SHUT UP: Quieting The Voice That Tears You Down

Overthinking is a helluva drug. Self-criticism is even worse.

I often fall into phases where I overthink, overanalyze, and push myself to attain the goals that seem just outside of my reach. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it often fires me up to run harder, lunge farther, and hit the finish line first. Competition with other folks usually isn't my issue. My biggest competitor is myself, so if I hit a goal before I thought I would, or before others thought I could, that is the ultimate win for me.

But on the flip side - overthinking can bring out the nasty side of self-competition: that little voice in your head that starts as a whisper and rapidly escalates to a banshee scream. It's that voice that tells you that you can't do it. It's that voice that cackles at you when you stumble. It's that voice that verbally assaults you like an overbearing drill sergeant when you think you're doing your best - but it's quick to tell you that your "best" just isn't damn well good enough. Lately, this voice has been winning.

I've been overthinking a lot. Am I happy at my job? If I'm not, what am I going to do about it? How good is my writing? Do I have any potential to do anything of substance with this thing that I'm so passionate about? Should I cut my cable bill to throw more dough on my student loan payments? Am I spending enough time nurturing my relationships? If my next follow-up goes well in September, baby makin' will get the green light. But is that a good time to start? If I conceive by..., that means the baby will due in...and that means I'd take maternity leave in...and so on and so on.

Overthinking in addition to that self-deprecating voice isn't a good mix. That voice will have me thinking that I have no talent. That I'm never going to find success. That I'm going to be a friendless old hack with a miserable husband who wonders why we STILL don't have cable and why I'm STILL paying off OSAP loans. That voice is saying I'm going to have kids too late. That I'll never find a way to make a positive impact on the world. That I'm irrational, invisible, and really don't matter all that much.

I've decided to push past this voice. Here's how:

I took a look at my vision board, with the reminder to "be your own biggest supporter, not just your biggest critic!" I peeked at the calendar and noted that we're halfway through 2012. I chose to be excited for 6 more months to make this the best year event, and rejected the idea of mourning the 6 that had already passed. I printed out a kind email from one of my staff and folded it up in my desk, a reminder that I do make a difference for someone. I signed up for writing workshops and networking events to work on my craft and make moves. The icing on the cake was when I visited the newly revamped Malton Moms site - you may remember that I did two workshops with the group in the spring - and I was ecstatic to see that the ladies have taken my teachings and ran with them. It felt so good to see that I helped someone to make a change for the better. That feel good came right at the perfect time. The voice screaming in my ear started to stutter, then choke, then faded back into the shadows.

So, I've quieted that voice for now. I'm chillin' out on the excessive overanalysis of any and everything. I work hard, do well, and plan to succeed. I'm definitely not without my mistakes and failures, but the only way they define me is by the lessons I've learned from them. Thank God for those feel good moments that help to silence my biggest critic - myself.

Are you hard on yourself? How do you keep the self-deprecation in check? What are your tricks for handling disappointment, failure, and those ugly moments of insecurity? We all have them at one point or another! Share your thoughts!


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