I’m afraid of judgments and criticisms, real or imagined. I take them hard, at their face value, and I carry them with me, forever.
- 17 years ago a kid on my school bus said I looked different (not in those words, of course), and I still believe I look different, in the exact same way.
- Ten years ago a classmate said I was stupid because I couldn’t verbalize my thoughts, because of my anxiety. Now, whenever I have trouble connecting with my thoughts, I tell myself I’m stupid.
- Two years ago a co-worker said I wasn’t approachable because I never smile. To this day, I still feel like I’m unapproachable, in every single situation, and I put immense pressure on myself to smile.
To me, all judgments are objective truths. I know that sounds irrational–and it is–but sometimes my logic is irrational.
In a Star Trek episode I watched today, Data found it puzzling that human beings feel the need to compete with one another. Counselor Troi clarified by saying, “Humans sometimes find it helpful to have an outsider set the standard by which they’re judged.”
“To avoid deceiving oneself,” Data said.
That’s exactly how I feel. The way I see myself is based not only on actual judgments, but on how I believe people perceive me. I use imagined, or hypothetical, judgments to paint a picture of myself, so I don’t deceive myself. They keep me in check, and they fuel my perfectionism.
I don’t want to be judged so I visualize how people could judge me in a given situation, and then try to “correct” my behavior so I don’t fall prey to those very judgments.
What’s more, more often than not, “correcting” my behavior means mimicking how others act. I need to fit in so bad because I don’t want to be judged, I can never be who I am. I can never be me. I just stay in the background, avoiding people and keeping my mouth shut.
Finally, this form of thinking–trying to guess future judgments–takes me out of the present moment and causes undue anxiety. By not being present, and instead focusing on the future, I take myself out of a non-threatening situation (because these thoughts usually come when I’m either doing nothing or something mundane) and put myself into an anxious, hypothetical situation, which causes anxiety and stress that would not be there.