Have you noticed that at times you are critical of yourself or others? According to Shirzad Chamine, author of "Positive Intelligence," this is your "judge." He describes your judge as an automatic negative thought pattern that develops at an early age.

Chamine explains: “Your judge’s original survival function is to reduce the chances of being harmed by unexpected dangers to our physical and emotional survival. Because of this key function, we all have a judge regardless of our circumstance or upbringing.”

For example, as a child, you may have learned to “play it safe” to avoid making a mistake and getting corrected by your parents or teachers. While this protection initially seemed to serve you, as an adult this habitual thought pattern robs you of your potential, opportunities and happiness. This can lead to negative emotions such as regret, inferiority and stress.

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We all have three main areas where our judge gets activated:

1. Judge of self. Our judge asks “What’s wrong with me?” Your internal self-talk tends to badger you for past mistakes or current shortcomings. This puts you in a negative emotional spiral evoking disappointment, anxiety and even shame. One way to lessen the brutality of self judgement is to envision your wiser, older self at the end of your life looking back at you. What advice does your wiser, older self have for you regarding this self-criticism?

2. Judge of others. Our judge asks “What is wrong with them?” Your focus is on other people’s imperfections regarding what they say or do. This negative thought pattern can lead to conflict and interpersonal relationship problems. A way to reduce judging others is to give them empathy and compassion. Genuinely try to understand what it is like to be in their shoes can lessen your judgement of them.

3. Judge of circumstances. Our judge asks “What is wrong with my situation?” When you are not happy with your current circumstance you judge what is wrong with it. You tend to see things through the lens of what is “bad” about a situation. A common phrase that you may use is “I will be happy when ...". A way to soften this judging pattern is to look at your current situation as a gift or opportunity. For example, if you did not get the promotion that you wanted, what do you need to learn to get a promotion that is even better?

The judge loses much of its power over you as you become more aware of it and its damaging effects to your potential, your relationships and your overall happiness.

Pam Solberg-Tapper, president of Coach for Success Inc., is a Duluth-based executive coach, professional speaker and adventure marathoner. For questions or to submit questions or ideas for future columns, contact her at pam@coachforsuccess.com or 218-729-0772.