Firing Your Judge

Welcome to the latest addition to my site: Toolbox | Sandbox. Here you’ll find information, tips, and tools to make your writing and content marketing the best it can be. You’ll also find my creative musings on everything from authenticity, to gardening, to why the best thoughts always come to us in the shower.

Speaking of which, there is something I’ve been thinking about something a lot lately.

It’s definitely influenced by where I am right now in my life and my career, but I thought it might resonate with some of you, so here we go. . .  .

If we all took ourselves a little less seriously, and were less worried about being judged, I believe something remarkable would happen. We would take more of the leaps. Sometimes we’d fall down, of course, but it wouldn’t be a disaster. We would learn that falling doesn’t signal the end. As a person who’s made more than a few leaps in my life, I can honestly say that great beginnings can come from both the falling and the soaring.

My favorite job ever was working as Assistant Director for the University of Michigan Educational Theatre Company (UMETC). We devised original theater about social issues and performed it for college audiences. Throughout the experience, I was the most me that I’ve ever had the pleasure of being.

At UMETC, we would begin each rehearsal with an exercise that the director and I both learned at Jeff Daniels' Purple Rose Theatre Company in Michigan. Here’s how it worked: the entire company would stand in a circle with our eyes closed. We’d each picture our inner judge—the voice inside our head that tells us that we shouldn’t try, that we’ll look stupid, that we aren’t funny enough (or smart enough, or pretty enough, or. . .  enough). Silently, we would each give our judge a shape, a color, or a face. Then, in whatever tone felt right we would simply say aloud “You’re fired.” We didn’t begin until all of our judges were dismissed. As silly as it may sound, it was incredibly freeing.

Since then, I’ve used this ritual with everyone from high school students, to mentally ill prisoners, to women in a welfare-to-work program. Sure, the idea of visualizing and conversing with an inner voice was met with some skepticism from non-theater folk. But, despite the initial eye-rolls, everyone eventually grew to embrace the ritual. Some even told me that they started using it in their everyday lives when things became challenging.

I understood what they meant. I used to fire my judge often. I’d fire him before job interviews or presentations. I’d fire him upon waking up the morning after a particularly bad haircut. And then, somehow, I got out of practice. The wear and tear of a few really challenging years took its toll. Over time, I didn’t have the energy to kick that judge out of my head on the daily. So, he moved in.

Recently, after much self-examination, I determined that I needed to rebalance and reprioritize. The problem was that I was paralyzed. I just couldn’t seem to make the leap until that judge was gone. So, I started getting back into the habit of giving him the boot. Every single day. It wasn’t easy at first, but I’ve gotten to a point where our meetings are more sporadic. With him out of my head, I have so much more space to reflect, create, and focus on the good stuff.

And there is just so much good stuff if you open yourself up to it.