How To Cope When You Are Feeling Judged

People who live with chronic pain or a chronic illness are often put under scrutiny. Most have felt judged at some time in their lives.

Being Judged is Demoralising

Friends, families, colleagues, doctors, social security and even strangers can all be guilty of judging people who live with chronic pain or illness. It’s not helpful when newspapers and other media lump all chronically ill people together under one heading – lazy benefit scroungers.

Being judged is demoralising and leads people to feel guilty and ashamed. People who live with health conditions should never feel like that. Haven’t they got enough to deal with?

Stop judging and pointing fingers at people with chronic pain and illness

It’s Often a No Win Situation

When people are unhappy and depressed due to their health condition, they are often judged for being moody. Depression often comes along with a chronic illness and can also be caused by medications. People need help and support with this, not judgement.

At the other end of the scale, when people are smiling and trying to stay positive, it’s sometimes suggested that there’s nothing wrong with them. “They obviously don’t have pain if they can smile”
But nobody can see what lies behind their smile. A smile doesn’t mean someone has no pain.

Judges for being moody. Judged for being happy. Flower in vase

Other Judgements That Are Made

The most common assumption made is that a pain or illness sufferer is lazy. After all, they often don’t work, meaning they are at home all day. They might sleep a lot. They might not do much housework. They might not be able to look after their families. So, they’re lazy.

We’d rather not be stuck at home, sleeping the days away. We’d like to have a life.

Many chronic illness sufferers have been told how lucky they are to be able to, “stay at home all day getting money from taxpayers”.

We don’t want to have to claim sickness or disability benefits. We’d rather be working. We’d rather be taxpayers.

People are judged because they have virtually no social life and often let people down when they need to cancel plans.

We want to enjoy life. We want to be sociable. Our pain or illness prevents it. We don’t want to be the unreliable friend who cancels at the last minute.

When they do socialise or do something enjoyable, it’s sometimes presumed that they are fit, healthy and living life to the max.

People don’t realise the effort and energy used for that one outing. They don’t realise the payback we will have afterwards.

Some people are told they don’t try hard enough.

We try. But sometimes our conditions will not allow us to try harder. We’ve had to learn to listen to our bodies and we know that pushing limits will worsen the pain or illness.

Some people are judged for focusing on their health too much.

We focus on it because our pain or illness is normally at the front of our minds day after day. It becomes difficult to shift the focus.

People are often judged for taking medication. Some are even called drugseekers.

Medication makes life more bearable. If people realised the side effects which can come with some of those meds, they’d realise we don’t take them through choice.

Some chronic pain or illness sufferers are told that they are selfish or inconsiderate

Sometimes we have to be. Sometimes we have to put ourselves first.

Some people are told that their pain or illness is their own fault because of their weight or lack of exercise.

Perhaps mobility issues contribute to the weight and lack of exercise. If a doctor suggests dieting or exercise, it should be said with compassion along with the offer of support. Sometimes well-meaning people suggest it, but it comes across as being judgemental. And some people are just rude.

Often people are judged for parking their cars in disabled bays or using disabled toilets because they don’t “look disabled”. They are told they are too lazy to walk or wait in a queue for a toilet.

Disability doesn't have a specific look. Wheelchair, walking sticks, cane, people walking.

Being disabled doesn’t have a specific ‘look’. People of all ages, including children, live with illnesses and painful conditions, many of which are invisible. Nobody knows what another person is dealing with.

Being Judged or Being Nice?

You don’t look sick – this phrase annoys many people who live with chronic pain or illness. But it is often said with good intentions. If someone I know and care about tells me that I don’t look sick or that I am looking well, I take it as a compliment. I really don’t want to look the way I feel.

However, when some people say, “you don’t look sick”, it’s not meant as a compliment. It’s used in a judgemental way and can be interpreted like this:

  • You don’t look sick, why do you sleep so much?
  • You don’t look sick, why aren’t you working?
  • You don’t look sick, why can’t you do more?
  • You don’t look sick, why are you so lazy?
  • You don’t look sick, so you can’t be.
How to cope when you are feeling judged. Judge's gavel.

How to Cope When You’re Feeling Judged

When we’re judged, it hurts. Depending on who is judging, it can hurt a tremendous amount. We shouldn’t let other people’s opinions get us down. But what can we do to make those judgemental comments hurt less?

  • Ignore comments from people who don’t matter to you. Let them think what they want. They are not worth your time or energy. They are not owed an explanation from you.
  • If a close friend or relative judges you, explain to them how you it makes you feel. They need to know that they are hurting you.
  • If doctors or other medical personnel judge you, you should explain to them how they make you feel. Perhaps they have something worthwhile to say, but have a clumsy way of saying it. They should be made aware of that. If they are actually judging you, you should make a complaint.
  • If someone you love tells you that you are looking well and you don’t look sick, thank them. High five yourself for looking good despite feeling awful.
  • Tell the people you love what you need from them. Physical and emotional support will help more than judgement and condemnation.
  • If you judge yourself – it’s bad enough when other people judge you, so don’t do it to yourself. You have pain or an illness which affects so many aspects of your life. You have enough to deal with without judging yourself. Don’t put an extra burden on your shoulders.

Remember This:

  • You didn’t choose this life.
  • You know the truth about your life.
  • Your life is nobody else’s business.
Weights. Self-imposed guilt. People's judgements.

