Hi, lovely one, welcome to episode number four.
This is actually part one of this topic. I want to talk about judgement today specifically the fear around being judged. And full disclosure. As I was writing my notes for this topic, they blew out to what is easily two episodes worth so rather than overwhelming you in one episode I turned this topic into a part one and part two.
So jump into episode number five after this, where we’ll get into the second part of talking about fear of judgement. But in this episode, I really want to start with a quote from Emerson.
He says that whatever course you decide upon there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage. And that’s what I want to talk about today.
Lovely One, is we can stay in a place of fear or we can step into courage, but the fear of judgement is strong. And there’s a reason for that. In fact, there’s several reasons for that. And that’s what we’re going to talk about.
Fear of Judgement
The fear of judgement and the web of feelings that go with it, like rejection, shame, embarrassment and humiliation can be strong enough that it actually overrides your goals and your hopes and your dreams.
And it can keep you paralysed and stuck and sitting on the sidelines of your own life.
The fear of judgement if you let it lovely one will keep you from taking action. It will rob you of your own life.
And the fear of being judged leans over us like an over critical parent ready to pounce on us. Anytime we make a mistake anytime we show up imperfectly, or even when we decide to take the road less travelled. You know, when you move away from the path that the significant people in your life would really like to see you take when you decide that that’s actually that’s actually not for you. That’s when the fear of judgement can get really loud.
And the thing is that there is some truth to this fear because judging is what humans do.
It’s not you, it’s your brain
Believe it or not, you can be the kindest, most empathic, compassionate and accepting human being on the face of the planet. And I guarantee you that you still judge other people. Because there’s no other way for our brains to cope with the millions of pieces of information that we are presented with daily.
You know, to process and manage such a cognitive load. Our brains throw as much information as they can into categorical buckets that match the information we already consider should be true.
That’s how we deal with it.
It’s how we deal with the millions of bits of information thrown at us on a daily basis. We put like information with like information.
A blue birds egg belongs with the ocean because the ocean is also blue.
But that blue egg also belongs with eggs in your kitchen because it’s an egg and it also belongs with the flock flying over your home, because that’s what that little egg will grow up to be, one of those birds flying too. We categorise automatically and don’t have to apply any conscious effort to where we place information in the buckets in our brain. It’s easy, it’s easy, because we’re wired to do it, we don’t even think about it. You don’t stop to think where the eggs go in my brain.
It just happens. That’s how we’ve grown up is with a brain that knows exactly what to do with the pieces of information it’s presented with. It judges them and it categorises them accordingly.
But information and experiences that trigger negative feelings, processes, memories that get categorised a little differently, and this is really important, because they’re flagged as more salient. That means they’re just flagged full stop, you know, egg, as a topic might be flagged in a bucket, that doesn’t require any of your attention until you need to decide on having extra breakfast or until you come across a little egg in the nest.
But memories that are associated with something that hurt, you have a flag against them as being very important. And that’s because humans are very good at identifying anything that might hurt us emotionally or physically. And we learn from these experiences to avoid them in future.
The long-term effects
I want to give you an example. We’re going to go back right. I’m gonna take you back to my childhood. When I was little, I guess I was about the age of six, my grandfather. So if you have listened to some previous episodes of this podcast I’ve talked about my grandfather who flew, that was Ronnie, he’s my dad’s dad. I was lucky enough to have a pop my mom’s dad, who I also loved incredibly deeply and pop had Scottish ancestry.
He was very proud of this ancestry and it had actually shaped him and his brothers as well. So he’d grown up in New Zealand playing bagpipes, and he played bagpipes right up until a month before he dies at the age of 89. So, the bagpipes were very much a part of my life. They signified all the significant occasions in my life, where we came together as a family, and when we were little pop heavily influenced us to celebrate this Scottish heritage as well. So Lauren and I, my cousin Lauren and I, we learnt Highland dancing, and my brother and our two other cousins Rick and Nathan learned bagpipes, and pop was incredibly proud.
He even at parties as an adult, he would ask me to do the Highland fling. I haven’t done Highland fling in so long, I would probably die now if I tried to do the Highland fling or I’d snap an ankle or something. But there was nothing he was prouder of then when his grandchildren were celebrating that Scottish history. So I was about six when I learned Highland dancing or started to learn Highland dancing.
And if you’ve ever done any kind of dancing at all, in your upbringing, or in your childhood, then you know that at some stage, if you do it formally, then you undergo exams that measure your competency against various steps in various stages. A bit like learning piano, you know, there are grades that you go through for musical instruments as well as the same with dancing.
And so I was about seven, I guess, and the idea or the concept of exams arrived, and as part of that, we were also encouraged to go into competition. And so my pop being so incredibly dedicated.
I learned Highland dancing from a teacher an hour away from where we lived, and every Saturday he would drive me up to Alison’s, her name’s Alison. And he would sit outside playing his chanter, which is like the practice version of bagpipes, you just take the I didn’t even know what the bit that they play the notes with this called on the bagpipes. But basically, you can have that bit alone with just a mouthpiece put on it so that you’re not actually playing the full bagpipes so that you can practice your playing that way so it’s much easier. So pop would sit outside in the car while I was in having my lesson for I don’t know, half an hour, 45 minutes, an hour don’t really remember. And he would play his chanter in the car while I was dancing.
