Yep. You’re Weird.

Most people think that the biggest fear that most people have is public speaking. I propose that the biggest fear isn’t necessarily public speaking, but something about public speaking that is at the heart of the biggest fear: being judged. There’s nothing inherently scary about speaking into a microphone in front of a group of people. In fact, all that’s happening is one individual’s voice is being broadcast over an electronic amplification device. Indeed, what is scary isn’t speaking in front of people: it’s a fear of what those in the audience will think. It’s a fear of being judged.

This fear of being judged doesn’t just apply to public speaking. It shows up in all areas of life: At work, at home, in the bedroom, or a social outing. In fact, where there is potential of interacting with another human, there is almost always a fear of being judged.

That’s all well and good, you may say. What difference does it make? Let me share a story from one of my coaching sessions to illustrate. A man in his early 40’s came to me because he wanted to start his own business after several years in Corporate America. He had plenty of savings, a solid business idea, and everything that most entrepreneurs struggle obtaining. Although he couldn’t identify it, something was blocking him from moving forward. After using a specific process, I was able to help him identify what was stopping him: he was afraid of being judged by his peers and his family. When I pointed this out to him, he replied, “Okay, I can see that. I’m definitely afraid of what other people will think. What if they judge me?”

My reply startled him. I said simply, “Well, we can settle this question easily. I promise you, when your peers, family and friends are definitely going to judge you.” He looked at me incredulously. “I thought you said this was a good idea?” he said. I assured him that I did think it was a good idea, and told him he could quit wondering if people were going to judge him, because he could count on it. Whether they agreed or disagreed with him, I promised him that they were going to judge him.

After letting him sit for a moment with a perplexed look on his face, I decided to throw him a bone. “Yes, they’re going to judge you. Now that that’s settled, so what? Now what? What are you committed to?” A smile crept across his face and he laughed gently. He got it. Often, I encourage my clients to stay in a question without coming to any sort of answer. Based on the Socratic method, inquiry can keep someone from getting stuck or hung up on any sort of conclusion. It suspends judgment and allows a sort of internal brainstorming. This “remaining in the inquiry” is helpful in almost any situation, I’ve found. The question, “will they judge me?” however, is an exception. I don’t recommend my clients spend much time in this inquiry. Accepting the answer of “yes” is one of the most freeing things one can do if this is the fear!

The next time you find yourself caught up in fear that someone will think you’re weird, crazy, or different because of an idea, plan or possibility that you’ve imagined for yourself, stop. Chances are, you’re right — they’ll think you’re weird, crazy or different.So what, now what? What am I committed to? You may be surprised at how easy it is to move forward.

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Jeremy Savage, MA, LPC

2727 Bryant St. #104
Denver, CO 80211

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