Back to News & Stories

The X-Factor in Courageous Leadership: 4 Ways to Strengthen Your Mental Fitness

White man walking, blurred, against a painted background that says courage: yellow, blue, orange red and purple in the mural
Ellen Nastir

Authentic, trusting relationships are at the core of achieving the majority of goals in life — from personal happiness to career success and everything in between. But before meaningful and lasting relationships can grow, they must be rooted in the relationship we have with ourselves.

Believe it or not, the most important conversations aren’t those you have with others; they’re the ones you have with yourself. The messages we tell ourselves about ourselves drive how we think, act and interact.

The most important conversations aren't those you have with others; they're the ones you have with yourself.

Do you ever compare yourself as a parent, supervisor or employee to others and feel like you come up short?

Do you ever belittle your actions or seem to have a default system of putting yourself down (maybe without even realizing it)?

When we engage in negative self-talk with our inner judge — metaphorically hitting ourselves — we strengthen our connection to the thoughts and stories we’re telling ourselves while simultaneously deepening the neural brain pathways that try to cement them as fact. Letting go of past experiences and negative patterns is not necessarily easy, yet the benefits reaped from doing so can be life-changing.

So how can we prevail over our inner judge?

READ NEXT: Managing with Mental and Emotional Exhaustion

Start Strengthening Your Mental Muscles

Quieting your inner judge requires patience, commitment and practice — much like when you start going to the gym or take up running for the first time. It’s hard at first, downright painful, really. But slowly yet surely, you strengthen your physical muscles. For our mindset and messaging to change, we must do the same thing — strengthen our mental muscles and boost our mental fitness.

Here are four techniques you can use to disengage from your inner judge and strengthen your mental fitness:

1. Take a two-minute breather.

The busier we become and the longer our “to do” list grows, the more intense we often feel and more feverishly we work. That state can increase your heart rate and stress. Try closing your eyes or hold a soft gaze on an object. Let yourself float away from where you are for two minutes. Notice your breath. As your mind wanders, don’t judge it; just let it go and take deep breaths. You may notice different physical sensations as your heart rate lowers and your stomach relaxes. This will allow you to return to what you were doing more focused, productive and in a better frame of mind. You stop for daily bathroom or lunch breaks — why not stop for a brain break, too?

2. Make your “mini-medi” mobile.

Taking two minutes for a mini-meditation doesn’t have to be something you can only do when you’re in your office alone or a dark corner of your house. Creating a simple gesture can remind you that a mini-medi is something easy you can do anytime, any place. For example, try rubbing your index finger and thumb together, slowly and deliberately. That can provide a focal point for your breathing exercise. Feel the ridges in your fingers ever so slightly as you softly rub them together. Try other sensations that may feel right for you to put your mind at ease and bring you into the moment.

3. Act like an outside observer.

We all tend to judge ourselves without even realizing it. It’s part of being human. The key is to notice the negative thoughts in judgment and acknowledge that they’re happening. Look at those inner thoughts and the conversation you’re telling yourself as if you were an outside observer noticing the path your negative self-talk patterns go. This will allow you to accept that they’re there so you can begin to work to change them.

4. Dump your judge.

When negative self-thoughts creep into your mind, cross-examine those negative thoughts or self-doubt and then send your inner judge packing. You can kick him/her out with a nudge or thank him/her for showing up while acknowledging that you’re fine and will handle this on your own — no distraction needed. Always trust yourself to have the inner wisdom to poke, prod, question and disbelieve what your judge is trying to accomplish by having your inner voice be disqualified.

Join our weekly e-newsletter to get exclusive tips, tools and trainings.

Share This Story:

Ellen Nastir


Ellen Nastir, M.Ed., PCC, BCC, CPCC, is the owner of Innovative Team Solutions. Her passion is bringing professional and personal growth to her clients. She focuses on the “people side” of professional performance, developing employees’ people skills to complement their technical skills and abilities, thus increasing productivity and retention, communication skills, problem-solving and conflict resolution.

The Secret to Stopping Overwhelm in the Workplace

One of the Most Important Leadership Qualities That’s Often Overlooked

How to Become a Leader Others Want to Follow