There’s this voice in my head. It’s a derranged asshole, and it says vile things to me. My brain (like yours) absorbs the garbage I hear and see, digests and distills it. Inside my brain, that nastiness congeals into a distinct and horrible voice. When I picture the face behind this voice, I am reminded of everyone who was ever mean to me.
This voice is never truly silent. The best I hope for is that it gets quieter. Between insults, it lurks: waiting to pounce on any moment of doubt, hesitation, or confusion. The voice is loud. It’s wicked. And it knows how to say what will hurt the most. This is the voice that mocks me when I’m proud and kicks me in the ribs as my heart breaks.
You hear a voice like this too. It’s the voice that tells you to feel shame when you’re beaming. It’s the voice that tells you you’re utterly worthless when you merely stumble. It’s the voice that calls you disgusting and ugly and stupid and worse. It’s the voice of every bully and creep and predator you’ve ever met. It’s bossy and it’s devious. It’s the comments you shouldn’t read.
And horrifyingly, everything it says is coated with an oily sheen of believability. Maybe I am a little bit gross. Of course I am imperfect in important ways. Sure, I’m annoying on occasion. And yes, I am a shitty cook.
But once you agree with that foul voice even a little bit, it will keep needling you, adding to and feeding on your doubts, until it has you actively despising yourself. What starts with a tiny jab can expand into a gaping wound, if you let that asshole voice keep talking.
This voice gets louder as you get quieter. It gains strength as you lose your balance. It becomes bold as you grow timid. It laughs when you ache. It nods smugly as you repeat the rotten things it tells you. It’s a bully and a creep.
But then, if you’re lucky, sometimes another voice emerges from the festering darkness, and says, bravely but quietly, “No.” The little voice is harder to hear. It’s easier to ignore. It’s fragile and small — but it’s the voice that’ll save you.
The little voice gets louder as you get braver. It gets stronger when you assert yourself. The little voice is a tiny, flickering flame that becomes a white-hot ball of power, if only you can hear it.
The little voice encourages. It supports. When I think of it, I think of all the wonderful, supportive people I’ve known. I think of their acts of kindness and the sturdy power that comes from being able to reciprocate. The face of this voice looks a little bit like everyone I admire (when they smile).
It’s hard to talk back to the intimidating and bullying voice. It’s hard to amplifying the little, gentle, wise voice. But the little voice is more important. It’s more powerful. It’s more correct. It’s more kind.
The inside of your brain is just like the world beyond your skull: just because the asshole voices are louder, doesn’t mean they’re correct. And even if you ignore them, those tedious assholes never really go away. So listen for the small voice.
It’s the one who’ll say what you most need to hear.