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Do you hear voices?

I have a few that I hear, don’t start Googling prescriptions for me just yet…hear me out.

There are voices in my head. Mean voices, voices that undermine my confidence, voices that whisper almost constantly but turn into shouts if I do something that challenges them. I’ve always believed that everyone has these voices. The voices that say, “You’re so fat!” or “Just shut up, no one wants to hear it!” or “You always ruin everything!” or “You don’t matter, your opinions don’t matter.”

I hate those voices…but I also am very, very aware that those voices are me. I’m saying those things, my brain is coming up with this! See…no need for (additional) medication here!

When I’ve told people about these things they tell me things like, “Just change the channel!” “Distract yourself.” “Just stop. You are not fat/annoying/stupid/useless.” And none of that has helped me, not one little bit. Because, how do I fight myself? I can’t just walk away from those voices, they are very, very loud…and persistent. There are times they are no where to be found and life is all lightness and unicorns, so clearly I’m failing somehow when they drown out everything else. Which all just makes me feel worse.

During the leadership session a couple weeks back, we spent an entire day discussing leadership. What is it? What is it not? What makes a leader? Why do people lead?” All very good questions to consider and very, very good questions to discuss with other people because you might be surprised to hear that qualities YOU have are leadership qualities in their eyes.

Before we got into the questions, though, the presenter had us do a little exercise. She told us, those voices, they are our inner saboteurs. They are the things that hold us back, that keep us quiet when we have an idea to share, that make us not try things we want to try. She said there are a very, very few people who claim not to have them. That may be true but it’s also possible those people just aren’t listening very well ;-)

So…the exercise. We were told to name it. Don’t name it after someone you know. I called mine “The Black Hole” because it sucks my motivation away. Then we were told to write down what that voice tells you, mine tells me “You will just fail, why even try?” Nasty little hole. Finally, we were told to draw what we think that voice would look like. Mine looked like a black circle. Shocking.

Then we had to share what those voices say, because acknowledging them out loud takes away some of their power. One of my favorite quotes is “In the absence of light, darkness reigns supreme.” As hard as it is to make yourself vulnerable, the strength from finding that one person who says “ME TOO!” is immeasurable. I will say, try taking a calculated risk first, approach someone you already know is an empathetic type of person. Don’t do something crazy and post it out on the internet for the whole world to read. Not straight away, at least. *ahem*

She concluded the exercise by telling us to come up with a response to the voice. She has told her doubting voice to stand in the hall while she is presenting!

It all may seem silly but by putting a face and a name to it we are separating those thoughts from ourselves. They are intrusive and it helps put them aside. When that voice starts creeping into my head “You’re a failure, you’ll always be a failure, don’t even try, no one cares…” I’ve taken to telling it “See you next Tuesday.” which is completely vulgar but makes me laugh and if I’m laughing at that voice, it has no power. None. It’s let me set into motion some projects that I’ve been wanting to tackle but couldn’t manage to get started.

Give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised how well it works. Now I just need to figure out how to handle “Skinny Minny” and “Sobbing Sue.” ;-)