Being the last person picked for team sports as a child was an excruciating experience. I still remember the anxiety waiting to hear my name called, watching my friends go to the right or left to join a team as I remained rooted in place. Never good enough. Never chosen. Unwanted.
In the small crevices of my young brain, the “Judge” inside my head was born. It grew louder and louder, telling me how uncoordinated I was, how I’d strike out if I got up to bat, and how the other kids would laugh at me no matter what. My inner voice became a series of negative statements on repeat. Over time, they became beliefs. These fears kept me from practicing or doing anything to succeed in the sports arena.
Although I discovered in first grade that my eyesight was poor and I needed glasses to correct my vision, the Judge had already taken over my life, damaging my self-confidence for years to come.
Facing Our Inner Judge
We all have a Judge within us. Sometimes this inner talker is merely a whisper; other times, its larger-than-life stature envelops our whole being. Typically, our Judges are happiest when they’re convincing us to believe old messages that are no longer true — if they ever were — or tempting us to replay the “wouldas, couldas and shouldas” of life. Our Judge is the force that wakes us up at 3 a.m. with anxiety, encourages us to make assumptions about or compare ourselves to others, and blame — oh, how our Judge loves it when we try to blame others for our challenges.
Negative self-talk and inner Judges don’t just affect our personal lives; they can wreak havoc on our mental state at work and in our career as well. Comparing ourselves to those around us makes us feel smaller instead of competent and deserving.
If you’ve ever felt threatened when someone new is hired or felt secretly fearful that they will outshine or outperform you, that’s your Judge taking over, as much as we hate to acknowledge it. So let’s look at how we can banish our Judge and saboteurs to embrace our inner wisdom.
4 Tips to Quiet Your Inner Judge
1. Just breathe.
It may sound simple, but you must first calm your mind before you can combat your inner Judge. Pause. Take a breath — deep breaths. Calming your nervous system will prevent you from making quick, knee-jerk reactions that you could later regret.
2. Be ready with a response.
Have a few phrases prepared for difficult moments when negative self-talk is likely to creep in. Practice in front of the mirror, saying them out loud, repeatedly. That helps them roll off your tongue more easily when speaking. For example, you might say the following in response to difficult situations:
- That’s interesting. Let me get back to you on that.
- I need to check on a few things and will let you know.
- I’m not sure that’s the best solution. Let’s talk again later today.
3. Recognize and name your Judge when it appears.
Here are a few things you can say to it:
- Hey, Judge, you are not needed here. I am perfectly capable of handling this conflict on my own.
- Oh, there’s my Judge again telling me I should take the easy way out and not apply for this position.
- Wow. I can’t believe how many times my Judge shows up in a day. It’s time I take control and kick it out of my life! I’ll start now.
4. Empty your mind with movement.
Find a repetitive motion you associate with calming yourself down to remove negative thoughts when they arise. That could be rubbing two fingers or the palms of your hands slowly together, rubbing your fingertips on your leg or arm slowly in an up/down motion or rubbing your index finger gently near your ear. The goal is to stop thinking cognitively and concentrate only on the movement you choose, emptying your mind. Be sure to breathe deeply while doing this.
These are just a few simple techniques to associate a movement with your breath. You can use your breath alone, as long as you can hold your concentration. The important thing to remember is to focus all your attention on the movement — to really feel it and clear your mind. That allows your inner wisdom the space to shine forward and place distance between you and your Judge.
You control how much power your inner Judge has. By minimizing your Judge and distancing it from your life, you’ll gain greater positive control over your thoughts, actions, beliefs and life.
About Ellen Nastir
Working hand-in-hand with nonprofits and small businesses, Ellen Nastir, M.Ed., PCC, owner of Innovative Team Solutions, is a leadership developer and drama disruptor who helps leaders focus on the people side of performance. With two decades of experience in training and development, Ellen brings a unique perspective to resolving challenges and maximizing the potential of any team. She is a certified professional co-active coach, PeopleMap trainer, virtual trainer from the International Institute for Virtual Facilitation and is certified in Positive Psychology, Change and Tension Management and Conflict Dynamics.
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