Are You Being Jugded by Others?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Kevin Ryan MBACP (Accredited)
27th January, 2011
The youngest is screaming the house down while your other two are doing their best to beat him on the decibel level. You feel that you too want to shout to drown out the sounds of the others. You know that you need help, but there is something inside stopping you asking. You are caught in the shame trap.
Often the fear of the judgement of others will stop us taking action or even worse taking an inappropriate action. This fear of losing face can be disastrous. The knowledge that you are not coping with your shrieking children can leave you with the extreme discomfort of being pulled in two directions at once. Part of you knows that you will have to reach out for help, but part of you also fears the judgement of the person that you reach out too. Asking your mother for help for a few hours is paramount to telling her that you are a rubbish parent. Asking a professional, like a health visitor, is asking them to judge your parental competency.
For many, asking for help can be seen as a sign of weakness. To be strong is to carry on, seeking the inner strength to do it by yourself. This mistaken belief can be a solitary road, as struggling alone will not improve the situation and you run around in guilty circles, blaming yourself for not managing. The misconception is that you are judging others in the belief that they are going to judge you, as if by magical thinking you know their thoughts and feelings before they do. How reasonable is that faulty thinking? Your mother wants to help and may have been through the same situation when you were a child. She is more likely to offer empathy not judgement. The health visitor, as a professional, has seen this situation a hundred times before, it does not faze her, and she is there to help.
Furthermore, does it really matter what others think. It is you that needs the help now. Ask yourself if the pain of losing a little pride now is better than the pain of the situation growing out of your control. Short term pain can lead to long term gain.
This misplaced combination of pride and shame, moreover, leads to a misinterpretation of other’s actions. Have you even left a parents-evening disheartened, feeling that it has been one long session of criticism of your child and by default, you. The teacher is telling you what areas your child can progress, offering this information as a positive way of developing potential, but you are receiving it as criticism of your parenting. In the space between you and the speaker the words are transformed from positive to negative. That is how your gremlins of losing face, misplaced pride and fear of judgement are perceiving them. These invisible blocks can lead to useful advice being ignored or even worse actively rejected. Here you can become frozen, repeating the same inappropriate action, while ignoring information that could improve the situation.
If you are with someone who is offering help or helpful advice and you find something within yourself resisting their words, ask yourself, is it them or is it me? This resistance can be embarrassment, shame or anger, but try mentally standing back and look at their motivation. Are they acting in your best interests? What would be the consequences of ignoring their advice? Is the voice inside of your head that sees criticism in their words reasonable? It is not what is said, but how we perceive what is said.
If you are in a situation where you feel that you cannot face another person for fear of their judgement, look for more impersonal ways of getting help. The internet is a great source of impersonal information or you can use telephone help-lines. Help-lines allow you to receive help and advice, without the other’s psychical presence. The disembodied stranger can feel less judgemental than someone standing in front of you. Seeing and being seen, many feel can leave them open to judgement.
Yet ultimately, you need to conquered your fear of other’s judgements, if not conquered than know how to interpreted and question these irrational anxieties. The first step is to step over your fear of judgement and reach out to someone else.
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