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Shifts are hard (three)

This is part 3 of a series on sharing methods to cope with five simultaneous career and life shifts. Feel free to read part 1 and part 2. This post shares my personal experiences using emotional agility practices to help with shifts within your own experiences. Follow this series to learn more about the practices I use to help understand, cope, and reflect.

Who needs emotions?!

The previous practice is called “patience” because it’s about listening to your mind and your body. This is something I never do. I prefer to move fast. Who needs emotions?! I prefer to look for the next adventure, product idea, or outcome. I’m impatient. I typically don’t allow myself to feel. However, I’ve learned during multiple shifts that it’s critical to feel and understand one’s emotions.

My coach and I sat down and reflected on the emotions journaled in my patience practice. I shared emotions of insecurity, sadness, nervousness, and dissatisfaction making my stomach hurt. In hindsight, reading my journal clearly reads “I’m unhappy”. As usual, I was not owning up to my feelings or understanding my instincts.

Our instincts are fueled by the voices in our heads and the overload of emotions. The voice in our head is typically called the “inner critic” or sometimes the ”inner judger”. In this post, we will refer to this as the inner judger. The inner judger can clarify or blur your instincts. For example, during an interview process; as your inner voice is fueled by insecurities telling you, “you are not good enough”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there and the voices in your mind go into overdrive. You did awful, you didn’t get the job, you said “I” too much or you were too slow. The inner judger can also be a motivator. A great example is getting a promotion; an inner voice fueled by joy can make you feel confident. As you can see, negative emotions can bring out your worst inner judger and positive emotions can help you do the impossible. Here are examples from my own experience:

My inner judger leading at SoundCloud

Working at SoundCloud was a personal dream of mine and to be hired was an honor. I’m a music fanatic and listen to music every moment I can. The experience of being hired and moving internationally was incredible. I had moments that made me feel like I was living in a dream. When I arrived in Berlin, Germany, I was treated to a 3 bedroom luxury flat in front of Mauerpark. This was a huge confidence boost, but my inner voice would sometimes tell me that I didn’t deserve this type of treatment. This would encourage me to get out of temporary housing as fast as possible and into our own place. I felt it was too expensive and the money shouldn’t be wasted on me. I loved this job, every part of me enjoyed the team, the product space, and experience living in Berlin. I was asked to be a part of critical conversations and people asked for my opinion. It was incredible! I felt emotions of happiness which resulted in the confidence I was looking for. This helped me accomplish more than I could imagine. I was able to push back in meetings with executive peers, unblock teams to ship, scale the design organization, and deliver on a vision for the company within nine months. I was also the first executive to be promoted from Head of Design to VP of Design within a year. 

After that first year, something started to not feel right. I found out there were meetings that I was not part of. There were a few executive peers that were meeting with the founders for a confidential effort– I was feeling left out. I began to analyze our company performance metrics and started to confide in a few product VPs about the state of our business. My inner judger came back and was telling me something just wasn’t right. My instincts kicked into high gear. I started validating some of my learnings from other professionals in startups and funding. The collective feedback I was hearing was not positive for the future outlook of the business. It became clear the financial business was heading towards a negative direction that might result in us not being able to deliver on our goals. I decided it was time to leave. Within three months there were layoffs of 40% of the company. In this situation, my inner judger served me well.  

My inner judger leading at Hubrick

When I left SoundCloud, I went on to lead a startup called Hubrick, as their Chief Product Officer. Being hired there as a CPO was incredible, I felt needed and I could see the impact I was having daily. My inner judger was super positive and I was at an all-time high. This motivated me to make decisions without hesitation. But as I shared in part 2 of why I left, there were several moments that triggered my inner judger that were feeding my instincts. 

