I've had a voice in my head for as long as I can remember, and it's actually not my own. Well, it's still part of me, but I don't have as much control over it as I do the other, calmer voice in my head.
I didn't tell anyone about this voice until early last year. Sure, I could talk openly about depression or other mental health issues, but I never told anyone about how my "hard on myself"-ness was actually stemming from an abusive inner relationship.
And finally I heard a podcast episode that broke it all down for me, and opened up some serious conversations: Brooke McAlary and Kelly Exeter's episode about Inner Mean Girls on the Let it Be podcast.
I had never heard the phrase "inner mean girl," although I think it's been floating around for a while. It started to put some perspective on what was going on in my head.
My inner mean girl
My inner mean girl tells me horrible things about my body, my writing, my work, my social interactions, you name it. This year it was a crippling issue. I would come up with a new idea for a project or a story, and within a matter of hours that cruel voice in my head would talk me out of it.
I even started to realized that I could identify when the voice was the strongest: when I was coming down from a caffeine high, when I was hungover, when I was PMSing and when I had spent an extended period of time scrolling through social media.
Since I've been such a podcast junkie this past year, I couldn't help making a connection between this and all of Jess Lively's discussion about the ego. I've started to find that my inner mean girl is nothing more than an embittered ego—it doesn't matter how you address "her," what is important is that you learn to identify her boundaries.
I hated my inner mean girl
I came to hate that inner voice. Which ended up even worse for me, because it perpetuated that devastating cycle of self-hatred that inner mean girls love to feed off of.
I would try to fight with that voice, aggressively standing up for my "real voice" and ending up exhausted and, most often, defeated. There were nights where I couldn't sleep because of the litany of ways I had failed that day were running through my mind.
What can you do when you're fighting a battle against yourself?
Instead of anger, I reached out with kindness
It was one of those sleepless nights that I decided to try a new approach. As my husband slept soundly next to me, I found that calm voice in my head and said this to my inner mean girl:
Hey honey, I hear you. What's really going on? What is it that you're afraid of right now?
Instead of lashing back out, I felt myself melt. Seeing through to the root of the voice (my ego), I realized that it wasn't coming from a place of anger or cruelty. It was coming from a place of fear.
By being patient with myself and letting my mind unwind itself on the question "What is it what you're so afraid of?" I was able to face that voice with a more concrete understanding of how to calm it.
In the months since that night, I've noticed that voice almost disappear. If she does come back, I meet her with a mental embrace and an inquiry about her fears.
It's strange, but comforting myself in moments like this has really transformed my daily life. I've been able to push through moments where I would have previously been paralyzed. I've done things like start this blog and take a hot yoga class.
I know that this "inner mean girl" runs rampant within my group of friends, and I'm sure that there are so many more women (and men) dealing with this same issue.
I'm curious to find out if this kind approach of comforting fears instead of battling aggression works for anyone else. Let me know in the comments if you try it!