13 April, 2012  |   21 Comments

Getting over my fear of being judged

You're judging this photo, aren't you? My house, maybe? It's okay.

We’re put here to make something.
Babies. Meals. Buildings. Books. Roads. Stories.

And sometimes web logs.

Creativity is as part of being human as breathing and sweating and humping and enjoying fried things and feeling awkward.

I know this but still suffer from a big block.
I FEAR people JUDGING me.
This fear keeps me from making my best stuff.
Or any stuff.

And I know what causes it.

There’s only one way my fear of being judged is going to go away.
And it’s by taking off my own Giant Judgey Wig.
I’m the WORST judgey judge.
In my own brain.
And it’s strangling my output.

Fear Of Being Judged.
Or FOBJ — heh — Is a real block for me.

Part of it is that for my job, I evaluate blogs.

But evaluation is different than donning my Giant Judgey Wig.
Evaluation is looking at metrics, at reach, at tone and aesthetics.
Evaluation is looking at facts.

Judgey wig is making a mean-spirited, emotional snap judgement in 2 seconds.

I’m judging you, judging me, judgey judgey judge judge judge.

That outfit sucks.
Why are you using that lame phrase?
Could you complain any more?

Judging makes sense, evolutionarily.
We can’t possibly take everything in that’s presented to us.

We used to need quick yesses or nos when deciding which group of people or environments were best for us.

But online, when we’re nigh assaulted with images of art, of homes, of creative expression, being judgey isn’t necessary.

And if it’s in my head, it probably doesn’t hurt you, but it hurts me more.
It hurts me by creating a culture (in myself!) where I’m afraid to create.

I wouldn’t accuse you of taking this kind of mean-spirited commentary public.
Because I wouldn’t either.

But inside my head, I’m closing myself off from potential friendships, resources, opportunities for learning.

All because I don’t think I like your [insert dumb surface-based reason here].

So how do I stop judging?

The last few weeks I’ve been testing out some tricks for judging less. These three have been the most successful.

(But boy, howdy, this is an uphill battle.)


Under my wig I think of at least ONE nice thing about the thing I’m being stupidly critical about. It has a cascading effect, inspiring me to look for more and more nice things until, SURPRISE! I’m rather fond of the blogger behind the blog.

Think of people as collections of stories.

If I think of you as a bunch of collected stories rather than a blanket singular judgement, I’m eager to learn more. I want to hear about all the crazy stuff that goes on in your life. I want to be your friend.

It’s all experimental

This whole internet thing, its current incarnation is barely 5 years old. Would you harshly judge a five year old? (Wait, don’t answer that.)

Think of blogs as partners in this grand experiment of self-expression.
Hey! They’re learning!
And I’m learning too!
We’re all learning!

And for the first time in history, we’re all learning publicly.
(This is terrifying.)

By reframing your judgement as just participating in this experiment, all these posts and photos and stories become less daunting and more exciting. Truthily.

I want to raise my girls free from FOBJ.
The way I do that is by judging less.

Inviting more.
Trying more.
Making more messes.

How do you stop yourself from judging?
Do you suffer from FOBJ?
Or is internet judgery is part of the package?

21 thoughts on “Getting over my fear of being judged

  1. 1
    Schmutzie says:

    I’m judging you for not having social sharing links so I can pimp this post from my phone, because I like it a whole lot 🙂

  2. 2
    Angella says:

    Ha! to Schmutzie.

    Love this post, HJ. I’m definitely pretty bad at judging myself.

  3. 3
    Jessica says:

    I suffer from FOBJ, though a lot less than I used to.

    Judging others/FOBJ/judging myself harshly once seemed kind of chicken-and-eggy to me, but now it is very clear to me that I am less meanly critical of others when I am kinder to myself. I have worked hard to accept myself as an imperfect human, and as a result I am more forgiving of others’ humanity.

    One trick that worked for me is realizing that the self-critical voice inside my head was CRUEL. When I imagined those words coming out of someone else’s mouth, they were completely intolerable. Sometimes I imagine that criticism directed at my son, and that helps me see it for the excessively harsh nonsense that it is.

    Another thing that helped: giving the most attention and TLC to relationships with people who like me for who I am.

    The most remarkable thing is that, since making progress on being more accepting of my own humanity, it is so much easier for me to accept others’. We are all flawed. And now when I come across hypercritical people, even those who are hypercritical of me, I mainly feel sorry for them, because I know that they are even harder on themselves than they are on me.

