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6:20 a.m., pouring a cup of coffee, thinking about the Ozark finale: I’ll never write anything that good.
7:00 a.m., driving to work out: I bet I’ll only make it to the gym once this week. I probably don’t fit into those new jeans anymore.
9:00 a.m., hanging up the phone with a client: I literally sounded like an idiot.
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11:30 a.m., walking to the store: I’ll never do anything great with my career.
11:45 a.m., buying notecards: I’m really doing horribly with my new budget.
12:00 p.m., see a photo I’m tagged in: If only my face weren’t so fat, I might be pretty.
Ouch. That one stings.
It’s only noon, and I’m already tired of myself. How could I not be? The negative voice that lives in the back of my mind is waiting for me. It patiently sits, poised for the perfect vulnerable moment to strike. And when it does, it hurts — that’s the point. It then recoils without apology, prepping for its next move.
It’s a beautiful day, I get to wake up and do what I love, and I even have a good man who knows the perfect broth to noodle ratio for my chicken soup when I’m sick, and brews my coffee every morning just to say “I love you.”
My legs are moving and my heart is beating, and if I want, I can end my workday early to take a ballet class — just to feel the joy of movement. But all of this is muted, painted gray. I’m living with an asshole of a roommate in my head, and as I walk back to my apartment, I realize I’ve had enough of her bullshit.
I pull up a text message from last night as I walk. My dear friend Jaz is going through a tough time, and last night she sent me a message so sweet I had to screenshot it to keep for a rainy day. It looks like that rainy day came early.
“I can’t thank you enough for your words yesterday, friend,” the text read. “You help me bridge the gap between my head and my heart, you’re that voice of truth in a dark, dark moment. You gave me my joy back, and some hope.”
I read the text again. Yep, she’s talking about me. The same me who just called myself fat and ugly. I don’t understand. How can I be this compassionate person who fills days with hope, but also an asshole who’s meaner than Abby Lee on Dance Moms? The two don’t add up.
I think back to a phone call I had with a mentor of mine (guys, she’s been on Oprah. Can we fangirl for a moment?).
“Well, first, you definitely need to work on how you talk to yourself,” she said. We weren’t even 45 seconds into the chat, and she had already called me out. I’d called myself “a brat” for wanting to leave a job some would kill for, and had said I could never go out on my own and start my own business.
“Okay but how!? How do I stop doing that!?” I asked.
“You won’t,” she said sweetly.
This wasn’t exactly the reassuring advice I was expecting to hear.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“That cruel, negative voice will never stop,” she said. “But you can learn to ignore it. I like to literally say ‘cancel’ whenever it whispers something to me. Or, ‘Thanks, but I’m not interested in your input.’ That voice, that’s not you. That’s not who you are. It’s just your ego talking.”
“That sounds exhausting, to constantly have to ignore it,” I say.
“It is. At first,” she said. “It’s a practice, and like all practices, it will get easier. Today, just try it for five minutes. Tomorrow, seven.”
When we hung up, I immediately lost myself in my to-do list, deadlines, and fretting over why someone hadn’t texted me back. I never did try it for five minutes. So here I am, a year later with an inner critic who talks as loudly as Susie Greene from Curb Your Enthusiasm.
“It’s okay,” I say to myself, channeling what I’d say to my friend Jaz if I were speaking to her. “Just start today.”
So here we go, my first five minutes of retraining my inner critic.
This essay is sh*t. And definitely not as good as your last.
Cancel. I’m not really interested in your feedback today.
(Featured image source: Unsplash)