decided it was time to go public with my blog. After weeks of anxious contemplation about whether I wanted to share this platform with people I know personally, I decided to confront my fear of judgement and embrace vulnerability. There are many factors that went into this decision, but thus far, I can say that I am so glad (and proud!) that I did.
All too often we let the fear of being judged negatively hold us back from reaching for our goals. There is that ever-present stream of consciousness telling us we aren’t good enough, or smart enough, or ready enough to pursue whatever it is. I’m here to tell you that stream is wrong.
Confront Your Inner Critic
At the end of the day, our inner voice is going to be a lot louder and a lot stronger than the voices of other people around us. If we do not believe in our own capabilities, then we will not succeed. It’s as simple as that. In order to achieve greatness you need to believe in yourself. It sounds really cheesy (trust me, I know) but it is rooted in truth.
We develop these beliefs over time that limit our views. These are referred to as limiting beliefs (creative, right?). A lot of therapy focuses on addressing these limiting beliefs and making adjustments to our thought processes in order to stop engaging with these beliefs. I could spend hours talking about how to go about this, but I’ll do us both a favor and keep it brief.
Any time you start to have a thought that decreases your value, take note and stop it in its tracks. With practice it will become a lot easier to notice these patterns and make the necessary adjustments. Let’s say a common limitation for you is the thought “I’m not smart enough, I don’t know anything about this stuff,” (anyone who has experienced college/grad school will probably be familiar with this gem). Let’s take this thought and reframe it. How can you make adjustments to this sentence to make it more uplifting and motivating?
Well, you could start with getting rid of the negatives. This would be your “not” and “don’t.” Follow this by eliminating the extreme, “anything.” What does this leave you with? “I’m smart enough, I know about this stuff.” Oh look!! What a lovely statement.
But really. Take away the negatives and the extremity from your self talk. Focusing on the negatives will only perpetuate a negative mindset and the focus on falling short. Eliminating the extremes allows you to acknowledge that life is lived in the grey area. Very few things in life can truly fall into the “always” and “never” categories. Whatever the person in our example is talking about, I’m sure they know something about it. Think about it. How many things do we truly know nothing about?
Take Note of Your Strengths
When we’re feeling the wrath of our inner critics, it can be easy to lose sight of the great things we have to offer. I challenge you to write down a list of 15-20 positive features about yourself. Try to diversify them! I’ve had clients try to cheat the system by writing down 15 things that they like about their appearance because that was one of the areas they felt confident.
The goal of this task is to really sit down and think positively. I’m sure you have much more to offer than your long hair or your bleach white teeth. What do you bring to your relationships? Include platonic, professional and romantic relationships here. When do you feel proud of yourself most? When do you feel like you’ve accomplished something? Use prompts like these to streamline your thought processes into positivity and away from negativity.
If you need help, see my previous post 52 Journal Prompts for Self Discovery
Put on Your Medal of Honor
It takes an immense amount of courage to be able to be vulnerable. This goes for any situation where you might be opening up a part of yourself to someone else. Courage, by definition, is the ability to do something that frightens one. Odds are, whatever you’re afraid you’ll be judged for is something that you feel passionately about in one way or another.
It’s time to don your badge of bravery and take a leap. Heading towards the unknown is both frightening and challenging for anyone. Think about all of the people you know that are unsettled by uncertainty (think quarantine here). All too often we let our thoughts about what we think is going to happen stand as a barrier between us and the goals we want to reach.
Extinguish the Awfulising Beliefs
Let’s think like a Rational Emotive Behavior Therapist for a second. I want you to think about whatever it is that is making you so anxious about being judged.
Now, take this thought and think about the worst possible outcome of you taking this action. Ask yourself, if this scenario were to come true, would that really be so bad? If your answer is yes, absolutely awful and nothing could fix it, this section is for you.
If this rings a bell with you, you are engaging with an awfulising belief. You are believing that if this scenario were to happen, a) nothing could be worse, b) this scenario is worse than 100% bad, and c) no good could possible come from this bad event. However, this simply isn’t true. While it may feel like a personal tragedy at the time, you will overcome any adverse reaction and you will continue on with your life. Right now you may belief that you would struggle to overcome and be unable to come to terms with the result and transcend the significant impacts.
It is possible for people to transcend the catastrophe or tragedy and go on to live healthily and happily in the future.Windy Dryden, How to Think and Intervene like an REBT Therapist
Boost Your Frustration Tolerance
Continuing along with REBT theory, it is thought that individuals fall into one of two categories: low frustration tolerance and high frustration tolerance. Low frustration tolerance would be thinking that you “could not bear it” if something were to occur. If you put yourself out there for the world to see your vulnerability, and you are faced with negative judgement, would you be able to bear and withstand this criticism?
Chances are, you totally will be able to bear it and, even if it’s uncomfortable for a period of time, move on from it. You are thinking from a low tolerance point of view, when realistically you should aim to think from a high frustration tolerance view. This view would be thinking something “is a struggle but I would be able to bear it.“
Reflect on all of the things in your life to date that you had struggled with but eventually overcame. I’m sure you can create quite a list, and if you can’t, you’re not thinking hard enough. You’ve done so much that you probably thought you couldn’t at one point. Reflect on your triumphs and revel in the idea the you can overcome this, too.
Ask Yourself If It’s Worth It
At the end of the day, we can go on and on about how to reframe your beliefs to align with putting yourself out there to be vulnerable to judgement. But you need to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?“ Is this goal or action worth feeling uncomfortable and feeling judged? I absolutely do not mean that uncomfortable = bad. I’m referring to the negative outcomes being something insurmountable for a low reward. Ask yourself how much this action means to you, and how you would feel if you were successful. If this is something that will make you feel proud and accomplished, then hell yeah it’s worth feeling uncomfortable for a period of time when other people are first being exposed and coming to terms.
I know judgement can be a hard pill to swallow. Hearing other people’s opinions about our goals and passions is weird and uncomfortable and sometimes just straight up cringe-worthy. Anyone who places judgement on you is not worthy of your ear. They have yet to unlock their own vault of courage and feel the need to try to close yours to make themselves feel better.
Applaud yourself for your ambition and bravery. Applaud your courage in taking this step to better yourself (because you are). You allowing your drive to be muted by fear is a greater loss than the potential changed opinions of others.