Saturday, March 2, 2013

Overcoming the Negative Voice Within

As a guidance counselor in an elementary school, I teach a lot of classes on feelings. In one memorable lesson, the book I was reading had the line in it, “Are you feeling bold?” I’ve learned never to assume that children know what I am talking about, so I stopped and asked the kindergarten class if they knew what bold meant. Being five- and six-year olds, they of course did. The child I called on confidently replied “You know it’s when you have no hair.”

One problem that I often face myself is NOT feeling so bold. Does this happen to you? There are a lot of days when I look at my goals and my accomplishments and not only do I not feel bold or confident, I feel downright incompetent and incapable of doing much more than showing up for life. And sometimes even that is a struggle.  These are the days when I ask myself, “Who do you think you are to aspire to such big goals, such impossible accomplishments? What makes you think that you are knowledgeable enough, smart enough, or capable enough to accomplish that? Who or what made you an expert in that area?” And here’s the clincher, “Everyone else is better at that than you. How will you ever achieve that?”

The Negative Voice

There are lots of ways to tackle this negative voice in our brains.  I'm convinced that we all experience it, some are just better at talking back than others.  Learning to overcome the voice with a more positive one is a learned skill.  Many writers have spoken about this negative voice in our brains that loves to tear down our self-confidence. It is that voice that carefully records all our failures but seems to conveniently forget our successes.  It is that nagging voice that raises doubt and says “What if?” every time we venture out into new territory. It is the voice that wears us down rather than builds us up.  Being prepared for this voice is a necessary and important part of following our dreams and accomplishing our goals.  

Overcoming the Negative Voice

The first step in overcoming it is to recognize the voice for what it is, a voice-- not a statement of facts.  When we give the voice too much credence, then we can be easily paralyzed by it.  The second step to overcoming the negative voice is to develop an alternative, positive voice.  This is the step that is often sadly neglected.  Just as the negative voice tracks our deficits, the positive voice must regularly track our accomplishments and achievements.  We need to nurture and nourish this important part of our psyche, so that it can fend off attacks by its opposite and keep us on track with our dreams.  

Six Steps to Slaying the Dragon Within

In his book, Do The Work, author Steven Pressfield calls this negative force within all of us, "resistance".  He begins the book by saying, "On the field of Self stand a knight and a dragon.  You are the knight.  Resistance is the dragon."  Quite an image don't you think?  How do you battle the dragon?  Here's six ways he recommends engaging in this life-changing fight. 

  1. Stay stupid---Don't allow yourself to think about the impossibility, the difficulty of the task ahead
  2. Be stubborn--Commit yourself to action and then don't stop
  3. Keep the faith--Don't give up on the belief that you have something valuable within to create and share
  4. Discover your passion--Conquer your fear and you will discover a boundless inexhaustible well of passion 
  5. Enlist assistance--No one goes it alone with success.  Develop a support network and maintain it
  6. Nurture your Friends and Family--take care of those you love and those who love you the most

We All Need AIR

In previous posts I've written about the first four steps.  In this post I'd like to tackle the last two equally important but often neglected steps.  Chris Hogan, trainer for the Dave Ramsey organization states that "appreciation is oxygen for the soul."  He has created a mnemonic: AIR, that stands for Appreciation, Inspiration and Recognition, all key elements of that oxygen so necessary for the health of our spirit.  When we neglect these elements, we allow the negative voice, the dragon to have victory over us.

We all need appreciation.  Appreciation for a job well done.  Appreciation for our talent and energy.  Appreciation for who we truly are and how we share that we others.  Appreciation like the other qualities is a two way street.  Just as we need to receive appreciation, we need to show and express our appreciation of others.

Inspiration can come from many sources.  It can come from mentors and friends, professional contacts and family.  We can be inspired by the books we read and the seminars we attend.  We need to be intentional about planning for our own inspiration so that the well doesn't dry up.  In order to inspire others, we need to nourish ourselves in ways that inspire.

Finally, we all need recognition on some level.  Not everyone is motivated to win first place or to become famous, but everyone needs to be recognized by those who are important to them.  Chris Hogan says that for some people, the last time they heard any applause was when they walked across the stage to receive their high school diploma.  That's a sad scenario.  We all need recognition on a regular basis even if it's not a public display.  In order to receive recognition,  we must make sure we put ourselves in situations and relationships where recognition can take place.  We must open ourselves up to the possibility.  As with all the elements of AIR, we should also make sure that we give recognition to those around us who may be equally in need.

Over coming the dragon within, the negative voice, is an ongoing battle that is never really won.  However with practice, we can strengthen our positive voice so that we feel more bold and confident.  What about you?  Where do you encounter your resistance?  What is your dragon?  How do you battle against the negative voice?  I'd love to hear your suggestions and comments.

Want to learn more about goal setting and how to Be Do Have, even with a busy life?  Listen to my teleseminar  with Jen McDonough where I talk about goals and goal getting! Details are here:Teleseminar

Want to spend an entire day learning more about following your passion and making your goals happen? Attend the Called Woman Conference in March and listen to an impressive line-up of speakers who can teach you how to take your dream to reality.

Do you love to write?  Attend the Coffee and Quill Seminar for Christian Writers on March 16th. It is free and open to the public.  Details are here:  CAG 

Like this blog post? Share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter!

    Enhanced by Zemanta


    1. You are so right about the negative voice, Lynne. I believe every one of us experiences it from time to time - I did, especially in my twenties and thirties. Sadly, much of it was learned negativity via my mother. I had to grow and mature away from her voice in my head whenever I had the chance to try something new or meet a new challenge.
      Fortunately, today, my positive voice and I have an absolutely beautiful relationship. And, I love and understand my mom more now than I ever did. So, all turned out as God planned!
      Blessings, my friend, and thanks for this uplifting post!

      1. My negative voice was particularly strong in my younger years as well. That's one reason I love to coach young women to believe in themselves and feel confident. Blessings to you on the journey:)

    2. I love this post - you're always so thorough. I'm gonna have to say that my dragon has to do with the word 'enough' ... am I enough? Am I doing enough? Do I care enough? Will I have enough to give?

      And sometimes I give too much and haven't left enough for myself or my family.

      Thanks for the chance to share my reflections. Your students are lucky to have you!

      The Corner On Character

      1. How remarkable that your dragon has to do with the word 'enough' and this from the counselor who has a fantastic school counselor blog full of so much helpful information! Just goes to show that we are so often our own worst critic. Thanks so much for reading and sharing.