The Fear Of Being Judged

October 1, 2015

Hey there friends! OK so let’s talk about being judged because we all hate it right? But first, a little bit about why I am stuck on this topic at the moment… I recently watched a film called Dior and I, have you seen it too? Wasn’t it so inspiring? It’s the story of Raf Simons’ premiere couture collection at the house of Christian Dior. I was surprised and equally inspired by Simons – especially that he doesn’t sketch and that he didn’t speak a lot of French when he first started at Dior. I remember how held back and limited I felt when I first moved to Germany and today, how I still feel limited because I’m not fluent yet, so this film inspired me to see that the goal for Simons was simply to communicate in whichever way he could – translators, collaging images to show a final look he’d envisioned, broken French, French and English combined, through lots of mood boards, facial expressions, hand gestures… Even tears. Whatever worked, he did it. He communicated in many cases, beyond language.

The Fear Of Being Judged

So much of communication is visual and also “felt” through touch or the way someone looks at you, don’t you agree? Hand gestures, body language and eye contact are what you first rely on before learning a language but even during. When people get intimidated because they can’t speak a language fluently they should remember that communication is the single goal regardless of how that is accomplished. Get your message through no matter what! Who cares who judges you with your bad accent or horrible grammar? Just speak!

Lots of bloggers ask me if they should write their posts in their mother tongue and in English to reach more readers. I always say yes, do it. And then the next question usually is, “Do I still write in English if my English is not good?”, and I still say yes, because it will get better the more you write, it’s endearing to others to see you writing in another language despite the grammatical errors, and communicating is the goal, not perfectly, just honestly.

I said this last week about my photography, but by putting ego aside tasks become so much more enjoyable and the perk is, you learn faster. I agree with this more each day, to sometimes place the ego aside, and just let your heart take you. While I’ve never been egotistical, I definitely held myself back at times when I felt “not good enough” at something. I was afraid of judgement.

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t this way when I lived in America.

This fear of judgement only occurred after I moved to Germany and slowly started to see how cultural it is to be suspicious, envious and to fear judgement. There is also this deep-seated desire to be seen as great at everything which can be so limiting and even simple-minded in my eyes. I slowly absorbed the local “fear of judgement” which caused me to be less free-spirited, more guarded, and quite anxious that friends would envy me if I did do very well at something.

During the times when I place ego and fear of judgement aside and just jumped, I generally have the most fun and ended up finding the most success. My new attitude has been to say, “Screw it”, when ever I get too hung up on what others think of me.

Another great thing about following your inner truth, or voice, is that you attract the right people to you and friends who really love you for who you are. I am working backwards in many ways now to try to get back to being the me that I was before relocating to Germany. I know I live here but I want to go back to my free-spirited ways when I didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought and I certainly didn’t care if someone judged me.

I want to laugh and live and not conform or be someone I’m not. I also have a little boy now to set an example for and children can quickly tell whether mommy and daddy wear two different faces.

I really loved when Simons’ was being interviewed during a car ride to Belgium and he was asked about his work in ready to wear Men’s fashion and how much of a minimalist he is, that the general idea was that he wouldn’t fit the House of Dior with such a minimalist aesthetic. He sheepishly grinned and said that those people need to wait until his first show, then they could judge him, because he’s actually not a minimalist at all just because he worked for some brands that were.

When gorgeous dresses merged with walls of flowers at his show, it was evident who was right and who was wrong. It was evident that those who judged him needed to adjust their view. It was also clear that judgement from others’ wasn’t going to bring him down.

I’m not shy and quiet, reserved or understated. I am bold but tactful, clear but loving. I like being the life of the party. I like communicating my ideas in any way that I can – gestures, smiles, laughter, broken German, English and German, tears, hugs, a gentle hand squeeze with eye contact, and sometimes very clear and good German. In the end, judgement from others will never stop me. We all need to work at becoming a bit more unstoppable don’t we? Just go for stuff and stop worrying about what people will think. What would Beyonce do? Right?!

Screw them. She’d say that and Raf Simons would say that and most people out there who have success say that. Sure, there is always this fear of failing or whatever, but the fear of NOT trying has to be stronger. The fear of being judged can never be so strong that you don’t bother trying.

So yeah, screw people who say you can’t, question you, ask why you would bother, challenge your belief in self.

Feels kind of bad to say that but also really good, doesn’t it?

How does judgement from others affect your life? Is your culture generally supportive of free-spirits and creatives or a little skeptical? Does your family or do your friends tend to hold you back at times? Does fear of judgement hold you back? What has helped you to push beyond fear?