When I first joined Hubrick, the CEO and founder onboarded me to the team. He provided unfiltered feedback on everyone. Sometimes providing assumptions about people’s performance. He had just let a very senior person go before I joined and he claimed it was because he was not a good fit and a difficult collaborator. Later, I witnessed moments where he would bully my peers or senior leaders to comply with his thoughts. He claimed, “it’s how you get people to win”. “You have to be tough”. Months later, I was told by the Chief Marketing Officer that we needed to shift an offsite with 16 people from Berlin to Oslo, Norway because the CEO didn’t want to travel. The CMO was angry and wasn’t willing to make it happen. I convinced him it was okay and that it wasn’t ideal but we would make it work. This is another incident where the CEO was bullying my peer but I gave him the benefit of doubt that his obligations in Oslo were critical and worth shifting the entire team to travel to him.  I worked with the admins and delivered a new schedule for the two-day event. Most of the team members were able to fly out. A few called in remotely; It went well. I was proud of this event, but something didn’t feel right. The CMO also tried to tell me that this was not okay and deep inside I knew this too. My inner judger started to tell me that I needed to leave Hubrick. I told my husband and a colleague that I wasn’t sure if I could stay. Something wasn’t right. If you read part 2, you’ll know that the CEO started directing his bullying towards me. The voices in my head began to tell me that I was crazy and I started questioning my capabilities. The CEO also didn’t help as he echoed what my inner voice was already telling me. In the end, the CEO and I agreed to part way confirming my inner judger was spot on. 

My inner judger leading at Shopify

In part 1, I describe the five shifts that I experienced, moving from Hubrick to Shopify. I didn’t know how I was feeling until I did the patience practice. The emotions I shared of insecurity, sadness, nervousness, and dissatisfaction supercharged my negative “inner judger”. The next exercise, called the judger practice, helped me get to know my inner judger.

Try It

If you are curious about what I took away, re-visit my site to find out what I learned about me in the next session. I’ll also share the next practice in emotional agility. Why not try this exercise and see if your inner voice is on overdrive? Feel free to use this judger practice template to journal as I did.

Emotional Agility Practice #2: Judger


WHAT:  Getting to know your inner judger (sometimes the inner critic)

Focus on what is contributing to the flight/fight/freeze response that is preventing you from showing up authentically; awareness of how it’s showing up in your life will help you work with it effectively.

WHY: feelings of insecurity and self-doubt surfaced as themes in your first exercise, so this is a way for you to get further insight on what is contributing to a flight/fight/freeze response and is preventing you from showing up authentically; awareness of how it’s showing up in your life will help you work with it effectively

HOW: Have a look at this article on the inner judger – feel free to read the whole article, we’re just focusing on the awareness part for now.

Over the next 2 weeks, notice when your inner judger shows up.  Select one situation a day that you want to journal on. You can do this by taking notes:

In the moment as you detect the “voice” of the Inner judger, or at the end of the day as you look back on what happened at work.


Jan 28:

  • At what moment did I become critical toward myself?
    • Talking to a team member about showcasing our API work. I didn’t have the context.
  • What words or language were part of my inner talk?
    • Why didn’t I know that information? I assumed we had clarified.
    • Why am I not good at Product managing, I should know this information.
    • I should be able to clarify. 
  • What was the tone and the overall emotional charge of this inner talk?
    • Sadness and felt like an outlier 
  • What impact did this have on myself and others?
    • Energy levels are down. I’m usually the person who lifts others up. That doesn’t show up.

Jan 29:

  • At what moment did I become critical toward myself?
    • Walking after a meeting with my peer to the elevator. The meeting prior was around a misalignment.
  • What words or language were part of my inner talk?
    • Why am I here, what’s the point, what are you really gaining by staying here? 
  • What was the tone and the overall emotional charge of this inner talk?
    • Negative spiral
  • What impact did this have on myself and others?
    • Impacts mood. 

Jan 28:

  • At what moment did I become critical toward myself?
    • Talking to a team member about showcasing our API work. I didn’t have the context.
  • What words or language were part of my inner talk?
    • Why didn’t I know that information? I assumed we had clarified.
    • Why am I not good at Product Managing, I should know this information.
    • I should be able to clarify. 
  • What was the tone and the overall emotional charge of this inner talk?
    • Sadness and felt like an outlier 
  • What impact did this have on myself and others?
    • Energy levels are down. I’m usually the person who lifts others up. That doesn’t show up.

Jan 29:

  • At what moment did I become critical toward myself?
    • Walking after a meeting with my peer to the elevator. The meeting prior was around a misalignment.
  • What words or language were part of my inner talk?
    • Why am I here, what’s the point, what are you really gaining by staying here? 
  • What was the tone and the overall emotional charge of this inner talk?
    • Negative spiral
  • What impact did this have on myself and others?
    • Impacts mood. 

