Y'all! Despite having written a whole book about learning to like yourself and not undermine your own every move with self-hatred, I have recently discovered YET ANOTHER WAY those dark voices in my head are tripping me up.
Generally, I have gotten pretty good at ignoring, setting aside, or countering those voices (as per the techniques in my book). But! They are sneaky! They change tactics! They change focus! They do not go quiet into that good night! (Not because they are mean, necessarily, but because they are very misguidedly trying to protect us from hurt.)
I have realized one really place those voices have been really effective for a while is in undermining my follow up. Whether it's at work, with friends, or even here on this blog, in the space between me saying I'll do something and the time when I should actually do it, those little voices come in and do their darndest to convince me that nobody really cares, that I am not needed, or that hearing from me again will just be annoying.
An example: a friend reaches out to me to let me know something I did that hurt them--a generous and vulnerable act of love on their part. I respond in the moment to apologize and try to begin to make things right, but there is need for a follow-up conversation. I should be the one to initiate that, to show that I care and am taking this seriously but it gets dangerously delayed or even dropped.
Why? Because of those dang voices: "They don't really want to hear from you, don't bug them," "You already annoyed them once, don't want to be a pest," "They don't really care about you that much," "This is the perfect opportunity for them to ditch your friendship," "Just forget about it, they have basically forgotten you already."
On the plus side, thanks to all the previous work I've done, I am now fully able to talk back to these voices. I can say no, actually my friend wouldn't have reached out in the first place if they didn't care. People don't put in extra emotional work to repair relationships that don't matter to them, and if anything, this is a sign of how much I mean to them.
On the negative side, by the time my mental tug of war finished, enough time had passed that I have now left my friend feeling high and dry and now there is something new to apologize for. (We all know how terrible it feels to share something vulnerable with someone we love and feel like they aren't taking it seriously.)
I have to say kudos to the strategy at play here. If YOU were in charge of protecting someone from future hurt by making sure they never got too close to anyone or had too big of expectations for their life, undermining their ability build any form of trust by interfering with their follow-up is pure genius. Mwa! Chef's kiss!
But now I'm onto them. Look out, dark voices! Because over the coming months or years I will slowly start to get better at noticing and pushing back against my own brain when this happens, an act that always feels like trying to swim through a pool full of wet cement.
Can't wait to encounter your next move, dark voice strategist.
PS: How was my click-bait headline???
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