Do you ever hear that voice? The one that tells you that you’re not (good/smart/strong/thin/pretty/rich) enough?
The voice that finds your insecurities and broadcasts them back to you?
The voice that makes you question your choices. Your life. Your worth.
Do you ever hear it? Do you listen?
I’ve been listening to it lately.
It started innocently enough. I needed to buy a new pair of sandals to replace a pair that self-destructed. I made a stop at the shoe store on my way to gym. At the store, I took off my gym shoes and peeled off my socks only to discover that the polish on my toenails was chipped and half rubbed off (the natural consequence of spending more time running than on toe painting).
I looked up and noticed that all of the other women in the store were perfectly polished – nails and otherwise.
I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed.
The voice whispered to me that I was not good enough.
I got over it enough to locate a pair of sandals and escape to gym, where I thought I would be safe.
But the voice followed.
It watched the other women in the gym and was quick to point out comparisons.
“Look at that! She can squat 140 pounds. You can’t do that!”
“Oh, look. She’s wearing that cute Athleta outfit you wanted. Too bad you only have your old race t-shirt on.”
“Look at her form on leg lifts! You’ll never be flexible enough to do that.”
Over the next couple weeks, the voice was like a malignant parrot on my shoulder. I’d shake it off for a time, but it kept coming home to roost. It seemed to feel the need to comment on every area of my life:
When a pair of shorts I wore last summer wouldn’t quite make the journey over my hips, “Well, look at that. Getting a little chunky there, are we?”
When one of my students complained about a boring lesson, “Wow, you can’t even make M&Ms entertaining. That’s pretty bad.”
When I looked at my book sales and saw that they had slipped, “What did you expect? It’s not like you’re any good at this.”
When another week went by and I hadn’t finished a piece I started for Huffpo, “You’re just a fraud anyways. Just give up on it.”
Yesterday, after more than a week of this verbal abuse by my own critical mind, I decided I would take some action. I stopped at Walmart on the way to yoga, thinking that some new makeup would do the trick. Maybe eye liner has some magical gag order action. The eyeliner is nice (and much easier to apply than the broken, stubby pencil I had been using that always threatened to leave splinters along with its color) but it didn’t shut up the voice.
That’s because I was allowing the voice to distract me from the true insecurities.
I wasn’t really upset about unpainted toenails or curvier hips.
It’s bigger than that.
The life of a teacher has a rhythm: frantic action in August and September settle into a routine that slowly builds in intensity until it peaks in May. And then we breathe.
Except I’m not content to simply breathe.
I’m not content to simply be a teacher.
I want more.
But I don’t know how.
Last summer, I was singularly focused on finishing the book and getting the wellness coaching business up and running.
I succeeded on both fronts.
This year, I have so much I want to do.
But I also have doubts. Am I wasting my time and energy? Which paths do I explore and which should I ignore?
Last summer, I posted four small bulletin boards above my desk, labeled body (marathon training), book (notes, etc. for writing it), blog (goals and post ideas) and business (goals and info for the coaching). I have not altered the boards much since the summer. As I look through the pages tacked to the squares, I realize that I am accomplished most of what I intended last summer.
So why is it not enough?
Change is scary. Risk is scarier still. My inner critic is telling me to maintain the status quo, to not dare to post bigger goals and intentions. The voice tells me not to try so that I do not risk failure.
Today, I am telling my inner voice to shove it.
I am dedicating today to rebuilding my boards. I am committing to posting bigger goals and aspirations than before. I am pledging to sort through my ideas and clarify my paths. I am promising to use those boards as inspiration and motivation this summer.
So, yeah, I hear that voice. But today, I’m telling it to shut up. After I paint my toenails, that is:)
(This post makes me think of that old SNL skit with Stewart Smally: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.” 🙂 )