Recently, a friend who has been working on being kinder to herself and who has heard me blather on about things just being information and the like, emailed me with this question. It is a question that I know so many women deal with- a question that I certainly dealt with in my own journey- and so I asked my friend for permission to share some of our conversation here. She graciously agreed. Here’s her first email to me:
I just can’t seem to quiet that voice of mine that says I’m only as good as my collective accomplishments, or jean size. Honestly, it’s exhausting to fight oneself all the time. It seems like the more I know about what I need to do, the more I resist. It’s that rebellious teenager in me, I guess. Self-sabotage is like that old frenemy that will. not. let. me. be.
I feel like I say a lot of things to myself, make pronouncements about how things are going to be different TODAY, but then the minute I say them, that voice starts snickering, tearing the resolution down. The one question that I have for you that might help me cross over from intention to action would be this….how do you talk to yourself — and not just talk but LISTEN — to yourself when that voice is just standing there, heckling you?
Before I could give a full answer, I asked a few follow-up questions.
Of what are you afraid? What is the worst that could happen if you broke up with your frenemy? Why do you think she stays around? What role does she serve?
If you are battling with an internal frenemy who lingers even though you wish she would go, I encourage you to ask yourself these very questions, too. Understanding our motivations and what role our internal negative voice serves in our life can play a powerful role in helping us realize what it will take, why we should, and how to move past it.
My friend wrote back with this insight:
The answers to your questions are:
– what if I do reach my potential and it’s not all that great after all? typical fear of failure, though just typing that makes me grouchy. Since I hit 40, I definitely have been blessed with more of the “who cares if I fail, at least I’m trying” juju, so that’s the right path. just need to stay on it more and not take setbacks so durned personally.
– I’d be without my typical defense mechanisms, too vulnerable
– she stays around because I listen to her, and she gets what she needs from me.
Ok, those answers were pretty revealing, and I may have answered my own question. It’s really hard to be at this middle part of one’s life, I suppose, and feel that urgency of … let’s get to it! Let’s start living into what we know we can do. But that frenemy voice that has been around all along doesn’t know what to do with the new game plan so she stays around harping like always. At least that’s how I’m starting to see it.
So many answers are also in your book… I know I will be able to do this, I just need to follow that advice you gave us to treat myself as well as I treat the friends I love.
When I read her response, I couldn’t help but get excited for what she was learning.
You’ve got it.
You have had your frenemy for a long time. And, in some ways, she has been of service to you. She has kept you “safe”, she tells you. You need her to check you, she tells you. And so, right now, she knows that you have seen a taste of the possibilities and she is freaking out. Because you might very well break up with her. And, if you do, where does that leave her? In the ether, gone, abandoned.
And so she is making a desperate effort to keep you. She is on the street outside of your window with a boom box playing “In Your Eyes”. She is talking non-stop. She is slick and fast-talking and getting mean because she is so, so scared. And PS you have been with her for so long that it really is legitimately scary to leave her. You know what living with her is like. You do not know what living without her is like. So you hesitate.
The psychology of that voice in our head is just like the psychology of that bad for us boyfriend that we just can’t quite let go of while we know that we should. But what if he is the best we can do, we think?
But here’s the thing. He knows, actually, that you are the best he can do and that is why he is lashing out and desperate. He knows how much better you can do. But your moving forward is dependent on leaving him behind and hell no is he going to miss that bus. So he tries and tries and tries. And then you have to get a restraining order.
Okay, I am only partially kidding there.
It is time to get a figurative restraining order on your frenemy.
I think the way to start is to tease yourself with what is possible, so you are compelled to move forward, even when it is hard, because you have seen a snapshot of the future and you cannot help but want to go there.
Here are some possible tools:
1. Revisit your word for the year (or if you do not have a word for the year, select one). Is it still the right word for you or has it either already given you what you needed or have you revealed other layers of your dreams and desires to realize that it needs fine tuning?
Make sure your word of the year is just right so that when you need grounding, when the frenemy is frantic in your ear, you can say the word to yourself as a grounding reminder or ask yourself a question that reflects your word of the year (is this allowing me to be whole-hearted or am I in flow when I am thinking like this?).
2. When the frenemy freaks out on you, do not be disappointed in yourself. Say something, in your mind, like, “Oh, it’s you again. I am sorry that you are feeling scared. Here is why you don’t have to feel scared. Explain to yourself why you don’t have to feel scared. Get very, very reasonable with your frenemy so that you can see the juxtaposition between reason and fear. I know it seems crazy to talk to the voice in your head (albeit it, in your head) but, hey, having a frenemy means a voice is already talking in your head. Now, you are just inviting it to have a conversation instead of a bully pulpit. Talk to it like you would your daughter or a dear friend. Engage your frenemy voice like that enough (even if you aren’t fully confident and don’t know if you are blowing smoke) and it will become a drag to show up. It’ll start thinking, “she’s just going to put me in my place again.”
3. Write a personal and/or professional mission statement– depending on which place the voice is more likely to show up- and use it as a compass. You want a defining sentence that definitely states what you are about, what you are doing. It can also serve as a touchstone like your word of the year and owning where you want to go is half the battle.
4. Are you journaling? If I could make you answer these three questions daily, I would, as they build a good practice of shifting perspective:
A. For what three things am I grateful today?
B. What made me feel personally proud today? You might be tempted to write something about your kids here like, “Susan got an A on her test.” Don’t. Of course you are proud of your kids. Practice being proud of you.
C. What do I need right now more than anything else? Then give yourself that thing.
5. Gather proof. Expose yourself daily to some sort of positive thinking that mirrors how you want your thinking, behavior to be in the world. It can be from people that you know but also come from blogs and books. Always have your nose in something that is illuminating a new way of being and thinking. Exposure really does matter.
Has your frenemy been hanging around? How do you put her in check? Can you see any of these solutions working for you? What other solutions do you suggest? Where do you gather proof? Whose books or blogs positively impact your thinking?