How to Free Yourself from the Discomfort of Feeling Judged

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Unravel the impact of feeling judged on your leadership style and actions. Explore effective methods to shift from reactive behaviors to conscious, mindful leadership.

We judge and we are judged. A lot. While we don’t often realize we’re judging others, we sure do notice it the moment we think they’re judging us. It’s usually a big deal, too… to us.

The Deep-Seated Impact of Perceived Judgement

Quoto: If I believe a person has judged me harshly, it can be easy to perceive that as an attack. But we can turn this around into a more empowered state where we’re able to see if there’s actually any wisdom and truth in what they’ve expressed.

Typically, we react. And it’s rarely pretty. And doing so damages how we’re perceived as a leader. Let’s look at how we can powerfully shift away from this type of impaired leadership, to leading and communicating more consciously. A way that’s a lot easier on us, and on those around us.

When we feel judged, we’re very likely to react defensively, and that reaction could take many forms:

  • We can aggressively push back (“Hey, who the hell are you to judge me!”)
  • We can appear calm and try to prove that we don’t deserve to be judged by trying to turn the tables on the person we think is judging us. (“Is it really me that’s in the way of reaching the goal or might it actually be because you seem to pretty regularly not feel well on Fridays and Mondays and take those days off? Hmm?)
  • Or we can stay silent, but underneath that silence is a “disturbance in the force.” In this case we don’t say anything, but the thought bubble above our head says, “God, I can’t stand this person”. And then we’ll find ways to passive-aggressively dig at them whenever we get the chance.

Each of those options negatively impact our leadership — they’re not good for us or those around us. So how do we shift out of feeling like we need to defend ourselves, and risking blowing up a situation?

The Ripple Effect of Reactions in Leadership

Quoto: When we free ourselves of taking feedback personally, we gain a valuable opportunity to receive a gift through which we may learn more about ourselves, grow and evolve.

If others’ judgments throw us off balance, any reaction we have will be registered by those around us and it rarely makes things better. As CEOs, we model behavior for our teams and our positions place us in the spotlight for all to see.

If we’re frequently reactive when we feel judged, that will set the tone or standard for behavior in our organizations and create a drag on our work environments.

Similarly, being defensive when our board of directors or a major customer judges us about something we’ve said or done is likely to put a strain on our relationship.

In those situations where we react, we’re essentially placing a higher value on how we’re perceived than on what we’re missioned to do in our role as leader.

Deconstructing our Reaction to Judgement

Let’s see what’s really going on in those situations — how we, ourselves, are the ones truly causing us to react when receiving input. And before I forget, it’s important for our empowerment to know that this holds true — that we’re the ones truly causing ourselves to react — even if we ARE actually being judged.

If it appears to me that a person has judged me harshly, it’s not hard to perceive that as an attack if it sounds like one to me. But if we review what happens in slow motion, we can see that there are little gremlins pinching us, causing us to react.

STEP 1: Someone expresses words with some kind of energy, meaning, and intent. An example might be someone saying to me, “Bodhi, you don’t lead well.”

STEP 2: Our senses notice and experience those words and the energy carrying them. This isn’t woo-woo stuff, it’s physics. Our ears hear the word sounds, our eyes see the look the sounds were expressed with, and our bodies feel the energy.

STEP 3: Our brains comprehend what’s been said. The actual meaning of the words. All good so far.

STEP 4: Here’s where things get dicey. Our minds interpret the meaning of what we’ve heard. Here’s where we face the proverbial fork in the road.

One path is to be aware that the communication is a person’s perspective, which may or may not carry seeds of truth or accuracy. With that, we can receive the input as possibly valuable information to assess and reflect upon. And we can respond thoughtfully.

The other path is when our interpretation gets distorted by the old residual pain of unhealed and unresolved mental-emotional wounds. And no matter how much work we’ve done on ourselves, every one of us will still have some unhealed and unresolved pain.

It is when we go down this path that we take what’s been said personally, and it most often leads to some form of reaction.

Becoming a Conscious Leader: Healing Wounds and Embracing Feedback

Quoto: It’s important to not diminish the potential benefit of a person’s input just because it’s their view, or because they deliver it with an emotional charge that’s in some way distorted by their own pain. None of those factors negates the profound and valuable truth that may reside in what they’ve shared.

So how can we hear people’s input neutrally so that we don’t get triggered and become reactive? How do we not grab the things that people express and interpret them filtered through the lens of our old unhealed wounds?

We’ve all been painfully judged in our lives and some of those old wounds have yet to heal. But when a specific wound impairs our leadership and relationships, we had better attend to it.

There are many ways to do this without years of psychotherapy and I work with CEOs to free themselves of these patterns all the time.

Part of being a conscious leader is to do the work necessary to free ourselves from old, unhelpful patterns of thought and behavior. I do see this as a core CEO requirement and hope one day it will be the norm.

Skillful Listening Requires an Expanded Perspective

Another area to address has to do with being more skillful when listening to what people say to us. And it has to do with the space from which we listen.

We can start by recognizing that a person’s view is simply their view. It’s their perception, and that means what they’re saying is more about them than it is about us. This would be easier to remember if everyone spoke more accurately.

Instead of someone saying, “Bodhi, you don’t lead well”, which implies that what they’re saying is about Bodhi, they would say, “Bodhi, I don’t think you lead well.” When said this way, it’s easier to tell that what they’re saying has to do with me, but it’s what they think, and thus, about them.

When I say that it’s not “about me”, what I mean is that it is not about the whole of us as a human being. Making it about ourselves in that way is usually where we get hooked — where we catch ourselves on the end of our own fishing line. But it’s never about the whole of us.

That said, it’s important to not diminish the potential benefit of a person’s input just because it’s their view or because they deliver it with an emotional charge or that it is in some way distorted by their own pain.

None of those things have to mean that there isn’t profound and valuable truth in what they’ve shared.

From Feedback to Growth: The Journey of a Conscious Leader

Quoto: Sure, it would be ideal if all the feedback we received was gentle, thoughtful and clear — but it isn’t. Let’s have gratitude for ALL the insights offered. We never know which one will lead to our greatest growth and evolution --- as a leader and as a human being.

When we as conscious leaders free ourselves from unnecessarily taking feedback personally, we gain a valuable opportunity to receive a gift that can support our learning, growing, and evolving.

Sure, it would be ideal if all the feedback we received was gentle, thoughtful, and clear. But either way, as conscious leaders, let’s have gratitude for all of the insights offered us.

One never knows what will lead to our greatest growth and evolution — as a leader and as a human being.

Unleash your Brilliance as a Conscious Leader

It's my mission to support people in leading with unyielding integrity, clarity, and authenticity. If you'd like to tap into your deeper insight and practical wisdom to lead more powerfully and effectively, feel free to reach out at to set up a time to connect.

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