"If you can't say anything positive, don't say anything at all." That was my mother's mantra as I was growing up, and I suspect others heard the same words of wisdom from their parents too.
It is a good rule to live by, but the trouble is that often the conversation is with yourself, and the unkind thoughts and words are from you and your inner critic. We are our own worst enemies.
I am working on a book, Enough, on why women don't feel good enough and how we can change this perception. As part of our research, my co-author Amy Hunter and I sent out a survey.
From our preliminary interviews with women, we'd learned that women often experience self-doubt when they feel judged or overwhelmed. So in our survey, we wanted to explore these findings further. We asked the women if they felt judged and if yes, by whom?
Of the 206 surveys returned, not only did over 75 percent say that they felt judged, but when identifying the biggest culprit, 70 percent said themselves. As one woman admitted, her self-doubt spin is a well-oiled machine, ready to kick into action at any time.
The trouble is that we are often comparing ourselves with others, and in our eyes, we fall short. Or perhaps there has been a history of comparisons since childhood, when your sister was the bright one, and you were just the pretty one.
But it is that negative, internal chatter that can get in our way, and cause us to lower our expectations of ourselves. You get scared to make mistakes, so you don't take any risks. Staying safe isn't necessarily the answer, changing your view of yourself and seeing yourself as a capable, caring person is.
It is a vicious cycle. As one woman shared "being judged, evaluated, scrutinized, throws me into a state of anxiety, insecurity and fear of losing my job. It is very difficult to perform my best when I am fearful."
Yet several women acknowledged that if they stepped out of their heads, the judgment wouldn't exist. Is it because we overthink stuff? We certainly seem to value and give credence to what others think, rather than trust ourselves. Part of it may be, as one woman suggested, that we've confused confidence with conceitedness.
And certainly when I was growing up, you definitely didn't brag, boast or toot your own horn. It might have been better all round if we had, but then in the popularity race, none of us liked the "stuck-up girls with airs and graces." No passing judgments here☺
And we certainly didn't want to be viewed/judged as one. Let's face it, women are often the worst offenders of judging one another. As one woman said "There seems to be a sense of judgment in working in an all-female environment. It is not always supportive as it feels competitive as each person wants to move ahead."
While we can't control what others think of us, what we can control is how we react. So how do we get over this fierce judgment we place on ourselves? Part, I am sure is letting go of perfectionism, lowering our expectations and realizing if you have done your best, that should be enough. I know, easier said than done.
It would appear however, that with age, comes clarity as several of the older women admitted that as they aged, they cared less about what other people thought of them. As one woman remarked "it is not my business what others think of me, if I am caring and sharing in my daily contacts, I like to think I'm doing my best."
And not everyone did feel judged. Twenty-five percent were confident in themselves, and as one respondent observed, you have to look at the source. "If someone is judging me, it is really about them, not me." Good point.
Paulo Coelho says "every time you judge yourself, you hurt yourself." Let's stop the hurting.
Maybe mother knows best. Thinking and being positive is the way to go -- in how we view others, and just as important, how we view ourselves.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: