Lately I've been thinking about the voices that live inside of our heads. If you think about it, we are ALL hearing voices--all...the...time. And these voices are usually not cause for concern or a sign of mental illness, rather they are a conglomeration of history -- every person who has ever had an influence on or over you. In any given circumstance, one voice might call out over another, good or bad.
So many of us get caught up listening to the negative voices, the ones that tell us we aren't good enough, attractive enough, smart enough, that we don't have a right to do the things that we want to do. If we are lucky, a different voice will speak up on our behalf. It could be the voice of a beloved parent, aunt or grandparent. It might be the voice of an extremely validating friend or a boss or teacher who saw potential in you.
Some of us don't have that other voice or, if we do, it is the most faint. Growing up in an invalidating environment teaches children to feel grateful for scraps, to live in survival mode, to just make do. It essentially disables them.
I grew up under those conditions and, into adulthood, as I saw friends and acquaintances thriving I thought, "How do they know how to do that?"
It wasn't until decades later, I realized that they, perhaps, had a different ratio of voices. It wasn't that these people never experienced self-doubt, but likely they had the toolkit to recover quickly and counter the nastiness that arose inside of them.
For me, "doing life" has often felt like being an armless person desperately swimming for an as yet unspotted shore. I've lived a life in survival mode and have accepted scraps in relationships, in jobs and in friendships. I realize now that I have a choice as to which voices I can trust. "Why me?" has become "Why not me?" It is time to listen to the earliest voice inside of me, the voice that was there long before anyone even thought to discourage it. Young and unspoiled, that voice loved to sing. And, in those days (much to my older sister's chagrin), it did sing...A LOT. Some of my earliest memories are of wandering the house making up songs and watching dreamily at the specs of dust floating in streams of sunlight. I sang songs about wandering the forest and dreamed of one day being an artist. I was free.
On my birthday in January of 2022 I decided it was time to discard those invalidating voices of my past. I needed to reach deep down into myself and pull up that voice that had been piled onto and muffled by the voices of others over the years. I had to be my own validating parent, my own ardent supporter, a cheerleader, the nurturer of that little human that was no taller than the dining room table. She may be small, but she is authentic and wise and I realize now that I should have been listening to her all along.
Pictured above: "The Weaponization of Shame" by Julianne Bonnet