The Judge is strong with this one

Written by Darren Kanthal

January 27, 2021

When I say, “judge,” what comes to mind? Do you see puffy white wigs and black robes? Maybe you see your particularly unflinching fourth grade teacher or school principal who never did have a great sense of humor. No matter the external image you conjured, the judge I’m talking about today are the judges that live inside our minds and frankly have far too many dissenting opinions about our lives. The Judge is often strong and loud; a harsh voice with demeaning undertones. We all have a judge, whether we want one or not. It isn’t as though we decide one day to walk down to the corner store and pick out our very own internal critic – no, our judge develops with us over time, and if we’re not careful, starts running our whole operation.

When I was growing up, my judge was very loud. I felt like nothing I did was good enough and as time went on, “nothing is good enough” morphed into, “I am not good enough.” Looking back, knowing what I know now, I know those thoughts were nonsense. But, what can I say? I was young, and that’s what my Judge had swindled me into believing. Sound familiar? With the skills and insight I’ve developed, I want to help you silence your Judge and bring focus to your Sage.

“Sage,” you may be asking, “what’s sage got to do with any of this?!” No, no, I’m not talking about the common kitchen herb; we don’t need to smudge your space to rid it of negative self-talk or anything. I’m talking about your voice of reason, your wise one living alongside that pesky Judge. Your Sage is your higher being, your better self, your true self. It’s the wise Yoda that lives within your brain whose voice comes from a place of love, compassion, and empathy.

As part of my Positive Intelligence practice and building mental fitness, I’ve learned a lot about what sets my Judge off, and in those moments, I’ve also learned how to listen to my Sage. My goal is to support you in learning to listen to your Sage, while giving your Judge the boot.

Mental Fitness

Have you ever noticed the voice inside your head that not only judges you, but judges others, and even judges circumstances and events surrounding you? Here’s an up-close and personal account of my Judge talking:

  • If I were taller, stronger, better looking, stronger, or richer, then I wouldn’t have all these problems.
  • If only my partner, step-kids, friends, boss, or co-workers would stop/start doing this, that, or the other, then we wouldn’t have all these problems.
  • If it weren’t for COVID-19, hot/freezing temps, or constant bad traffic, life wouldn’t be filled with these problems.

Do any of these sound familiar? If so, your Judge is strong and its’ time for you to stand up to it with your Sage.

Knowing how to stand up to your Judge comes down to mental fitness. Mental fitness is the ability to handle life’s challenges with a positive mindset. In principle, it sounds easy, but it requires conscious effort. A great example of this is an introspective one: right now, I’m more mentally fit today than I was six months ago. That said, as I’m writing this blog entry, my inner Judge has completely taken over. I love writing but that doesn’t stop me from feeling vulnerable and self-conscious of my writing skills. I can feel myself entering that angry, inconsiderate, and judgmental part of my brain that I strive to keep at arm’s length. It’s officially time to kick my Sage into high gear.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that life’s challenges always bring with them a positive gift, if you know how to find it. To learn where to look, you have to make a choice. You can choose to accept the challenges and move on, or, you can convert the challenge into something positive.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Seeing challenges as gifts is not easy. It’s not like negative news at work arrives at your desk with a big ol’ “silver linings” bow on it, nor does a chaotic season of life seem like the opportune time to open your heart and mind to new ways of thinking. When my father died, I not only couldn’t see a gift – I didn’t want to see a gift. I was in deep mourning, how could there possibly be a gift in death?! My Judge worked around the clock during that time, telling me I’d never amount to anything, I could’ve done more, I wouldn’t be able to fill his shoes…if it was a negative thought, I thought it, and that went on for quite a while. But, as time passed I gave less time to my Judge and started palling around with my Sage more. I started to recognize gifts that I couldn’t see before because my mind was so foggy with grief. I found gifts in a vastly improved relationship with my mom, and my opportunity to take over my father’s business as CEO. Of course, my Judge didn’t stay silent through all of that – it was right there alongside me, but in time I made friends with my Sage and the whole experience supported me in growing up quickly, and figuring out what it meant for me to become a man.

That was one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced in my life, and with time, I was able to find many gifts that I still carry and learn from today: I appreciate my life, my family’s life, and my career. I am able to use my experiences to support others in standing up to their Judge. I want to help you listen to your Sage and find your gifts in life. Though I have struggled and my Judge continues to challenge me, I know I will continue to overcome it because my mental fitness is stronger than it used to be and my Sage will ultimately win.

Let’s find your gifts and discover what you can do with them. We can win this battle together at The Kanthal Group.

Darren Kanthal

Darren Kanthal, Founder of The Kanthal Group, is a values-driven leadership and career coach with over 20 years of experience in HR and Talent Acquisition. Darren is intensely passionate about helping mid-career leaders cut through the BS, do the foundational work, and achieve their greatness.


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