How to ignore the asshole in your own mind.

Joan Westenberg
The Habit Lab
Published in
5 min readApr 16, 2024


You can’t listen to the part of you that tells you how much you suck. You know it’s there, I know it’s there — but if you let it dictate your life, you’ll lose. That voice is what leads to people shutting startups, abandoning blogs, leaving beautifully written novels unfinished and letting themselves down.

Dealing with the jerk who lives in your mind is tough.

It’s rough and difficult to manage, but if you can learn how you stand a chance of accomplishing almost anything.

1. Remember that the small things matter.

That asshole voice is focused on the big things. It doesn’t care about the small things, tasks and obstacles you must deal with daily. That voice doesn’t want you to spend a day without accomplishing something huge, and it will tear you down when you don’t.

But the small things are so important—tying your shoelaces, emailing your contacts, writing 100 words, making a start—the small things add up, one by one, into the big things. Nothing you do is truly meaningless, as long as you stay mindful.

The bullshit that your asshole voice is telling you about how you’re wasting your life, that’s not true. Your life is made up of a thousand small things, that you built up every day.

2. Focus on the victories.

When you win, when you win anything, you get bonus points. You get to redeem those in the future when you start to lose. The asshole voice doesn’t want you to focus on what’s going right, it only wants to look at what’s going wrong.

This is why the one person who hates your writing and your work is worth more to you than a hundred people who love it. You twist and scale the bad shit until it seems to outweigh the good.

You have to celebrate every win. Regardless of size, give yourself a moment to commemorate it and feel proud. You’ll appreciate them more, and you’ll give less ground to the asshole.

3. Stop thinking about weeks and months. Think about days and years.

You have to take things as they come. Take your life one day and one year at a time. Every single day feels like it’s worth so much, but the weeks and months tend to blur together.

When you look at every day as being valuable, you can continually remind the asshole that you’re getting somewhere. Because hey, maybe a lot of big things didn’t happen this week or this month — but you sure as shit kicked ass today.

When you look at every year as valuable, you can let the stress of accomplishment go. You don’t have to panic, run before you can walk, or beat yourself up. There’s a whole year to accomplish your goals, so who cares if it’s been a few months with no progress?

The asshole wins when you give it a stick to hit you with.

Don’t turn your calendar into that stick.

4. Don’t give it room to breathe.

When you let the asshole voice take the talking stick, it’s not going to give it back. And it won’t shut up. It will just keep listing every reason why you suck and should quit right now.

You can’t give it the talking stick. You can’t give it room to breathe, relax, and make it home. When it rears its head, in the mornings or the late evenings, when your friends are listing their accomplishments and you feel like you have nothing to add, you have to shut it down early and shut it down hard.

Distracting yourself is the key. Use Netflix. Use a good book. Use a walk around the block. Use an awesome recipe for fucking good chocolate and marshmallow brownies. Use anything, but get yourself distracted.

5. Learn to accept that it doesn’t matter.

You’re allowed to suck at some things. You can be a terrible singer, drummer, programmer, developer or CEO. It might be that you’re just not suited to those things. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world when you fail at them.

All it means is that you’ve had the chance to learn a valuable lesson about what you’re good at and what you’re not so good at. And now you can sharpen the sword, find your next dragon and get to work fucking slaying it.

It doesn’t matter what you’re bad at. That’s not important in life. What’s important is finding out what you’re good at, and then working hard to improve. Sure, other people don’t suck at the same things you do. Doesn’t make them better than you.

Judging a fish and a monkey on their ability to play Call of Duty isn’t particularly fair.

Don’t do that to yourself.

A decade ago, I dropped out of law school. That’s a tough thing to tell people. I got solid marks and a high-grade point average, and my teachers really liked me. I knew if I stuck it out, there was a chance I could have an incredible career.

But I was struggling. I was losing ground. I was waking up and crying in the shower. Because I had a voice in my head who would kick off the day by telling me everything I didn’t want to hear.

You have no chance. You’re always going to fail. You’re always going to lose.

The years of my life stretched ahead of me like an endless line of dominoes, waiting to fall.

I quit and walked away.

I spent 6 months sitting on a couch, watching Scrubs re-runs and wearing out the patience of everyone I loved.

By the time I got my shit together, I had lost almost an entire year to that voice. These days, I’m a lot better at ignoring that voice. I’ve learned how to deal with it. When it starts to whisper, I can ignore it most of the time.

And because of that, I’m much happier than I used to be. I want you to know that the asshole voice doesn’t have to win open mic night in your brain.

You can take that home every fucking day.

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