There’s a reason most therapists want to emphasize a nonjudgmental stance with clients: it’s because fear of being judged/criticized/rejected is a POWERFUL deterrent to connection, transparency, growth and action. Being judgmental can damage relationships; fear of judgment keeps us small and contained. So as therapists, we want to generate as little of this dynamic as possible.
Yet I hear it sometimes: clients voicing worry about what I’m thinking or how I’m perceiving them. They say things like “I probably sound crazy to you” or “You must think I’m nuts” or “You’re probably thinking, ‘this girl has lost it’” or “I feel bad dumping all this on you.” It’s natural to get caught up in how others might see us.
But I’m here to reassure you that I have a lot of practice parking my opinions at the door. First of all, I truly believe that what’s right for one person (i.e. me) may not be what’s right for someone else (i.e. you), and that’s OK. That’s to be expected. When I’m working with you, I keep close in mind your values and priorities — not mine. I can set mine aside for an hour at a time.
I also approach my work with the idea that, by and large, we are all doing the very best we can. That’s not to say that people can’t improve or change, or expand their capacity for love or thoughtfulness or vulnerability — it’s just to say that in any given moment, we work with what we’ve got. I’m not here to impose my idea of happiness or peace or fulfillment on my clients. I’m not here to label you. And since I see therapy is a collaborative process, my primary job is to listen, reflect, and help you clarify what you want and the best way FOR YOU to get where you want to go.
I’m also of the mindset that any judgment has more to do with the person judging than with the person who is being judged. As humans, we often project our insecurities, fears, uncomfortable feelings onto others. As a human myself, of course I’m susceptible to this. So if a judgmental thought crosses my mind and persists, I ask what this might say about my own stuff — it’s a sign that I have some work to do.
Fear of judgment is huge. It prevents people from pursuing their dreams, taking risks in relationships, asking for what they want, and sometimes, seeking their own therapy.
You may not be able to control exactly what others think of you, but you can work on turning the volume down on the fear. It’s possible to care a bit less about what others think so that you get more of what you need and want. And therapy should be a safe place for you to practice letting go of that fear — to be who you are, imperfections and all 💜