Like most people, I have experienced the constant chatter ringing in my ears. The voice I heard was filled with the fear of failure. When I listened closely, I heard snippets like these:
“You can’t do that, what if you fail?”
“You are too old to try to do something different with your life.”
“Are you crazy? Why would it work out?”
A few years ago I reached the summit of my exploration of all things “me” when I experienced a dramatic life-altering medical incident. For many reasons I cannot go into great detail, but I will say that I “popped.” Shattered, I was brought to my knees. Even my posture rendered me only able to crawl. I was hunched over, caving in on myself. The occasional therapy sessions with the shrink turned into consistent visits with antidepressant medication thrown into the mix. During that time, I felt raw. I lived in a “black tunnel.” Even though I was receiving counseling at the time, nothing seemed to wash the state of despair off of my back.
There is no coming to consciousness without pain – Carl Jung
Diving into the teachings of Dr.Carl Jung and rolling around with the words from Sigmund Freud, I spent my days in a cloud that were nurtured by “overthinking.” I did discover during that time that my inner chatterbox of negativity was a product of extremely low self-esteem. The jury is out on why I used to suffer such a crippling lack of self-love and self-worth, as a younger person. I cannot lay the blame squarely on my childhood. (That is just too easy to do. It is counter productive—victim stance. Boring!) I cannot lay the blame on the community that I grew up in. (I am sure we all would have preferred to live where the grass is greener. Lest we forget that wherever we go, there we are) It just was a state of being. My state of being. Never feeling good enough, popular enough, skinny enough, or smart enough.
Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise. — Sigmund Freud
As a fashion model, even though I reached a level of outrageous success, it probably would seem funny to most that this nasty ailment of self-loathing stayed with me long after it should have. Still a mixed bag of “why?” if I care to think about those days in depth. I do know that I let the worst of it happen. I LET IT HAPPEN. I groomed the dark goddess of yuck who lived inside me. I listened and took to heart all of the snide, back-handed, passive-aggressive remarks slung my way. I insulted myself. I brought myself down. I let it happen.
I think that most of us are sensitive beings. Some of us have a nice set of armor that protects their hearts and minds from any and all painful words and emotions. Oftentimes though, we all feel a bit unworthy on the best of days.
Remaining in control of my inner critic, that nasty bitch of defeat is the defense that I use, all of the armor on sale never seemed to fit. One size does not fit all. Long gone are the antidepressants and the endless therapy hours. For me, talking too much about some ancient hurt was counter productive. It is what it is. By identifying the state I am in before I react, by listening to my body, I have been able to reach beyond that stupid cloak of darkness that I have worn since I was 11 years old.
Another great lesson that I have learned, an obvious one really, is that you have to be careful about who you let into your “inner” circle. We can’t pick our family, (I am lucky enough to have a wonderful family that I enjoy being around) but we can pick our friends. Pay attention to how you feel after you hang out with your ‘bestie.” Do you feel buoyant and confident? Or do you feel like crap and uncertain? If you feel let down, say something and move on. There is no point in keeping a negative Nellie in your life, just release her.
As far as family goes, what can you do? I have learned that everyone has their baggage. We all picked up our suitcases from our ancestors, so we have to be mindful of what we want to keep. Change is possible if you identify what you don’t want in your life. Even if you think you are just as “angry as your grandmother was” or a depressed person like your uncle, you can work past the barricades in your mind.
I believe that if you stay sharply in tune with your “gut” feelings, you can avoid uncomfortable situations and people. Sure, your boss might be an ass, your kid’s teacher a jerk … some people you just have to “deal with.” Pick your battles wisely. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t start a turf war over your perception of a slight. Just stay in “tune.” Remember as well that sometimes the very people that piss you off just might be experiencing their version of hell, so lighten up, not everything should be taken personally. Know what I mean?
Life for me is a helluva lot more fun now that my little “nasty Nellie” has been kicked to the curb. I do have to remain vigilant though, just like you. I too experience some days that are harder to deal with than others. By weeding out my posse on a regular basis, by speaking up when in doubt and by remembering to be kind to myself … my inner critic that used to be 6 foot tall is now the size of an ant. One day I will be able to squish her entirely. You can too. Of course, you can, if you really want to.
My negative inner critic has been trained to be a positive inner champion. This is what I hear now:
“Of course, you might fail, but you won’t know how far you will go if you don’t try.”
“You are never too old to try something new; that is what living life to the fullest is all about.”
“Hell yes, you are crazy! That is what I love about you! Everything will be just fine.”
Not bad right? This lesson of life took me 30 years to learn. But hell, who is counting?