Jan 30:

  • At what moment did I become critical toward myself?
    • A meeting where we discussed what’s next for our product space
  • What words or language were part of my inner talk?
    • How did I get to this conclusion, why did I even think of this model? I finally got my head around this place and I still don’t get it. Why don’t I get it?
  • What was the tone and the overall emotional charge of this inner talk?
    • Surprised. Disappointed in the company and myself in the team. 
    • I am not happy. 
  • What impact did this have on myself and others?
    • Not able to work, not able to show up. Frustrated with my lead, my peers, my messaging. How do I undo it?

Jan 31:

  • At what moment did I become critical toward myself?
    • The conference event was great. The talks were wonderful.
  • What words or language were part of my inner talk?
    •  Happy to see the talks, I can help with this. But how? 
  • What was the tone and the overall emotional charge of this inner talk?
    • Confirmation. See! I knew it, I’m not crazy, but how. I don’t feel like I’m heard
  • What impact did this have on myself and others?
    • This made me happy but also mixed. I understand where to go and how..

Feb 1:

  • At what moment did I become critical toward myself?
    • Meeting with several team members
  • What words or language were part of my inner talk?
    •  Why does one of the team members not understand this. I thought we had decided on a direction. How can I help them, they are lost..
  • What was the tone and the overall emotional charge of this inner talk?
    • OH man this is my fault, I mixed him up. I made this mistake.. 
  • What impact did this have on myself and others?
    • Good one, went to the lead and we clarified next steps. I was able to provide clarity

Weekly Reflection Questions

What am I learning about my inner judger – what are the key themes that are surfacing around this inner judger? 

This week is hard so far. I’m going down the negative spiral I was going down in Oct/Nov. Themes: I’m once again feeling out of place. I am not understanding the language at work. If I’m in the right role, company and more.


Feb 4:

  • At what moment did I become critical toward myself?
    • One of my team members said I’m too biased, that we shouldn’t talk about a candidate.
  • What words or language were part of my inner talk?
    • Ugh, defense, Oh I didn’t do anything bad. I forgot that I have a different level of experience
  • What was the tone and the overall emotional charge of this inner talk?
    • Defense, denial, empathy oh how can I change? A spiral. What have I done before?
  • What impact did this have on myself and others?
    • Doubt on fit here at Shopify and frustration. I continue to accept the experience. Talk about it with others to help work through the emotional side of it. 

Feb 5

  • At what moment did I become critical toward myself?
    • I helped a teammate with their challenges on their design team at the end of the day.
  • What words or language were part of my inner talk?
    • Positive.
  • What was the tone and the overall emotional charge of this inner talk?
    • Great energy. I’m feeling good  
  • What impact did this have on myself and others?
    • Positivity it was a fairly good day 

Feb 6

  • At what moment did I become critical toward myself?
    • A moment in which we decided to send an invite out on creating a new meeting in our leadership layer.
  • What words or language were part of my inner talk?
    • Confused and indecisive. Not able to make a decision. Questioning what I would normally do easily.
  • What was the tone and the overall emotional charge of this inner talk?
    • Indecisive and doubt
  • What impact did this have on myself and others?
    • Creates a spinning of conversation with the team, I can’t be direct and complete in my answers. I feel I am unreliable as an afterthought.

Feb 7

  • At what moment did I become critical toward myself?
    •  At senior leadership team standup, the inability to act on reducing the number of attendees.
  • What words or language were part of my inner talk?
    • Why question my ability to act on what my instincts say are correct. 
  • What was the tone and the overall emotional charge of this inner talk?
    • Why didn’t I do this before, confusion. Inability to make calls to help move the team together.
  • What impact did this have on myself and others?
    • Indecisive on a dependency from others to make those calls.

Weekly Reflection Questions

What am I learning about my inner judger – what are the key themes that are surfacing around this inner judger? 

So far I’m negative, I put the weight on my shoulders and my inability on how to approach work. Themes: I debate fit, I debate how to confront challenges. I see a long exhausting road. I sometimes think I need to reframe internally and try to be positive about the learning and the opportunities here. Or change the conversation on how we can fix this.


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