    • 3.1
      Helen Jane says:

      This is a lovely comment.

      Isn’t it strange? The evolutionary legacy of a mean critic up there behind our eyes?

      Love your strategy, and am taking tips now!

  4. 4
    robyn says:

    Stopping the constant mind chatter & thinking about everything has helped me – just giving my brain time to rest and reconnect with the rest of my body, and my spirit. To connect with who I really feel I am…yoga was a big part of this!

  5. 5
    Ariel says:

    I’ve been thinking about this same issue a lot this week: http://offbeatbride.com/2012/04/judgments

    I’m trying to see every judgment as an opportunity to learn about my values.

  6. 6
    Ally Bean says:

    Judging is such a difficult topic to understand and to not indulge in. Your post really makes me re-think how I was raised– and the effect that being judged had on me and my subsequent behavior.

    I think that there is a good mantra within your post:
    “Invite more. Try more. Make more.” Words to live by.

    [This is the second blog post that I’ve read today that talks about not judging. Interesting.]

  7. 7
    sweetney says:

    I love you for this. This is something I think everyone needs to think about – about how and why they do it to others, as well as how to not let others doing it to them become something that’s paralyzing.

    And I agree with Ally Bean: “Invite more. Try more. Make more.” – A beautiful sentiment, and something we should all do. xo

  8. 8
    heather... says:

    You are so wise, HJ. And you look fab in an old-timey wig.

  9. 9
    Annie says:

    “People as a collection of stories” – oh how I love that. It’s easier to remember in real life, but so hard when you’re seeing one post on a static page. Here we are sharing our stories, knowing that some will only be willing to “click” once through our lives. Love this post. Beautiful.

  10. 10

    There’s a great writing adage about locking your inner editor (judge) out of the room when you are in raw creative mode (5-years old with the paintbrushes). And then bringing her back in only after you’ve called the thing down from the ether.

    Discernment and impersonal, thoughtful criticism have their place. But yes, it is so important to know when to suspend it. Mainly for kindness and nurture, but for credibility’s sake too. The opinions of people who are constantly sniping, picking, dissecting are easily dismissed.

    This was great for me to read tonight, as I’m blearily putting together the last of a talk on divisions of process and outcome. Thanks!

  11. 11

    […] You’ve got to be yourself, which leads directly to Getting Over My Fear of Being Judged. I’m personally working very hard on this one right […]

  12. 12

    FOBJ is an epidemic, and unfortunately I’m not immune. I love that you are talking about it. I’m inspired to do better.

  13. 13

    I love you, HJ. Judgey judge me all you want, because I’m like a five year old; I won’t listen.

    For the record, I think you’re fabulous and wish you’d write more.

  14. 14
    Lori says:

    I suffer from a serious case of FOBJ….like serious enough that I had to go to therapy for it (although in psychiatry terms they call it generalized social anxiety disorder). The best thing my therapist did was convince me to put myself out there…to blog and create art and share it with the world, and actually give people the opportunity to respond positively to my work (instead of hiding from the world, afraid of being criticized). It still terrifies me every time I post (or even comment on someone else’s blog like this) but it gets easier!

    • 14.1
      Helen Jane says:

      Thanks so much Lori — this means a lot to me.

      It can truly be paralyzing.

      (Makes me wonder what other animals get off easier without these random fears ;))

  15. 15
    Rita Arens says:

    Becoming a professional editor has actually made me less judgy, because now I look at most things as raw materials ready to become anything based on the amount of work I am or the writer is willing to put into it. Writing, art — it’s a little bit talent and a whole lot effort. When I am hard on myself about my writing, it’s usually because I wish it were the other way around and I had a lot more talent than I do. 🙂 I always say I’m not the best writer in the room, but I might be one of the most ambitious, and that will get you a long way if you keep at it.

    My blog is usually STILL raw material when I hit publish, where I spend way, way, way, way more time and effort on my fiction, but writing anything daily is good practice and reminds me what I find interesting and valuable. The constant production of new material is valuable in and of itself — it need not be perfect to be moving you forward as an artist. Create!

  16. 16
    Annie says:

    I feel like this post could have been titled “Hey Annie! Pay attention!” because I am so prone to being judgmental and fearing judgment. I end up yelling in my head about a person taking up so much space on the gym locker room counter, but if I actually interact with that person they’re always really pleasant. Definitely going to keep this post in mind for my everyday interactions.

  17. 17

    […] Do you suffer from FOBJ? […]

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