How to Overcome Your Inner Judge

We’ve all struggled with frustration over not being able to accomplish what we want, to act how we know we should, or to maintain the outlook on life that would be most beneficial. That’s because we’re constantly being sabotaged from within.

And when we allow negative thoughts to permeate our “inner game” — our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs — there’s no way to avoid a negative impact on our clients and our business results.

Surviving vs. Thriving

Our brains are incredibly sophisticated—so sophisticated, in fact, that they evaluate our safety 5 times per second. This pattern of constantly looking for threats means we have ample opportunity for negative thoughts to sneak in and take charge. 

And during stressful or busy seasons, our brain can start living in survival mode, using all its energy to scan for threats on our physical and emotional survival. This constant survival mode thinking will get us bogged down in scarcity and fear-based thinking in a way that prevents us from thriving and recognizing opportunities.   When our brain is locked in survival mode, there is a critical, saboteur, voice or thought pattern that tells us to be careful, to be fearful, to fight and to run and hide.

On the other hand, when we are able to function in our thriving mode, we operate from a place of self-awareness, where our brain has the capacity to make better decisions and be more productive and efficient. Being able to function most of the time in thriving mode instead of survival mode is essential for leadership effectiveness, and the key way to do this is by awareness and management of our saboteur voice in our head.

Strong leader leading discussion in conference room

Exploring Our Saboteurs

Shirzad Chamine has done a tremendous amount of research around Positive Intelligence. His work goes into tremendous detail on the various saboteurs we allow to undermine our efforts and influence our minds. It’s these saboteurs that can lock us into survival mode and prevent us from thriving. 

Chamine has identified 10 total saboteurs, but we’re going to focus on The Judge — the universally shared Saboteur.

The Judge Saboteur

The Judge is the voice in our head (actually, it’s a series of thought patterns that repeatedly ‘speak’ to us in our minds) that operates by finding fault with ourselves, others, and our circumstances. 

Different people’s Judges tend to focus more on one of those three than the others. People whose thoughts are most often pointed inward may focus on past mistakes or other shortcomings. When pointed at other people, The Judge looks at others’ shortcomings rather than showing appreciation for their efforts. And when focused on circumstances, it immediately decides a situation is bad without looking for the opportunity within.

There are a couple of defining characteristics of the Judge. First, it finds fault. Always. 

Second, it latches on and doesn’t let go. If you are stressed for more than 10 seconds, your Judge has taken over. 

Third, it tells you what “should” be instead of what is. When you start thinking in terms of “should,” that’s your Judge Saboteur coming out.

You can use mental exercises to help you determine which way your Judge usually manifests. For example, here’s how a mortgage leader could identify their Judge Saboteur.

What does your voice say to you when: 

  • A loan officer takes his/her team and leaves?

  • A competitor over-promises to take a client from you?

  • A borrower accuses you that your price is too high?

  • Interest rates go up?

Do you generally find yourself blaming yourself, other people, or circumstances?

Great leader typing on laptop in open office

How to manage the Saboteur

There are multiple approaches for managing your Saboteur(s). Here are a few key actions to try.

Engage in Saboteur Playtime

Rather than fighting the Saboteur, recognize it for what it is. Observe it and call it what it is, then laugh and own it. You can acknowledge the tendencies without allowing them to dictate your thoughts or actions. 

Additionally, we can take these thoughts and feelings and test them against the truth. Figure out what part of it is based in fact and what part comes from anxiety. And recognize these aren’t your thoughts. These are the thoughts of your Judge, and you get to reject them in favor of your truth.

Build Mindfulness Muscles

Second, you can invest in some “Mindfulness and Meditation.” This approach slows the survival brain and rewires the brain to allow you greater control of your thoughts and feelings. 

Here are a few ways to build those “mindfulness muscles.”

  • Positive Intelligence exercises (PQ reps). This is where you focus intently on a particular sensory experience for 10 seconds each, doing 100 per day. Some examples are to put your fingertips together and focus on the feel of the ridges of your fingerprints or to focus on feeling each of your toes individually. These can be done almost any time, including on client calls or in meetings. 

  • Daily routines. When you’re brushing your teeth, focus on how the bristles feel and how the toothpaste tastes. Concentrate on the feel of the hot water coming from the showerhead or the sound as it hits the ground. When you’re walking your dog, be in the moment, just paying attention to what is around you, not listening to music or on your phone.

  • Daily activities. Pay attention to what you’re eating. Be in the moment when you’re with your loved ones.

  • Recognizing triggers. Create reminders to conduct your PQ reps or to warn you when your Saboteur is likely to show up. Learn to recognize and anticipate your triggers so you can do your PQ reps.

  • Meditation. Meditation is a way to manage your thoughts and learn when to release thoughts and when to hold on to them. We recommend starting with the Headspace app, which offers a 30-day introduction to meditation.

Use your Superpowers

  • Be playful and curious. The Judge has no room if you’re playful and curious. Playful and curious people aren’t focused on finding faults and are able to maintain perspective. Worried what interest rates are going to do? Think up potential contests for your team and other creative solutions for weathering that storm. Make it fun for yourself and the larger group.

  • Embrace your purpose and vision. If you’re engaged in and excited about what you’re doing, the judge can’t find a way in to steal your joy. Make sure you know what you’re working towards and that it’s something you believe in and are excited about. Consider your goals. Are they simply about increasing the number of loans you close or do they take into account how you impact your clients’ lives?

  • Practice non-attachment. Your judge believes it knows what’s right and what’s wrong. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. You can choose to dismiss those voices and pick a different course of thought or action. And it’s okay to decide you don’t know yet and give yourself time to apply discernment rather than just listening to the Judge’s voice. Lose a client? It’s okay to evaluate your performance and look for things you could have done differently, but don’t let it turn into an automatic indictment of your abilities and things you “should” have done. Sometimes things just don’t work out, and you move on.

  • Anticipate. It’s important to know what situations trigger you and prepare ahead of time. By anticipating what the Judge will say before it happens, we can manage our response and attitude. It’s also important to note there are physical triggers that we know can make us easier prey for the Saboteur. The acronym HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired, all circumstances in which we are less likely to act as our best selves. If we recognize this (and, if possible, mitigate the situation), we are less likely to fall victim to the Saboteur. If you’ve got a tough or possibly contentious meeting scheduled at the end of the day or right before lunch, carve out a few minutes for a snack or a walk to prepare. Try doing some PQ Reps before heading into a challenging strategy session.

Overcoming the Judge Saboteur

Don’t allow your Judge to keep you from reaching your team’s or your personal goals.

Want to better understand your saboteurs? Learn more at Shirzad Chamine’s Positive Intelligence website.


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