(image: holly becker for decor8)




  • Reply Hannah Stephenson October 1, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    I loved this post!! I also adored that documentary…I loved seeing how thoroughly Simons researched his own inspiration and vision. It gave his work such OOMPH and validity–there was a real certainty in the work that came through beautifully.

    As a poet, it’s taken me years to feel more confident in my work (and not hang my self-worth on what others think of what I do). Interestingly, I value helpful criticism more and more….not just criticism or feedback from anyone, but from those who “get” my work or whose opinions I value. Upon getting feedback now, I feel that I have a stronger vision for my work, so I can determine what is and isn’t helpful. In younger days and grad school workshops, group critiques were fun, but sometimes very confusing to me. At that time, I couldn’t separate my people-pleasing tendencies from my sharper editor’s eye.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  • Reply Phylecia Sutherland October 1, 2015 at 11:38 pm

    This: “I know I live here but I want to go back to my free-spirited ways when I didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought and I certainly didn’t care if someone judged me.”

    I’m American and have lived in England now for 6 years and have absolutely felt these exact emotions. Since moving here, I’ve become a wife, mother, business owner so could never pin down why I felt this fear of what other’s thought. Was it all the new responsibilities? Was it insecurities? Was it this underlying tension towards Americans that people ‘tease’ about? Was it a fear of standing out? All so weird, that I started to feel the fear about every thing. I used to be dominant, loud, talk too much but never “noticed”. Then I started to feel my presence. In work, I used to be an over achiever, but then started to feel I didn’t want to outshine anyone, because people were ‘negative’ and ‘moany’. (but I’ve now started my own business so that’s not an issue) I noticed I stopped wearing really bright colours, because everyone wore black to work, etc. I stopped wearing heels, so I wasn’t the woman that stood out. There’s so many I could list off but short of writing an essay here, I love this post and totally identify. In the past year or so, I started thinking “screw it” and started to wear my super bright, totally preppy American outfits. I wear my heels more often. I over dress when I want to. There are so many aspects that adjusting to a new country can weigh down on you, or at least for me it did. Specifically, the weather and being away from my family. So, self-inflicted fears are no help! My husband has helped in encouraging me to be bold and bright. Since starting my business, I’ve made other creative, business-owner friends who are just as loud and full of life as I can be, and that’s helped me peel back the years of fear I’ve layered on. And finally, to think that every day is a gift and tomorrow is not promised means that I have to actively choose not to waste another minute moping around or hiding or being afraid. That said, it is still a struggle, there will always be little insecurities, but I have to keep my eye on the much, much bigger picture. :)

    Longest blog comment ever! Oopsie! Loved this post!

  • Reply iHanna October 2, 2015 at 12:42 am

    I am now so used to writing in another language (english) than my own, that I don’t hesitate or judge myself as much as I did when I started blogging over 10 years ago – but I do stop myself when I want to talk, scope, and make videos, to be seen and heard – I limit myself in fear of other’s judgment but maybe it is mostly in my own head? I need more of your Screw that attitude Holly!

  • Reply kinga October 2, 2015 at 4:39 am

    Oh Holly,
    I just love this post. Its really resonating with me. I spoke at a public input meeting in our regional council chambers yesterday…Along with a group of concerned parents, teachers, and citizens I am advocating for Our Children’s Centres (pre-schools) which the region funds and could potentially close. I was so nervous and and the energy in the room was intense. By the time I reached the podium I was an emotional wreck. There’s nothing like getting emotional while presenting to government. Since then I have agonized over every word I spoke…I should have said that this way and this that way…I shouldn’t have gotten emotional…I shouldn’t have admitted something painful to my regional councillors and a large audience etc. etc. etc. It has me all twisted up! I’m so afraid that I am being judged…right now…this minute, someone is thinking of that “speech” and judging me. But this really helps: SCREW ‘EM! Thank you!

  • Reply Nanci-jean Franks October 2, 2015 at 6:19 am

    I have always been my worst judge and jury…scared of what others thought of me. Then something changed…be it age or a realization that most others are too busy worrying about what I thought of them to actually judge me!! Now I do believe there is a time and a place for certain things, but when I am with my friends and family…I let loose and be silly!! Great post and just be yourself!! As Dr. Seuss said “…no one is youer than you!”