As it came time for me to enter this competition. It was quite a big thing. So pop was very proud. He gave me a kilt. So I have this beautiful kilt. That was the Ferguson dress tartan so my Nana pops last name was Ferguson and Ferguson dress tartan was this beautiful kind of almost teal blue. And it had a strip of Burgundy through it had this gorgeous burgundy vest that came with it and a white frilly top that went underneath it. And the socks and my dancing pants as well. And it was all very exciting. And so pop. And actually Nan and pop and mum came too drove me about two hours away this competition was in a town about two hours away.
And I’ve never been to a competition before. So I didn’t really know what to expect. But I was already quite a perfectionistic child I really wanted to do well.
It was very important to me to get the significant people in my life to approve of me and to be proud of me.
That meant a lot to me.
And so we arrived at this competition and we’re kind of milling away with other kids. So there’s
Young kids my age was about seven. And there were kids up to teenagers there as well. And there were multiple stages and an organiser whose voice had kind of come blaring over the PA every now and again barking numbers. So we were given a competition number. And when your number was called, you needed to go up on stage and dance your dance. And you were dancing in front of a panel of judges who would then judge you on how competently you danced. And so I was standing side stage at this point, Nan and pop and mum were in the audience and I remember feeling very, very nervous so much so that my brain kind of fogged over and all I could hear was the cassette tape bagpipes, so there wasn’t even a Piper playing it was just played on a cassette tape, I think, and the blaring of this voice that was just barking numbers randomly what what seemed randomly to my seven year old self and then what happened was in my brain fog, my little seven year old self decided that I’d actually must have missed my number. And I went out and joined, what must have been about five kids on the stage.
So standing there next to these five kids, I’d kind of quickly run out there at the end of their line thinking I was needed on stage. And I received some puzzled looks from the judges and one of the judges came forward from their desk and led me off the stage because I’ve gotten it wrong and it wasn’t my turn yet. Now it doesn’t sound like a really big thing, right?
But at that point, because I was so nervous, I felt humiliated.
It’s funny to think that I was only seven. And yet I can still recall the acute level of shame that I felt about getting this wrong. I went on stage when it wasn’t my turn. Everyone saw me be led off
And I ran into the audience and back to my mum crying.
Now, my mum has quite a wicked sense of humour, you might say.
Her way of dealing with shame and humiliation is to laugh. And so she laughed at me and told me that I was silly and made a mistake. And it was all fine. She tried to reassure me, I’m sure but all I remember is being laughed at. And I think Nan and pop tried to reassure me but the, the damage was done and I don’t mean that my mum intended to do any kind of psychological damage. I just mean that from that intensity of that feeling of shame, of being judged as stupid, you know, as making that mistake and going on stage at the wrong time. That was seared into my brain.
Seared into my brain so that so much as I tell this story, I feel so much empathy for that little girl.
And I wish I could just wrap her up right now to be able to do things differently.
So what happened is that I actually don’t remember the rest of that day. There is a photo actually of me dancing on stage in front of those judges, and I have no recollection of it. All I remember is running off stage in tears, because I got it wrong. And what happened is, my brain then decided that anything to do with competition was marked as potentially humiliating, scary and overwhelming from that point on.
And you might not be surprised to then learn that I didn’t actually dance for very much longer after that. So by the time I was eight, I told my pop who was devastated at the time that I didn’t want to dance anymore. And it was all because I didn’t want to have to go into competitions.
So I actually gave it up and I never went any further. And I grew out of my beautiful kilt, and then never got another one. And I still have my swords. So there’s a sword dance in Highland dancing and my pop had bought me these beautiful pair of Swords that I still have to this day he had them engraved with my name. And I never went back to it, because that fear sat with me so heavily. And there was no nurturing in my life to help me through it in a practical, healthy way so that I can actually make something that it was empowering about competition.
So instead, I just ended up in this place where competition became bad. And as I grew up, I carried this fear with me into everything that I did that remotely associated with that day.
So things like I remember we took my brother to his soccer sign on day so little kids have to go at the beginning of the season to sign on. And basically it just means that your names down as part of the team.
My brother was, uh is, two years younger than me. And so he was little we take him to the sign on days. And I remember very clearly walking across the fields with all these kids milling around, so excited about their competition season beginning and I would almost want to vomit. Even though I wasn’t involved. I would get anxious. When we had physical education class in school, I felt anxious. At school sports carnivals I feel so sick that I do my level best to avoid participating and inter school weekly sports. Do you remember having those? So when I was in high school, we had this
kind of, I guess, weekly sports competition that happened between schools in the area and you are expected to pick a sport, join a team, didn’t matter what level you’re at and play every single ball for us. It was on Wednesday afternoons, we would go and you would play your competition sport. Well, no thanks.
The fear that I held so heavily about competition, particularly about sports based competition was so anxiety provoking that I studied in the library instead, I managed to, I don’t know must have convinced a teacher or something or someone to let me study in the library instead, because that’s where I felt safe. All because I felt ashamed and judged as stupid when I was a little girl at a regional Highland dancing competition.
