We all have a critique inside of us. A voice that questions every choice we make, every step we take. It’s there before you would open your mouth and finally tell her what you have been procrastinating. It’s there before you step up on the stage. It’s there when you take a glance in the mirror.
The more you fight against it, the more you lose against it. But the thing is, your internal chatter is not you. You are not even related.
We all have a download history storing a lifetime of criticism that we received from family, friends and teachers for oh-so-many years.
Who do you think you are, young lady? You’re never going to be able to achieve anything with this attitude. Great, now you have messed everything up, that’s what you always do anyway.
Whatever it is, it stubbornly echoes in the back of our minds like an old videotape that has been running on repeat for so long that it has merged with our thoughts and we fail to differentiate it from our own voice.
However, if you play back the sound you might discover that phrase, that form of speech that your parent, sibling, neighbour or teacher used to say. The exact same words, isn’t it? It puts you into a grip of shame, blame and guilt that makes you feel paralyzed at times when you need your best confident self to take action.
I never noticed this until I moved abroad and started living life in a language that I had learnt from books, which had triggered no emotions and carried no memories before and thus could have never have power over me.
I started a blank page. Everything around me was given a new meaning and every expression gained a new tone and context. I started to question everything and this shaped my thinking with an incredible speed and depth. I understood how different languages shape different mindsets, and how the structure of speaking can change our self-expression and the very definition of our self.
I have always been an overly receptive person and it took me less than two years to start thinking, dreaming and constructing involuntary monologues in my head in English. Only one voice remained the same, turning up from the dark and speaking to me in my mother tongue. I finally stopped trying to silence it. I told her: Come inside, take a seat. Tell me everything. And she did.
I listened to each and every word with patience and, one by one, I could release the weight they had put on my self-esteem for over two decades. I repeated every little piece of self-doubt and insecurity until the words vanished and I could hear nothing else but sheer silence. And that’s when I started to fill up the space with my own dialogue, the dearest language that I use with the people closest to me.
I have changed the tape to a kind and gentle voice that said: I love you. I have always loved you. I have followed every step of you. Trust me, you are doing really great, and I am proud of you.
And I smiled and replied: Welcome back.
In times of uncertainty, pressure and trouble the old recording might turn up from time to time with a cold voice, but I don’t let it in anymore. Instead, I take a minute to stop, let the storm settle, and talk to myself in a way I would encourage my best friend.
I have learnt to treat myself the best possible way and to be there for myself. After all, I am my own best friend and there is nobody in this life I would spend as much time as I do with my own self. So I might as well learn how to enjoy my own company and give myself the love I deserve. And so should you.
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