By Joey Phoenix
How has your self-talk been this week? Have you been kind to yourself? Were the things you told yourself positive or negative? If it was negative, did you listen?
Or did you tell that little negative voice to get out?
For me, it’s been a rough week.
It’s been the kind of week where waking up in the morning is a slog of unmotivated nothingness. It took everything in my power to do the work that I was obligated to do, let alone the personal work that I wanted to do. I canceled plans. I spent long minutes staring at blank walls trying to reset my insides. I reminded myself to drink water.
All the while a little voice inside tried to tell me all sorts of things. It told me that the way I felt this week was going to be the way I felt all the time from now on so I had better get used to it. It told me that uphill battles reach no treaties, only complete surrender.
It told me I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t worth the time and effort of my peers. It called me an imposter. It called me mediocre. It called me unnecessary.
“Hush,” I told it.
Your opinion is taken into consideration but right now you’re wrong.
I’ve been in discussions with this voice my entire life. It told me when I was five that I had to learn how to be an adult after my Dad had the accident that would leave him handicapped.
I did grow up faster, but I also fell in love with music boxes and the way light moves through trees in summer.
When I was eleven it told me that I would never fit in anywhere, when the reality was that I just didn’t know that there were people like me already out there, I just hadn’t found them yet and being put in high school when I should’ve been in sixth grade meant that at that time I simply had no peers.
I was lonely for a long time until I took charge of my loneliness and started befriending the weirdest people I could find. This has always worked in my favor.
In Graduate School, I was one of three female presenting people in my political science department and that negative voice told me my own voice wasn’t needed at the table. I made myself speak up and now I find myself talking almost too much in groups.
Each new phase of my life has caused this voice to yell at me loudly. It does it because it thinks it’s protecting me. It resists change. It wants the status quo. It wants me to stay exactly the way that I am without ever testing those inner boundaries.
It’s just trying to keep me safe, and sometimes I listen to it. Sometimes I listen to it too much, and that is only human.
As an artist who relies on a fickle inner muse to give me inspiration, I frequently get frustrated by the fact that my muse and my negative inner voice come from similar places. Both of these voices have big Opinions about how I should behave, what I should think, who I should associate myself with, and the kind of work I should be creating. Even now as I write this, my muse encourages me to step forward and keep writing and the other one, the one who I will from here forward refer to as Alvin, is telling me that writing this will make people judge or discredit me.
Our self-talk determines our course, and the more negative our self-talk, the less likely we are to put ourselves out there. But for those dealing with overactive negative self-talk, it’s not as if you can just snap your fingers and make it disappear.
So how do you get past negative self-talk? How do you tell it to shoo?
Say thank you.
But wait, isn’t the negative self-talk harmful? Why would we want to thank it?
Because it’s doing you a favor.
It’s showing you the places where you’re uncomfortable. It’s showing you the places where you can grow. It’s showing you the places where you feel unsafe.
And sometimes, that can be useful. The biggest challenge is that if we don’t train this inner temperature gauge to surrender to our muse, it will take over. It’s the wolf you shouldn’t feed. But because it is a part of you and serves a function, if you find it taking up more room than it needs to…
Say thank you, that its opinion has been heard, but you’ve chosen to move in a different direction.
So Alvin, for sake of us all, learn your place.
Joey Phoenix is a performance artist and the Managing Editor of Creative North Shore. Follow them on Twitter @jphoenixmedia. If you have an idea for a story, feature, or pictures of adorable llamas, feel free to send them a message at email@example.com