And I still don’t like formal competitions to this day. We are talking decades later. This is how fear is burned into our psyche and influences us as we evolve.
You know, the difference is that with awareness we can choose how we respond to the fear rather than letting it have full and unchecked direct control over what we do. What I do want to say is that my fear of competition doesn’t affect my life to this day. So I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. I mean, I guess people who have enjoyed team based sports might say, but you really have the sense of community, you know, it’s so much fun. But I don’t feel like I actually missed out on anything. And I don’t feel like my life is lacking in any way because of the effect of that fear.
The problem is when you feed judgement, and it starts taking control over things that are important to you in life, that’s where we get held up.
And that’s the fear of judgement that I’m talking about today. You can imagine that if something happened to you like it happened to me when I was little, and we’re talking something minor, right?
But you can see how that can be carried with you over a long period of time to then unconsciously influence your choices. If you don’t have awareness over it, then you have no control over whether or not you choose to let it influence you.
What I’m talking about today is when your fear of judgement stops you in your tracks and stops you from doing what you really want to do to create the life that you dream of living.
But before we get to that, before we get to whether or not it’s influencing you, I also want to flag that watching others being judged can be painfully encoded, as if it were your own experiences. We see this on social media all the time. If you see someone you admire or identify with speak up on a topic that creates strong negative reactions towards them, then your brain can translate that as don’t speak up. It’s not safe, even though you were simply witnessing the experience of another person.
So it doesn’t even have to be happening directly to you.
If you watch it happening to someone else, sometimes the effect of that can be to stifle your own personal evolution as well. And this is all to say that judgement is unavoidable. We’re doing it all the time.
And we can’t avoid it because it’s wired into our DNA, not just for information processing purposes, although that’s exactly why we desperately need it, and we don’t want to get rid of it, but also for survival.
And if you thinking hold on Beck, calm down, Surely it’s not life or death here. Then you’re right.
It’s not necessarily life or death in 2020. But it once was life and death when our ancestors were out roaming the savanna in tribes and clans. If your clan judged you and your behaviour and your contributions positively, it ensured that you had access to the clans resource like food, and shelter, information and protection, a positive judgement meant that you belong, it meant that you were safe.
If the clan judgement of you was something you did as negative, then the risk is that you’d be banished or worse killed. A negative judgement back then meant I’ve been rejected. And once upon a time being rejected, would deprive you of access to the clans resources, which was very unhelpful for long term survival.
Our internal fear system
So in summary, being judged positively from other people is encoded in our brain says, Oh, I’m safe. I belong and being judged negatively by other people. Is this fear? Oh, my goodness, I’ve been rejected. And our fear system in our brain lights up as if to say, Oh my goodness, alert, alert. I’m unsafe. Now even though that might not be practically true. It’s still true for our DNA.
So fair enough, right? You’re thinking Beck, I get it. I can’t stop judging. But I don’t want other people to judge me. So how do I stop that? That’d be a pretty good question. If you’re asking that, if you accept at this point that you’re judging, but your biggest question is, how on earth do I stop other people judging me, then I get it? Because that’s usually the question that I get asked most when it comes to fear of judgement.
And this is where our brains are curious little creatures who like to apply double standards just when it suits them. Thank you very much. And the result is accepting that we judge but still seeking a solution to stop others judging us because it hurts. It really does.
And I wish I had an answer here that could make your brain feel safe and comfortable, because that’s exactly what it’s seeking.
But I don’t, because I can’t turn off thousands of years of evolution and the fact that yours and my brains still utilise that prehistoric software around belonging, and information processing.
What we need to talk about is how we deal with the fear of how others will judge us, rather than pretending that we can simply delete that fear file from the cabinet of scary things in our heads. So the fear of being judged is here to stay.
How do you make sure it doesn’t stop you from creating, showing up and contributing to the world as only? You can?
Good question. And that’s what I’m going to cover with you in part two of this episode.
Go and jump over to episode number five as soon as it’s up, because that’s where we’re going to look at exactly how you do that exactly how you make sure that it’s not stopping you from putting yourself and your work.
Can your creations and your contributions out into the world exactly and only as you can.
What you can do right now
But if you can’t wait, I get it. If judgement is really playing a part in holding you back right now and you can’t wait, and you want to get a handle on the fear of judgement right now, right here, thank you very much. Then jump into the show notes because I’m going to link to my masterclass on impostor syndrome to help you find relief from the feelings of not being good enough. The masterclass is an hour long and it’s packed with valuable tips on harnessing courage and overcoming fear. It’s a really, incredibly important hour that you’ll spend, where you actually look at how these types of fears can affect our sense of worthiness as human beings. And it’s free. So jump into the show notes, and there’ll be a link there where you can register for the masterclass now, and I’ll catch you for episode number five for part two of, oh my goodness, what will they think of me? And I going to talk about exactly what to do about it.
Lovely ones. Thank you so much for listening to Hello, Rebecca Ray. If you’ve got something meaningful for this episode, the most meaningful thing you can do is to leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast.
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