Silence Your Inner Bully
As a lifestyle editor, I talk a lot about fulfilling dreams. What I know about the subject I learned first-hand because for years I didn’t pursue any of my own dreams. Whenever I even thought about going for it, no matter what the “it” was, the voice of some unknown heckler would pop into my head with what seemed an endless supply of criticisms.
When I wanted to write a book, the voice said, “You’ve never written anything longer than 10 pages. What makes you think you can write a book?” When I wanted to pursue acting, the voice said, “You think you’re going to land a role over someone who’s trained for years?” When I wanted to try out for a musical at the community theater, the voice said, “You’d better stick to singing in the shower.”
That bully may have taken up permanent residence between my dreams and me if I hadn’t figured out that the bully...was me.
The heckling was based on my own fears. I wish I could say that once I realized the voice was my own, I was able to turn it off. But the truth is, I wasn’t. I did, however, learn to tune it out so that I could (and did) start going after my dreams. Try a few of the techniques that worked for me and see if you can’t get your own inner critic in check.
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1. Voice recognition. Take the time to really know who’s telling you these negative things. Is it only the voice in your head, or is someone in your real life, past or present, telling you a similar story? If it's the latter, you need to limit your exposure to them—at least until you’re ready to tell them what bridge they can jump off of. If it’s someone from your past, write them a letter telling them exactly what you think of them and then tear it up into little pieces and flush those down the toilet. I’ve done that more than once, and you’d be surprised how liberating it is. Once you’ve addressed any outer voices of negativity, the inner one gets a lot quieter.
2. Talk back. Whatever insults the voice in your head comes up with, write them down, and then address them one by one. Some of my recurring criticisms were that I had no experience doing the things I wanted to do, I wasn’t good enough to succeed at any of the things I wanted to try, and that nobody would take me seriously. My rebuttals were as follows: Never having done something is not evidence that I can’t do it—it's just evidence that I haven’t tried long enough. Maybe I’ll let the decision-makers decide whether I’m good enough to do the things I want to do—I may very well be brilliant! Nobody is ever going to take me seriously if I don’t. So why not give that a try and see how it goes?
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3. Don’t get discouraged. Learning how to overcome my fears and doubts empowered me to take chances and go for my dreams. That doesn’t mean every attempt ended in success. In fact, I’ve heard my fair share of “nos,” and I expect that in my lifetime, I’ll hear quite a few more. The difference is that now my own "no" isn’t one of them. And as a result, my first book is due out later this year, I’ve been hired for more than a dozen acting jobs, and I’ve had the pleasure of singing—with enthusiasm—in five community theater productions, not one of which involved a shower.