Nicole Scherzinger Nicole Scherzinger

Amidst speculation that The X Factor judge/mentor Nicole Scherzinger may not return to the reality show next year, she admitted on Wednesday that the first season of the contest has indeed taken an emotional toll."It just took a lot out of me," Scherzinger told reporters after last night's final competition round. "I'm an artist first, not a judge, so I do wear my heart on my sleeve."

Yet the judge, who has faced criticism throughout the season and found herself at the center of controversy after the surprise elimination of 13-year-old Rachel Crow, is at peace with her run. "I feel amazing, looking back on the year," she says. "It was an honor to be a part of this show. It was very emotional for me, but it's helped me grow as a person and as an artist."

Whether or not Scherzinger returns remains to be determined, but she tells TV Guide Magazine that she will concentrate on her new album and a European tour at the beginning of the year, then figure out what's next. "X Factor isn't until later in the year, so I get to focus on my music," she says. "Which is what I do organically and what I'm here for."

The singer isn't the only one feeling the emotional strain. Fellow judge Paula Abdul says her experience on The X Factor is vastly different from her previous stint on American Idol. "It's a whole different kind of show. Getting involved in mentoring, you have your own personal connection with the talent and that opens up a whole bag of situations because you're emotionally connected," she says. "On American Idol you want them all to do well, but you are able to be more impartial and base it on their performances."

One thing is for sure — Abdul is eager for more X Factor in 2012. "I'm looking forward to coming back," she says. "I've had an amazing time. I'm grateful to be working around talent. It's my favorite thing to do."

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