You know the feeling. You are in the middle of a presentation to your regional staff team and it seems to be going well. You have prepared for months and know your stuff. Suddenly, your boss walks in and stands at the back of the room with her arms crossed. A thought pops into your head: "Oh no, what is she doing here?" You fumble your next sentence. Another thought runs through your head: "You idiot - you are screwing up. Your boss is going to think you are useless." You start to sweat. You get through the presentation. People shake your hand and say "great stuff" and although you smile and say thanks, all you are thinking is how you screwed up when your boss walked in.
Sound familiar? Your inner judge has pounded the gavel down and sentenced you harshly. You can't even hear the praise of your colleagues over the sound of the gavel smashing the desk. The decision has been rendered - you blew it!
How do you feel when your inner judge sentences you? A judgment is a black and white statement of criticism that implies a good or bad labeling of your value or worth. Most often our inner judge levels a negative judgment and we end up feeling bad about ourselves. A judgment rarely has the effect of making us feel better or moving us into being more successful. In fact, it usually has the opposite effect, and can undermine us in a nanosecond like the example above. A judgment implies a gavel coming down hard with the verdict rendered. If self-judgment generally makes us feel bad and does nothing to positively further ourselves to betterment, how can we get past that insidious habit?
HOW TO MOVE FROM SELF-JUDGMENT TO SELF-ASSESSMENT
As always, awareness comes first. Be aware of your capacity to judge yourself and others. Be aware of what situations trigger your inner judge.
Once aware, I suggest adopting an easy and quick method for turning your self-judgments into helpful coaching. That is - rather than self-judgment, think instead about self-assessment. Instead of a judgment of "worth", make an evaluation or assessment of "what is." An assessment is an objective process that is not supporting or categorizing a good/bad point of view, but instead, is noticing, evaluating and then building and moving toward the state or condition you want. An assessment creates freedom and future possibility whereas a judgment closes the door. An assessment keeps the sense of your personal value separate from the evaluation of your functioning or actions.
How to Assess
In the moment:
Take the example at the beginning of this article. As soon as the boss walked in you became aware that your self-judge was getting louder. In that moment - what could have brought you back? Notice that you are judging and as the great Ben Zander advises, simply replace the judging thoughts with observation and say, "How fascinating!" In the example above, you might think "how fascinating that the sight of my boss is causing me to lose confidence."
If your judge persists, firmly acknowledge your self-judge and say, "okay so I am not perfect right now and hey, I will get back to you later."
Look but don't dwell. Acknowledge your screw-up but don't dwell on it. Remember that there is a difference between denial and transcendence!
As you assess, ask yourself some questions:
What was good (anything?)
What would I like to improve on next time?
What is really true about the situation?
What will I do differently next time?
Notice as you assess if you begin judging yourself at any point and if so, consciously shift into objective evaluation. Think about how you can improve the next time; draw on your own past experience of success and move into the future from a place of strength and possibility.