Compassion and Kindness

We often live with self-imposed guilt. We don’t need other people’s judgements.

Whether you are a chronic illness sufferer, or someone lucky enough to live with good health, please think before making harsh judgements. Build people up, rather than knock them down. Showing compassion and kindness is a much nicer way to treat people.

Do you ever feel judged? I hope you don’t let other people’s opinions get you down.
Please leave me a comment below and click the social media buttons to share the post.
Thank you for reading.


42 thoughts on “How To Cope When You Are Feeling Judged

      1. For me, the judgement comes from within. Then every look and silence ehar is not said, i take as judgement. This judgement does motivate me to get up and do when my body is feeling the opposite, but it’s not s positive. Need to break this cycle and find motivation outside of guilt and fear of judgement.


  1. Being judged – or, what is perhaps more commonly the case, the feeling or perception that you’re being judged, is so hard to deal with. I think as well with invisible illnesses and conditions, there’s that extra layer of ‘looking fine’ so others don’t even think or believe how you’re actually feeling inside. They don’t ‘see’ it. Then there’s guilt from doing something enjoyable or smiling, adding another judgement layer. It’s challenging because it can be incredibly demoralising, as you say. Brilliant post that deals with a complex issue, and great suggestions on dealing with it!
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. Thank you for these words, I needed them.
    I have been judged by people I don’t know, which is hard. But it’s judgement from the people we do know that hurts more. I’ve had to learn to let go of the people who have judged me no matter what I do or say. T.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an excellent post. I’ve personally dealt with this, and continue to do so, due to my mental illness. Even when I was suffering from severe IBS last year, I got told that there was nothing wrong and I was overreacting, when in fact I was so close to being hospitalized I still don’t know how I managed not to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. sjd68

    People judge on so many levels. My wife is always good to remind the family that you never know what other people are going through. Given the chance, anyone would prefer not to deal with a chronic illness or pain. I have seen and heard first hand some of these comments made to a person I know who suffers from Lyme disease. “What do you mean you don’t want to go out and you’re tired. You’re always tired” Why yes he is tired! It is frustrating to see but I imagine even more difficult to live.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. These were some really helpful tips on handling judgement and also explaining common phases that people use that are hurtful. Often I think people say it without realising how nasty it is, it’s helpful to have it pointed out.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve experienced this as well from family, co-workers and doctors. It really sucks but I know what I’m going through and that it is real. I guess you just have to let it roll off.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Well where to start on this excellent blog post from both perspectives. It is so true that we do put so much energy into one outing and even doctors say “you don’t look sick” or you are “still smiling”. I love you mention about the moods and depression because I get depressed if I can’t go out because of my physical pain and then get when the physical pain is better I get mentally exhausted because I rush to do everything when there is that tiny bit of energy! To be honest I always feel judged I feel that’s why so many of us work hard to raise awareness 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Trish

    So many people are too fast to leap to negative assumptions about others – it can be exhausting nd damaging living with the weight of other people’s expectations. So important to learn not to carry that burden.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s so important to be kind and to give others the benefit of the doubt. There are so many invisible diseases and others that affect people in ways we can’t even imagine. Each person’s illness is different, and it’s not our place to judge.

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. That’s crazy how people create a specific image when thinking about someone with disabilities! You are so right dear. People should stop treating people with disabilities differently. We all deserve to be treated normal. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. One of my favorite memes on the internet is the one that says “we’re all being judged by someone who isn’t even close to having their sh*t together.” Because it is so true. I ignore it most of the time, but every once in a while, I get annoyed enough to put someone back in their place when they deserve it. That takes time and energy, so I really try to control the anger I have about people like that. I think in today’s world with advancements of the internet, people feel free to just say whatever comes to mind, without censoring it or even considering how hurtful it can be. Which is especially true in cases of people who have the invisible illness. I personally enjoyed this post and will be sharing it, with the reminder to people to just be kind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s best to try and ignore it most of the time, but yes, sometimes you just have to say something, don’t you? I agree about the internet – very often people hide behind computer screens thinking they can say whatever they want and don’t care who they hurt.


  13. It is really so funny. When no one is perfect themselves, they go about judging others. And I just ignore people who try to judge me and at times tell them straight on their face to abstain as I myself don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. For me, when I feel judged I think to myself, well that’s only what they perceive the people judging don’t know me as well as I know myself. I find it emotionally draining to deal with judgy people and there’s a difference between being helpful and being hurtful

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Lyosha Varezhkina

    Your post is so on point! I am giving it for my husband to read, we talked about his issues with coping of being judged (or thinking of being judged) he suffers way too often. All your advice sounds completely on point to me

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I feel judged when I’m doing things to manage my pain – for example going for a walk. For me it is the best thing I can do. But I often feel like people think I should be at home “resting”. I also feel guilty on my good days or when I’m living my best life, like I’m doing something wrong. And because I’m in pain I shouldn’t be doing these things. It’s tough. Wonderful post highlighting more of the difficulties we all face.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It can be so difficult, can’t it? We need to do things to try to help ourselves, including doing things to keep a positive mental attitude, but we put a guilt trip on ourselves. We shouldn’t. We need to allow ourselves to live the best life possible.


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  18. Pingback: A great post about judging others with disabilities and dealing with such judgement: “How To Cope When You Are Feeling Judged” by Despite Pain – Unconventional Wisdom

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