  • Reply Anna October 2, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Hi Holly,
    this post really resonated with me, thanks for your words! I’m Australian, and live in Germany too, (not far from you, I think) and also find myself editing stuff I do/want to do because of judging. I find this a very judgy place actually.
    My dilemma is constant self-censorship – I am a talker and a celebrator, also like being the life of the party and find those traits to be something people here find suspicious. Sometimes I’m just too nice, happy, colourful and helpful for the people around me! Sucks, huh?
    I do have many wonderful and happy, non-judgy people in my life (my husband, for one) but the atmosphere here is just somehow not very joyful or free which I find really dampening to my creative work.
    I’ve been here for a very long time now, and I write/childrear/think in English, though my German’s very good, even after nearly 20 years it’s still somehow hard to get on board with the seriousness, lack of humour, obsession with propriety and seeming need for everything to be “useful” … sigh.
    It was so great to hear you say “screw them”, that’s what I’ve been deciding lately and will endeavour to translate into much less people-pleasing or explaining and more fulfillment of my own plans. And having fun which always ends up in success, as you so wisely pointed out.
    Good luck with it all!
    P.S. we speak 95% English at home, my German spouse too, and the kids (12,14,16) all speak/write great German and English. It’s so important to be free and real with your kids who are soaking everything up like sponges.

  • Reply Susi Seeger October 2, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Hey Holly,
    ich verfolge deinen blog schon seit vielen jahren, ich muss zugeben, dass ich mehr auf deine Fotos achte und wenig gelesen habe.
    dieser beitrag hat mich berührt, denn ich verbringe leider auch viel zu viel zeit damit, darüber nachzudenken, was andere von mir denken ,))
    und schränke mich dadurch oft selber in meinen möglichkeiten ein. mein neues motto ist jetzt: “hör auf zu denken, was andere von dir denken, denn 1. liegst du meistens falsch und 2. geht es dich überhaupt nix an, das ist privatshäre;)) !!! es gibt auch einen guten spruch passend zum thema unsicher sein und und angst zu haben etwas falsch zu machen, der spruch steht in leuchtschrift bei uns in stuttgart am hauptbahnhof, ein zitat von G.W.F. Hegel ( deutscher philosoph aus stuttgart) ” … dass diese Furcht zu irren schon der Irrtum selbst ist.

    ich schätze und bewundere deine Arbeit, das wollte ich dir schon lange sagen, du traust dich viel und machst das ganz wunderbar, und du hast mich schon ganz oft inspiriert, durch dich habe ich angefangen in den tiefen des internets zu versinken, immer auf der suche nach neuen ideen und inspirationen. (ich bin dekorateurin und grafik designerin und süchtig nach schönen dingen und gutem stil;)) es ist nicht einfach in einem anderen Land so erfolgreich zu sein, du machst vielen menschen freude. ich staune auch dass du noch so aktiv bist, trotz kind, das ist nicht immer einfach, habe selber einen 2jährigen sohn, ein kind saugt unsere ganze aufmerksamkeit und zeit auf wie ein schwamm und es bleibt wenig zeit für dich und deine hobbies und interessen;)). mach weiter so, ilovewhatyoudo, liebe grüße, susi

  • Reply In a Trendy Town October 2, 2015 at 11:17 am

    We love these posts, we are from Spain and we write in English too but because one of us is English teacher, but we think you must write in your mother language, so you can express yourself better.

  • Reply elena +deco October 2, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    You are absolutely right, the more you do it the more you learn how to do it. I write my blog in English and in Italian: I am Italian mother tongue, my husband is British, I have lived a few years in London and I am based in Rome now. I often write in English and then I translate into Italian, blogging slowly gave me the confidence (speaking it is easier I suppose, ‘words fly’ as the Romans would say). At the beginning I used to ask Alex to correct my posts.
    I live in a society quite narrow-minded still, for certain aspects. In Italy if you change career, people think you must have failed in your previous one. In some places, working in a pub while studying is considered in certain families a shame, because people could think that the family don’t have enough money to support their children through college. I find it ridiculous but I know things are changing and the mentality is adapting. In this sense travelling is the best form of education, the fact that people now can travel more means that they can see what other people do.
    I have always tried not to care about what other people say and I am still trying. It is a waste of energy and make you lose the focus on what you what to achieve. Still I find difficult to write in my blog about my fears so you have all my respect Holly.
    ‘If there is anything more annoying in the world than having people talk about you, it is certainly having no one talk about you.’ Oscar Wilde.

  • Reply Dodi October 2, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    I can relate to this post because I have three grown children living in another country. When I go to visit, I have a lot of trouble communicating. Just figuring out which bus to take and how to pay the driver is challenging. I miss my kids, so I try–but I’ve definitely seen people snickering at my attempts. Being in that situation has made me much more sympathetic to non-English speakers here in the States. Your photography is beautiful, and I’m looking forward to seeing that film.

  • Reply Myrte de Zeeuw October 2, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    I always feel intimidated by just about everyone, until someone really tries to intimidate me and then I completely feel like I control the situation. For instance approaching new shops. Then have to tell myself that perhaps I have something to offer that they will actually like. The funny thing is that when they are not interested I can get past it pretty okay. No hard feelings. The fear of the hit is worse than the hit.
    We know that people respect other people who do their best and try to speak another language. But still we are afraid to just open our mouths. Last time when I was in Paris and tried to speak French, I was laughed at exactly once by a Brit on the subway who spoke way better French. But all people in restaurants, people in the shops, the hotel, basically everywhere, people responded with a sweet smile. And now I do know how to pronounce Les Halles, so i wasn’t hit very hard :-)

  • Reply Martina October 2, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    Wonderful post, “Another great thing about following your inner truth, or voice, is that you attract the right people to you and friends who really love you for who you are”, that is the point, nothing else really should matter. Thanks for sharing such interesting thoughts.

  • Reply Manu October 2, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    I can’t believe I wrote about the same topic in my blog last night, before reading your post this morning. You speak to my heart in every word. “I’m not shy and quiet, reserved or understated. I am bold but tactful, clear but loving. I like being the life of the party. I like communicating my ideas in any way that I can” >> this is me, but for a while now I’ve been having a hard time proving it. I hate judgmental people, but at the same time I’m the worst judge with myself. Thank you SO much for this post, it made my day. You’re not alone, I’m not alone.
    Screw it! :P

  • Reply Tina October 2, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    I love this post! And I understand what you mean. For me though, it’s the other way around. I’m a German who has been living in the United States for over fours years now and I LOVE the creative and enterpreneurial opportunities that I have here! I’m not a native speaker, I have two little kids and a full-time working husband and no family members to help me out. But: You think you can do it? Then just do it!!! And that’s what I’ve been doing. I do the work.
    I don’t think that I would have the same opportunities if I was still living in Germany…. Not to mention that people would probably judge me, because my kids are in daycare until 4pm every day so that I can do what I love! And I’m not qualified enough to do these translations. And why do I write a blog and put my personal life out there anyway?
    By the way, I write my blog in German and English, chosing the language based on the topic and whatever language is easier for me.
    I really hope that I can bring back this American spirit, this “Screw it, I just do it”-mentality once we return to Germany…
    Thanks again for your ramblings, keep’em coming ;-)

  • Reply Robin October 2, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Great topics — and I will put Dior and I at the the top of my “watch” list. In return, there’s a TV show called “Welcome to Sweden” that you might enjoy. It a summer show on NBC network but so funny watching the American adapt to the Swedish culture. Great decor as well.

  • Reply Sarah October 3, 2015 at 2:16 am

    As I read your comment, I just realized how often I don’t wear heels because I’m afraid people will judge me for “trying”. Haha. That’s it! I’m going to wear my heels whenever I want!

  • Reply Eva from Waldfriedenstate October 3, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Hi Holly,

    Thank you for your open words! This really touched me and I did not even finish your post before commenting. This whole judging crap just annoys me so much. I feel like I hold myself back all the time in the fear of what others think of me and my blog. I also thought about writing my blog in English in addition to German, because – well – the topic is Interior Design from North America and it makes sense, right? I also think that my English is not that bad, because I lived in San Francisco for several years. BUT still I fear that people might comment on my English mistakes and that it looks unprofessional to write in two languages and that my German friends and follower might think that this is too much. Anyway, it is so important to believe in yourself and what you are passionate about.
    So thanks Holly!

  • Reply Nena October 3, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Hi Holly,

    reading this article is like reading my mind… I come from a country where people are so judgemental about everything, they are following all of your moves and periods of your life, they care whether you have succeeded in sth or you have failed and there you go-you have been marked as a loser, or simply being a differnet here is sth bad acc to many people…
    Anyway I’m an English Language teacher and I’m from Macedonia, and I try speaking on English during all of my lessons, and of course there are instances when I don’t know the meaning of some word or its pronunciation, but I still try, though in the eyes of children as well as the grown ups I teach this is a failure… After all I’m not a native speaker so it’s not possible as such to know all the English words and their pronunciation, but this is something they don’t understand.
    I do some translations and recently I’ve started blogging on this site yourhomesecuritywatch. I’ve been writing and editing some articles and I really try to sound as native and natural as I can. Though I know my writing and editing is not perfect still I believe that with more and more writing I will certainly become better.
    Anyway, thanks for the inspirational and motivating post Holly

  • Reply Gabriele October 4, 2015 at 9:38 am

    dear Holly,
    this post is just perfect for me. Usally I even limit myself writing comments because of my English, but screw it! I want to tell you: this post is a great inspiration and help for me. Thank you so much!

