Earlier this week, I mentioned that I have been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. One I listened to, whilst folding away the washing yesterday, really resonated with me. It was a podcast on the subject of self-doubt and managing that negative voice in your head, from Me & Orla (yes, I’m mentioning her again).
I am plagued by self-doubt and have a brain that houses a particularly snarky negative voice, but I don’t think this makes me unique. In fact, I would say I’m far more likely in the majority. On the occasions where I might have mentioned these feelings to others, the usual response I hear is ‘me too’.
Rather reassuringly, the podcast mentions that anyone without this voice is probably a sociopath. Good to know, no?
The podcast goes into detail to explain that we are hard-wired by nature to respond to dangers in this way. Feelings of self-doubt and that negative voice in our head are designed to provide us with a warning of potential risk. They’re like a little alarm bell going off in our head. The problem is, these responses are better suited to situations that may cause us bodily harm, rather than those that make us feel a sense of social anxiety, for example.
I mean, they’re not comparable situations, are they? Yet, our bodies respond in similar ways to both.
One of the points raised in Sara and self-doubt guru, Sas Petherick’s, discussion, is that it is possible to identify the ways in which self-doubt manifests behaviours. Apparently, a common way for self doubt to manifest, is in procrastination. Hearing this out loud was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me.
If you follow me on Instagram, you will know my struggle with procrastination is a regular theme in my captions. Whether it’s a piece of sponsored work, making a phone call, or replying to an email; if it’s something I’m worried about, I procrastinate to the point of agony. I tie myself up in knots at the prospect of an impending deadline, but refuse to move to action. Instead, I sit and think about all the things I need to do, becoming more stressed by the minute.
One of the things that stops me from doing the things I need to, is a worry that the outcome wont be good enough. I worry the results wont be what I had envision or that I might be judged negatively. It’s a bloody good job these concerns haven’t stop me from completing these tasks at all. They are always finished on time, but wouldn’t it be so much easier without procrastination?
In fact, the very act of procrastination makes the chance for realisation of my fears far greater. With less time to complete tasks, the potential for failure is more real, but worse than this, procrastinating makes me feel rubbish. Procrastination feeds an angry fire under that negative inner voice and provides validation to some of the things it tells me.
You’re not organised enough.
You’re not good enough.
You should probably just give up.
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The reassuring thing is that there are ways to work through these feelings. The podcast I mentioned here suggests working out where these feelings came from, recognising your strengths and telling that negative voice to do one. Obviously, this isn’t verbatim. I have broken down the message to its most simplistic form, but for me, simple works. It’s the same as saying focus on the good stuff. A simple enough statement, harder to achieve, but it does work.
One of the techniques Sas teaches her self-doubt clients, involves identifying where or more specifically, who your negative voice has sprung from. Sas goes on to explain that this negative voice is usually a loved one, which makes me feel a little sad. I don’t feel that attributing blame to a person would be very helpful to me.
If I look back on my childhood, through to early adulthood or even just yesterday, of course I will be able to identify instances where someone may have said something that didn’t sit right. Over the years, it’s likely that I too will have said something that may have hurt another. It’s a fact of life. I would much prefer to recognise that the intent of those words is not (usually) meant to cause enduring harm and move on from it.
Although I’m not comfortable with finding someone responsible negative voice, I am completely on board with Sas’s advice to cultivate a champion. The idea is that you work on banishing your voice of doom, with a voice that gives you encouragement and support. We could all do with a bit of that, right? All we need to do is listen to the kind and loving words of our nearest and dearest, and use these words to feed our inner voice.
Another great point raised in the podcast, is that talking about these issues makes them appear smaller and easier to manage. I can’t help but think that this statement applies to so many so many mental health issues, be it postnatal depression, depression or social anxiety. Talking always helps. This is why I think podcasts like these are so positive, anything that says ‘hey, we’re all in this together’ can only be a good thing, whether we take the same steps to feeling better or not.
Another thing listening to this podcast has made me acutely aware of is how what we say can have a real impact on others. If this isn’t encouragement to live by the rule that ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all’, I don’t know what is.
If you struggle with self-doubt or have a particularly snarky voice in your head too, you should definitely listen to the podcast. It will be reassuring to you, I promise.