"But what will people think?" Don't let judgments hold you back.
Updated: Sep 27
But what will people say?
Is this thought, or some version of it, holding you back from making a shift in your career?
This is so normal. Frustrating, but normal. Humans are designed to want to fit in, both as an evolutionary need for survival and for a sense of belonging, which is essential to our wellbeing and happiness.
Our desire to fit in with the status quo is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
It’s easy to tell ourselves that what other people think should make no difference in what we want and how we live our lives but knowing this doesn’t help with the dread we feel when we think other people are judging us, talking behind our backs, or thinking poorly of us.
But as powerful as these worries may be, you don’t have to let them stop you from making a change.
Here are a few of the ways I work with my clients to help them get past this block:
1. Consider the people closest to you - usually they are the ones whose opinions matter the most - and challenge your assumptions.
Do they actually think negatively of you?
Could it be possible you’re making assumptions about what they're thinking or misinterpreting what they said?
I had a client who wanted to leave her steady, corporate job but worried about what her parents would think because they had helped pay for her post-secondary education and had emotionally supported her throughout her career.
When she stopped to challenge the assumption that they would be unhappy with her decision to make a change, she realized it was very unlikely that they would be anything other than supportive, especially considering they had never seemed unsupportive of her decisions in the past.
Pausing to challenge her assumption that they would disapprove also reminded her that her own father had shifted career tracks mid-life to pursue entrepreneurship and she was able to let this block go.
If someone you love has said something that felt hurtful, what would be a different way to interpret what they said or did? Could it be possible they are just showing their care? That this may be more about their desire to protect you from potential harm?
What examples can you call to mind of times your loved ones have shown support? How can you make these front and center in your mind each time you worry about judgments?
2. Downplay the voices of others (or your interpretations of what they're saying) of those who don’t matter so much.
You’ve just identified the people whose opinions matter most and are working on ways to shift your perception so you can see them as more supportive.
So who is left? Who are “they” anyway?
How much energy are you using up on worrying about the opinions of those who don’t matter? How is this detracting from the work you want to be doing and the kind of attitude you want to be fostering? What kinds of energy shields can you create to buffer real or imagined judgments?
3. When you worry about “what other people will think”, what are you taking it to mean about yourself?
Usually the things we’re worried other people are saying are the things we believe to be most true about ourselves.
For example, it’s been an on and off again struggle for me to get past what I think others might be saying about the fact that I'm a life coach. Sometimes I imagine they’re saying things like: life coaching is dumb. Life coaching isn’t serious. Life coaching doesn’t work. No one takes you seriously.
Really, these worries show me what I'm thinking about myself. That I’m dumb. That I’m not serious. That my coaching doesn’t work.
Being aware of those thoughts allows me to challenge them. Because when I'm not plagued by fear and insecurities, I know I’m not dumb and that my coaching does work, which leads me to the next tip:
4. Be and Believe in yourself.
I know this is easier said than done but we have to challenge our own inner critic. A great way to do this is to keep a success journal.
In mine, I write down all the positive things that have resulted from my coaching, like: the clients I've helped and how, the positive feedback I get from clients, the comments I receive from family about how happy I seem and the pride they feel of me, and the comments from friends about how I inspire them.
Then, when I start to question myself, I can look at this visual proof that I’m actually doing awesome.
It will also help buffer if you're working on being as YOU as you can be. Do more of the things that make you feel good about who you are. Minimize opportunities for social comparison or where your ability to create boundaries around social comparison is weakened.
For example, watch your social media comparisons and notice what's going on for you when time spent on social media leaves you feeling bad about yourself. Often, we look to social media to give us a confidence boost when we're feeling vulnerable or insecure. If social media leaves you feeling worse, try a different strategy to make you feel better - like reviewing all the positive actions you have taken in your journey thus far.
5. Come up with a strategy or mindset shift you can practice to deal with others' judgments.
But first, it’s important to recognize that believing others are judging you is YOUR interpretation of what they’re saying or doing. Whether they are or aren’t judging you isn’t the point, it’s how you decide to receive their words and behaviours.
To help you release the assumption that they’re judging you and/or to lessen its effect on you, come up with a visualization or mantra to use in the moment. I actually picture words and eye rolls sliding off my imaginary raincoat.
Sometimes, I'm also strong enough to consider where this judgmental person is at in their life and why my actions threaten them. This can even bring me to a place of compassion for them where I accept that they’re just at a different place in their minds or life journey than I am and that’s ok. I’m on a different playing field.
You might never be able to let go of what other people are thinking or saying about what you're doing and that's ok. Just don't let it stop you from doing it anyway. You are here to be you and to live your purpose. Don't let anything stop you. Especially not those who aren't living theirs.
And if you need help with this (which you might if the judgments are coming from someone close to you - because those are hardest to release), give me a call and we'll coach through it.