  • Reply Martina October 5, 2015 at 12:12 am

    I so much understand what you mean as I experienced too feeling very limited while living in Belgium for 5 years with neither French nor Flemish at the beginning when we moved there. However, this experience showed me that communication is so much more than just language and also you feel if the chemistry is right with people without any language. So, I fully agree with your points.
    Being back in Germany now, after having lived many years in other countries (Australia, England and Belgium) and being married to an Irish guy I see Germany (although I am German) with different eyes. As I am also quite creative I miss very much the charme, the colourfulness and the “lightness” I experienced in other countries and have big problems with conformity, which exists in other places too but maybe more so in Germany and less so in the States. Up to a certain point I don’t care so much what other people think of me (rather nach dem Motto: “jetzt erst recht!”) but I do feel the pressure a bit to do everything I do to a high standard or better not at all. I always thought that was my tendency to being a little bit of a perfectionist but the way you described it, it might also be a German thing. It sometimes feels you need a University degree or whatever education for anything. So, it’s definitely much harder here to change your career than in other countries. I like your tip of putting your ego aside and just going for things very much and I will try that more often in future! Finally, I think keeping your humor and trying to see the funny side of it can help with fear of judgement!

  • Reply Maria October 5, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    I live in Poland and I think polish society is as critical and sceptical as german. It’s unbelievable how many times I wondered in my life if I did something properly, scared to be judged. Just like Phylecia wrote above – if my heels are not to high, if my laugh isn’t to loud, if my promotion won’t take my friends away… I started blogging in english almost 2 years ago and I haven’t made it public yet because I’m so afraid of criticism about my language skills. Obviously since then I’ve made an incredible progress but I’m still not ready for this. There is only few of my friends who know that I’m blogging. I hope that after your encouragement I’ll learn to screw all those criticizers. Thank you for this post! ♥

  • Reply Mj October 6, 2015 at 12:19 am

    I recently watched the documentary too and loved it! I loved his self belief. I’m coming out of a 2yr job where my confidence and self belief has taken a beaten, I’m now trying to set up on my own and find the belief in myself that I can do it. Thanks for your inspiring post and I totally agree, it’s so important to surround yourself with positive, inspiring people who like you for you and screw them if they don’t :)

  • Reply Mnêmosunê October 18, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    I don’t really know if my country is skeptical or if I am the one who hold me back. For sure some of my family members are not very supportive of my choices, but maybe it is my fear that is a problem.
    I would really love to write more, either in my mother tongue or English, in order to improve this skill, and while I’m writting this I just found that I want so bad to be perfect at everything !
    But who is perfect ? Aren’t our imperfections and our qualities that sharpen who we are ?
    And finally, this sentence is the most wonderful objective to convince myself to be the women I am : “Another great thing about following your inner truth, or voice, is that you attract the right people to you and friends who really love you for who you are.”
    Thanks Holly for your kind and bold words.

  • Reply lanyding October 20, 2015 at 4:45 am

    Beautiful flowers, they can bring different feelings to your home.

  • Reply Mary October 23, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I love it! I ´ll trie to write in english in my deco instagram account. “My new attitude has been to say, “Screw it””
    Thanks Holly.

  • Reply August 4, 2016 at 11:47 am

    Hi Holly, thanks so much for opening up on this subject. I could relate to this so well. I moved to Germany from America as well and before America I had to adjust to different types of cultures I lived in. And I noticed the same, in the process of adjusting culturally a part of the real me got a filter. I lived in cultures where it is common to show pride in what you do or who you are and when I moved to Germany I felt I have to hide myself, almost make myself small. My husband is German and explains that this attitude comes from the history, Germans have learnt that pride (also the positive, healthy portion of it) should not be shown. He calls it silent confidence. How we who moved into a culture receive it is differently from how the locals who communicate it. And what you say and what I truly believe that acting from the heart and listening to the own intelligence is the key for not loosing who we are in our core. I had to learn German as well and took the leap of faith to write my blog both in English and in German even if it is not perfect. Because a natural voice is what matters after all.

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