The Voice in Our Head Lies
You control the voice in your head, don’t let it lie to you.
I watched a documentary about Jane Fonda last week. It was fascinating to learn about her growth from an insecure, unsure girl, to confident, trailblazing senior. For a long time Fonda did not believe she had any knowledge or smarts about anything (which in her younger days was probably true to a degree). She did not know she wanted to be an actress and did not believe in her own talent for a long time. Although she was passionate about activism she struggled to harness this passion and use it and her celebrity effectively. Whenever her confidence waivered she turned to men to guide and care for her. And she struggled with bulimia for decades. It struck me while watching, that if this smart, talented, passionate, financially independent, attractive woman did not find the confidence to really stand alone on her own two feet until she was in her 70s, how the heck were we average women supposed to find that confidence?
| The cosmetics market in Canada is expected to reach 1.6 billion US dollars by 2025. |
Sadly, many women never do. Too many women, me included, spend our entire lives listening to and believing our own negative self-talk. We say things to and judge ourselves in ways that we never would friends or family. We stand before the mirror and pick apart every flaw, insisting we are too fat or thin, or too tall or short. Brunettes want to be blondes, redheads want to be brunettes, and blondes want to be redheads. In 2019, there were more than 1,800 cosmetics, beauty supplies and perfume stores in Canada. The cosmetics market in Canada is expected to reach 1.6 billion US dollars by 2025. Over 2 billion Canadian dollars spent because women believe the negative stuff we say to ourselves!
And its just not our looks that we do this with. I hear women cutting themselves down all the time. I cannot count the number of times my mom has said to me, “I can’t do that,” when it was suggested she try something new at work. Another friend automatically assumes that she has done a bad job if she does not receive feedback from clients. They pay her, but still she assumes the worst. Why? If they really thought she did a terrible job, they probably would not pay her. And then there are those friends we all have that have an exceptional talent that they refuse to share with the world because they don’t believe they are any good. Over, and over again, women pass up opportunities because we believe the negative things we say to ourselves, and we feed both our insecurities and our fears in the process.
This trend seems to begin at a young age. My youngest daughter is a good example of this. Since she was about 10 years old, every schoolteacher she had told me that she is a natural leader. And I could see it too. When she was interested in something and passionate about it, she could speak and present well beyond her age. She is charming but also empathetic. People instinctively want to confide in her. She also used to have a great sense of fun; she could find the goofy in things which put people at ease. But at the same time these qualities were first being recognized in her, girl drama dynamics began in her life. In those tween years girls start jockeying for position and something rather unpleasant rumbles to the surface of their personalities. It is around this age that girls usually divide off into one of five groups: popular; athletic; artistic; academic; or trouble. Regardless of which group you are in, there is always a pecking order with a clear leader of the pack usually marked by the prettiest, fastest, most talented, smartest, and most reckless. If you are not the dominant leader, you fall into the insecure follower category of those always trying to measure up and fit in. The average, nice girls seem to fair worst.
When the popular girls started to turn on my daughter, she did not consider herself an athlete, artist or academic, and she was too much of good girl to hang with the trouble group (although she did try for a while) so she was lost. She began to believe that she was not a leader. That she was not likable. That she was not attractive. That she was not smart. And that she was not fun nor funny. It did not matter what the people who loved her said, it did not matter if she achieved something, it did not matter even what friends said. She started a non-stop dialogue of negative self-talk and it has haunted her now for a decade. And it has held her back from pursuing her goals and dreams. She only believes the bad things she says to herself.
Sadly, she is not alone. I do it too. I catch myself having conversations in my mind that simply are not productive. I can replay in mind a bad interaction that I had with a colleague ten years ago and beat myself up for what I did or did not say. I read articles I wrote before I took my college writing course and convince myself I don’t know how to write. I have started writing at least three novels but have completed none, so I convince myself that I am not capable of writing a non-fiction book. And I can spend a whole day checking off a dozen things on my to-do list but then feel compelled to explain to my husband what I did so he doesn’t think I am lazy. And worst of all, because I have never made a living income as a writer, I convince myself I am failure as a professional writer, despite among other things having written 11 published books!
Here’s the thing, I, you, we all should stop doing this. I consider almost every woman I know to be a superhero. They juggle more, have more talents, and support more people than should be humanly possible. They switch gears and directions on a dime without ever losing speed or sight of their goals. They are smart, strong, capable, funny, and sexy! In a nutshell, they know how to get shit done, how to take care of the ones they love, and how to look good while doing it. But despite this they still undersell themselves on a regular basis. It is a terrible and all too common habit among women.
Dove Beauty recently did an experiment that examined how women view themselves versus how others view them. First off, two people were introduced and told to get to know each other a little. Then one of the people sat on one side of a curtain while a professional police sketch artist sat on the other. The person was then asked to describe their physical features to the artist for him to use as the guide for their portrait. When that portrait was complete, the experiment partner of the drawing subject sat on the opposite side of the curtain of the artist and described the other person. When that drawing was complete the two drawings were compared to each other. Universally the self-described drawings were far more negative looking than the drawings that were based off the description from another person. All the women focused on their flaws. They were often frowning, their eyes were small, and hair limp. By contrast the drawings done when someone else described them depicted the women as bright, open, and attractive. It is an eye-opening example of how we really see ourselves much more negatively than others see us.
What I know though, is that the women who cut the negative self-talk, believe in themselves and their abilities and go for their dreams, always succeed, myself included! For example, I had convinced myself that I didn’t have what it takes to get a college education because when I was 17, I failed a college entrance exam. But I really wanted more education, so I finally stopped listening to that negative voice in my head and went for it. With a daughter in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary school, I enrolled in a full-time college writing program. Two years later I graduated with honors! When I could not find work in publishing in Vancouver, I started to get depressed, and I convinced myself that I did not have the talent or skill to write for a magazine. But after doing a short stint as an assistant editor, I realized I did have the skills. I tuned out the naysayers in my head and created a job for myself by launching just dance! magazine. The first time I was offered a book writing contract, I accepted it with absolutely no knowledge of how to approach the project. But because I had accepted the contract I was on the hook to deliver, so I did. I had no choice but to ignore the self-doubt and produce.
The lesson here is, we control the voices in our head, so don’t let them lie to us. Often, it is our insecurities and fears screaming at us, demanding to be heard over our confidence, strengths, and dreams. But if we want to carry ourselves with confidence, use our strengths to our best advantage, and achieve our dreams then we must allow the positive voices to speak louder than the negative. When someone gives you compliment, accept it, and believe them. When you feel a pang of pride, own it! When you achieve something, brag about it! And everyday when you look at yourself in the mirror compliment the things you love about yourself. Smile at your gorgeous face and love every bit of you. If you believe in yourself, love yourself, and respect yourself, others will follow suit. Negativity is contagious, but so too is positivity. Which would you rather spread and catch?