Fear of negative evaluation

Most of us fear something. You might be afraid of heights or spiders or of speaking in public. We live with many of our fears because we don’t have to face them every day. We can go for weeks or months without coming across a spider or having to climb a ladder or give a presentation. But there is a common fear that can really interfere with day-to-day life and that’s a fear of negative evaluation.

In a nutshell, fear of negative evaluation (or FNE) is a fear of criticism and an inability to cope with anyone thinking badly of you. You might know on one level that it’s not possible for everyone to like you, but you might still find it really hard to cope with not being invited to a party or being ignored by an acquaintance.

In its extreme form, fearing negative evaluation can prevent a person from being assertive, so they tend to be treated badly. It can cause someone to miss out on opportunities because they don’t want to speak up or stand out. It can make them seem really intense because they are forever checking that they haven’t offended anyone. It can even cause people to agree to things that make them feel really uncomfortable or unsafe such as taking drugs or having sex.

To overcome a fear of negative evaluation takes work. You need to slowly learn how to challenge some of the unhelpful thoughts that the fear generates. It’s important to remind yourself that just as you don’t like everyone, everyone will not like you. Learning to stand up for yourself will earn you respect and will increase your confidence. Resisting the urge to call a friend to check that you haven’t upset them in any way will make you feel better in the long run. And to reduce the chance of your children having a fear of negative evaluation, make sure you drum it into them that while it’s important that they treat others well,  they still won’t be liked by absolutely everyone.

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