Firing the judge

Six years ago, as part of my training as a life coach, I was likewise being coached on my own topic, namely my lifelong relationship (struggle) with my relentless inner critic: the judge.

Among many other exercises, my teacher (and coach) assigned me to create a conversation with the judge, essentially firing him.

What follows is what I wrote. I have to say here that this is deeply personal stuff, and I’ve been thinking for a while about whether I’m comfortable to share this with you. Finally I decided that this is a topic which challenges (almost) all of us, and if  I hope to serve you, dear reader, I need to trust you. So…voila:

Conversation with the Judge (2004)

M. Hey your judgeship, back again? What is it this time?

J.  Well, I find that lately you’ve been complaining about and challenging me. I don’t like it. Not at all…nor do I understand. You used to depend on me, defer to me, but lately you are second guessing every statement I make, every piece of advice. I feel disrespected, unappreciated, unwanted. After all these years, all of a sudden, it’s f#@% off. What kind of behavior is that? And such language…I thought you knew better.

M.  I’m glad you stopped by for this chat, because I do have some things to say to you. Actually, you’re right. I have been challenging you, questioning your statements about me, my capacities, and my wishes. I’ve decided that I am no longer going to simply accept without rigorous scrutiny anything you say to, or about me. I’m planning to carry on without you and see how that goes.

J.  Really! Ha! That’s a laugh! Just how do you suppose you’re gonna get along without me, huh? I have always been there for you, from your earliest years, keeping you safe – away from trouble, from substance abuse, never a broken bone, still have all your teeth – helping you make healthy, ethical, safe choices.

M.  Yeah, safe…with the loss of most of the spontaneity in my life…what a price to pay for safety.

J.  Why do you suppose you are in such a good place right now? You’re healthy (by geezer standards), have a loving wife, great marriage, amazing daughter who still talks to you, loving and loved in return by lots of people who know you? Do you imagine you did all that by yourself? This is the thanks I get? F@#% off? This is the gratitude? I look after you for almost 60 years and now it’s “hasta la vista baby”?

M. Well your judgeship, I don’t agree with your take that it’s thanks to you that I am where I am. I used to believe that (that was the problem), but I don’t any longer.  I reckon maybe you had a small role in the beginning –  who knows – maybe even a useful role (I don’t remember), but then you got too big, too powerful.

For that part I don’t blame you. I take responsibility for that. I gave you too much power. I depended on you too much, so you took over. I do regret however, that it took almost 60 years to figure all this out. Better late than never, I reckon.

But now I’m moving on without you. I’m done with you second guessing every thought and action, and coming down on me for every mistake with your tired old “what an idiot” and “told you so”. We all make mistakes. We need to. How else to learn: Take a risk>make a mistake>learn. I’m done with believing that my mistakes prove that I’m a screw up. It isn’t (and wasn’t ever) true.

J.  Well, that’s quite a speech, but what I think is that you should be showing me some gratitude and respect. From where I sit, I’ve been your longest and most loyal friend.

M.  Friendship? You call this friendship? Stifling spontaneity, freedom, and growth? But, for what it’s worth, I’ll give you this much, and that is that I do get that you really do see it that way, that you really do believe that you serve me. So, I acknowledge your belief that you have served me, and thank you for that part of it.

Going forward though, I’m determined to live in spontaneity, authenticity, and with a happier heart. I’m done focusing on past and future mistakes, regrets, and fears.

Your contract is terminated. Perhaps you will find a community of other ex- judges, maybe sit together on a park bench somewhere, chatting and reminiscing about the good old days when you were running things.

Goodbye. Here’s your gold watch.

Practice Tip Push PinPractice Point: So, how’s it going? Well, just because the “Judge” got fired  doesn’t mean he doesn’t try to creep back in (sneakily pretending to be “me”), so I’ve devised a means of self protection which I thought I’d pass along:

Now when I hear “the voices” with their opinions and advice, I pretend instead that I’m sitting around a dinner table or elsewhere, chatting with friends who are offering me these same opinions/advice. When “input” like this is coming from other people (even when we know they love us), we still have no problem considering it coolly (because it’s coming from “not us”), and we can then decide whether we agree with it or we don’t. That kind of voice is way easier to mull over (without all the emotional baggage). This is what I do, and it’s been working  for me.

Please be kind to yourself,



About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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