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What to do when you feel judged by people around you

“Rosie can’t come because she is working.” 

“Jane is such a bore these days, all she wants to talk about is work.” 

“She’s just antisocial….” 

“I could NEVER work five days a week. My kids need me”

When was the last time you heard any of these things said? Or implied? Or maybe you thought them…


Last week I explained why, when we start a new job (or even think about it), people around us may get a little bit judgemental and we might start judging ourselves. Now we are going to look at how we can work WITH our minds to preserve relationships we value, take the steps towards our goals we want to take and protect ourselves from the pain of work related shame. Revisit the last blog here if you missed it.

How can we help ourselves and keep our judgey friends? 

The good news is that once we realise why people are really judging us, and why we are saying such mean things to ourselves, the judgements kind of lose their power. For example, if you are planning to return to work after being at home, supporting your spouse, you might well be having some judgemental thoughts about yourself as a partner or a mother. You might also encounter some other people who judge you for taking on employment.

Based on what we know about the purpose of those judgemental thoughts, what does that mean about YOU? 

Not much! It is all pre-programmed junk from our evolutionary past. How liberating is that?!

Compassion is partly about walking around noticing when the threat system has taken charge of our thinking and other peoples’ thinking. Sometimes we call this noticing the “monkey mind”. When we see that it is just “monkey mind” thinking going on we are in a better place to step back from it rather than letting it hurt us so deeply. 

Step one: Reassure the monkey. Now we know that judgemental behaviour only happens when we feel under threat our first step should be to activate our soothing systems. In the last blog series we practiced balloon breathing which is a very effective way of bringing your parasympathic nervous system in to help you. Once you have done this for yourself you can then try and reassure others that you don’t pose a threat to them. If you want to preserve relationships with people who are being judgemental the best way to reduce their threat system is to ask them genuine questions about their lives, listen to their struggles and offer empathy and help where you can. Receiving support like this disarms the threat system and if their threat system calms down they won’t feel the need to judge you. 

Word of warning. Some people are struggling far more than it appears on the surface. If someone is persistently judgemental towards you despite your best efforts you may need to take a break from them for your own mental health. You can’t always fix it for someone if they aren’t helping themselves. Hopefully knowing that the situation is not really about you will make this slightly less painful but it is very natural to feel sad about it.

Step two: Befriend the monkey. I hope this blog has shown you that our minds are trying to help us out here, even when they are sending us horrible thoughts about ourselves or making us judge other people like “mean girls”. The best way to get the monkey mind to calm down when it is stuck in judgement mode is to be kind to it. If you can notice your judgemental thoughts with a smile, thank the monkey for its attempt to help you and just note them down in a journal or in your phone notes they will become the ramblings of a misinformed friend. They might still annoy you, but they won’t have the power to make you feel ashamed any more. 

Step three: Give the monkey a better life (I’m stretching the analogy here!) The key to overcoming the judgement of others long term is pride in your life. People who say they don’t care what others think about them are lying (or robots). You will always care what other people think. BUT when we feel confident that we are living life in line with our values we are much less likely to feel deeply wounded by the judgement of others and we are also less likely to turn the judgemental voice on ourselves. I know my worries that I am a bad mum sting a lot less on days when I had had feedback from therapy clients that I helped through their darkest moments. It can take some time but allowing yourself the headspace to map out what really matters to you and your family can be helpful here. In the last blog I talked about setting your family rules and priorities. Check in with these regularly and keep a note of your goals for your future too. Knowing that you are working FOR something will give you an emotional shield when others criticise you for your choices. 

I hope that has given you some action to take if you notice you are judging yourself or other people are judging you harshly. All of the techniques that we introduced in our previous blog series on anxiety will also help you to deal with the strong emotions that being judged brings up for us so if you are struggling go back through those and pick a few techniques to try every day, starting with balloon breathing.