Today I was talking to a young friend, a brilliant writer whose future is so bright it blinds me. She had just finished reading a book, and expressed concern that her book might not be as meaningful to people. “When I read that book,” she said, “I kept hearing a voice inside that told me that I haven’t lived enough yet to be a real writer, to really be able to help people”.
At first I was floored. Where would she get this idea? She has accomplished things that I hadn’t even thought to dream of when I was her age, and her writing is so alive, rich, and full of insight. After reflecting on this for a moment, I laughed and told her that the same thing happens to me. To all of us.
I’m besieged by doubts of the “not good enough” variety, all the time.
Thankfully such intrusive and upsetting thoughts don’t gain much of a foothold anymore (except when they’re legitimately true, which they sometimes are!). Part of it is spiritual; I’m Christian, and believe that the negative/evil/discouraging/mean voice that so many of us hear in our heads is actually from a dark spiritual source. It’s not of us, and wants to discourage us, to beat us down.
I once heard Jim Rohn, the late “business philosopher” comment on the fact that even in his 70’s, despite everything in his life that he had accomplished, he still had to deal with that voice every day. That voice very convincingly says things to him such as: “Why don’t you just forget your workout today and sleep in, you deserve it”; “Forget your plans to take that first step on the new project today – you can start it tomorrow”; and “Go ahead, you know you really want that rich, greasy meal instead of the healthy one you’re thinking you should order”.
I’m not talking about “hearing voices” as a person with schizophrenia might – some people may experience this as their own voice in their mind, or as a thought, a doubt, or a strong impulse to not do what they had planned to do. Do you know what I’m talking about? We all have it, and depending on who you are and what your weak spots are it will speak to you in different ways.
If you believe you’re unlovable, it might tell you that you’re ugly when you look in the mirror.
If you know you need to lose weight, it’ll keep reminding you of the box of double chocolate chip cookies in the cupboard (I personally can’t keep chocolate chip cookies in the cupboard because they start shouting my name across the entire house – you might not want to have them around, either).
If you want to stick to your new exercise routine, it’ll encourage you to start – tomorrow.
If you’re starting to think about taking that step that will make a significant difference to your life and/or the lives of others, of yours it’ll tell you that your plans will never work, so why even start?
I used to think that this “voice” was just my own self-doubt, or lack of commitment, or my natural tendency to be lazy, or undisciplined, or procrastinate. Now I think otherwise (as mentioned above), and it’s made a huge difference to my ability to stick to my plans for the good things that I wish to do or believe in my life.
Some things I struggle with include: getting to bed early; making healthy choices from a restaurant menu (e.g. choosing salad and salmon instead of chocolate cake as the main course); being patient and understanding with others. I’m constantly resisting that voice inside me that wants me to make choices and actions against my best interests.
Now that I understand that voice, impulse or tendency as being a negative force that comes from outside of me, rather than being part of who I am, it’s much easier to resist and dismiss. I’m determined that I will win and it will lose, and that my world – and maybe even your world – will be better because of it.
Don’t believe that voice. It lies. You, your ideas and actions can help to make a real, meaningful difference in this world.