Do you believe that other people are judging you? Many clients report to me that they experience heightened anxiety in social situations, at the gym, walking down the street, making a presentation at work, or going out on a date, to name just a few examples. Their ironclad assumption is that other people are negatively analyzing, critiquing, and judging their behavior, appearance, and overall presentation to the world.
Daily Energy Allotment
We begin each day with a finite amount of energy. This energy is utilized to propel us through our responsibilities and activities. It is an extremely valuable commodity that allows us to concentrate on what matters to each of us as unique individuals. As our energy flows through our mind/body connection we are able to absorb ourselves into our work, parenting, relationships, dreams, problems, vacation planning, what we are going to have for dinner, as well as everything and anything that is meaningful in our life experience. It does not occur to the overwhelming majority of people to drain any of their precious energy allotment for the purpose of engaging in a mean-spirited breakdown of how some else looks, acts, or behaves.
The Judging Paradox
So who is judging who? I was working with a client recently, a bright young professional woman, who has been convinced since childhood that everyone she encountered was judging her harshly. She was preparing for an important marketing presentation and was obsessively fearing how the audience would think she was incompetent, unattractive, and in her words, “a complete loser.” I took the opportunity to share with her that as she gave her presentation the man in the first row would be thinking about his son’s little league game; the woman next to him would be wondering if her husband remembered to pick up kitty litter; the man in the second row would be worrying about paying his mortgage; the woman across the aisle was having an affair; the man next to her was lost in a daydream about his upcoming trip to Cancun………And unless she started doing back flips and speaking in German people wouldn’t have any desire to judge her. I went on to emphasize that she just wasn’t that important to the audience, she wasn’t any more than a blip on the radar screen of their work day. She certainly didn’t qualify as someone who they would feel the need to negatively critique. So I posed the question, “So who is judging who?” For the remainder of the session we processed that she was unwittingly and unintentionally JUDGING the people that she irrationally believed were judging her. I explained that most people are actually good, thoroughly unconcerned with cruel and petty criticisms. She was thus, in essence, making a judgment that people were judging her! I pleasantly inquired if she routinely engaged in a negative, mean-spirited analysis of people she encountered throughout her journey in life. She began to understand and integrate that it was simply her anxiety attempting to keep her down. She embraced that she was a member in good standing with the human race, and the same rules for everyone else applied to her. Her homework, which she readily accepted with a laugh, was to “Stop being so judgmental!”