Does a mean person live in your head?
There’s a meanie living in mine. Actually, that’s being kind. She’s vicious. Check out the kinds of things she says to me:
“You look stupid.”
“Why are you even bothering?
It’s not going to work.”
“Why would anyone listen to what you have to say?”
“You’re delusional if you think you’re special?”
And when she really wants to have fun with me, she gets a little more personal, and says things like:
“You’re a fraud. Everyone can see you don’t know what you’re doing.”
“You don’t have what it takes to do this.”
“That kind of life isn’t meant for you.”
“There’s something wrong with you.”
“Everyone looks at you with pity. Nobody takes you seriously.”
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m alone. Most of us have an inner heckler that terrorizes us every time we dare to dream. Even though we all have these vicious voices living in our heads, we can’t listen to them. Because they will do everything in their power to prevent us from being great. No bueno.
So today, we take a stand against our inner vicious voices once and for all. But first, here’s a precautionary tale.
What happens when you listen to the voice of doom
In November 2012 I had a launch party for my business. It was a wonderful night. The venue was packed. I publicly declared my dreams for my business, including the people I intended to serve, and how I was going to make life better for them. People were buying my book. And there was cake!
Afterwards, I was on cloud nine and was super excited about getting to work to work.
Then Monday morning came. And my inner voice of doom was clearly upset with me. She unleashed an assault on my psyche so venomous, it stopped me in my tracks. That’s when I made the worst possible mistake.
When you entertain what your vicious inner voice has to say, you risk becoming paralyzed. Filled with fear. And doubt. And that’s exactly what happened to me. I spent the next few weeks curled up on my couch watching Sex and the City. All six seasons. And when I ran out of episodes, I watched the movie.
Thankfully, my friend Christina figured out what was going on, and slapped some sense into me. I snapped out of the craziness, and got back to work.
But not everyone is able to break free from the wrath of the inner meanie. In his book “The War of Art,” Steven Pressfield labeled the vicious voice “Resistance.”He explained what happens when we let Resistance get the best of us:
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
The stakes are high. You have the power and ability to do great things in this world. But if you listen to the Resistance, your potential will go unrealized.
Your dreams will stay dormant inside of you. And you will live a life that is less than the one you are capable of.
Harsh reality, isn’t it?
Why the voice is so mean
“Rule of thumb: the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” – Steven Pressfield
Have you ever noticed that the mean voice in your head has nothing to say when you’re watching tv? Or scanning Instagram? Or having a drink with your friends?
That’s because these activities are comfortable. Most of the time, they don’t stretch you, or help you change the world in any meaningful way.
But the moment you consider leaving your comfort zone in pursuit of being and doing something great, the mean voice shows up.
And then it goes on attack.
Steven Pressfield described its objective this way:
“Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us. Resistance means business. When we fight it, we are in a war to the death.”
If your intention is to make a difference, you’ve got to prepare yourself for battle. You’ve got to silence that voice. Here’s how.
How to silence your vicious inner voice
From the outside looking in, it appears that some super successful people have ice flowing through their veins.
It’s as though nothing bothers them. Instead of having meanies living in their heads, it’s like they have cheerleaders constantly telling them how awesome they are.
The reality is, the people who look the most confident aren’t any different than you and me. They’ve learned how to silence the Resistance. And you can do the same.
Here’s how to silence enemy of your dreams once and for all.
1. Activate the laws of physics
“The first step forward is always the most important one.” – Stephen Guise
In physics, Newton’s 1st Law of Motion, describes how objects at rest will stay at rest, unless an unbalanced force acts upon it. Similarly, an object in motion will stay in motion unless an unbalanced force acts upon it.
The first step toward your goal is the hardest. It’s the unbalanced force that takes you from being in a state of rest, and sets you in motion.
The meanie inside your head knows that it’s so much easier for you to keep going, once you’re already moving. It’s a law of physics. As such, it will try everything in its power to keep you from getting started.
So if you want to silence the voice that wants to keep you from being great, take action. Take a step forward. Thinking about taking action won’t work. Talking about taking action won’t work. You actually have to do something that will move you closer to your goal.
It doesn’t have to be a big step. It just needs to be a step. And then the law of physics will kick in. You’ll be in motion. One step will lead to the next step. And then the next step. And then the other.
Taking the first step in action:
Famed dancer and choreographer Twila Tharpe uses the power of ritual to get her moving. The ritual, is what helps her to consistently do the work that helps her be great. In her book, The Creative Habit, she describes her daily process that enables her to get her body in motion.
I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.
It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.
What’s one small step you can take today to get you in motion?
2. Embrace sucking
“You will never be really remarkable if you aren’t willing to suck really badly for longer than you’d like.” – Sonia Simone
A lot of times, what holds us back is our desire for perfection. We want to come out of the gate being fabulous. But most of the time that’s unrealistic. Especially when you’re doing something new.
The need to be flawless from day one has prevented far too many people from getting started. In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott described perfectionism this way:
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”
The Resistance, your mean inner voice, your oppressor, wants to keep you focused on perfection. Because it knows that it will prevent you from taking action.
The truth is you might suck when you start. You might fall on your face. And that is totally ok. If you fall, just get up. Learn. Apply what you learn. Then keep going. Repeat. That’s how you get better.
So embrace being a newbie. It gives you a pass to suck badly for a bit. Remember, your journey to being great is a journey. That means you don’t have to be amazing on day one.
Sucking in action:
The iconic rock group, The Beatles, didn’t let sucking stop them when they first started playing gigs. The played the strip club circuit in Hamburg, Germany from 1960 to 1962.
Here’s what The Beatles biographer Phil Norman had to say about their early days in Germany:
“They were no good onstage when they went there and they were very good when they came back..They weren’t disciplined onstage at all before that. But when they came back, they sounded like no one else. It was the making of them.”
What do you need to give yourself permission to suck at for a while now, so you can be very good at it later?
3. Start talking
“Resistance is always lying and always full of sh*t.” – Steven Pressfield
Remember, the mean voice in your head wants to kill your dream. And to do that, it has no problem feeding you a pack of lies.
So to silence the voice, you’ve got to feed yourself the truth. Continuously.
Here’s what 18-time best-selling author Seth Godin has to say about it:
“The remedy for negative self talk, then, is not the search for unanimous praise from the outside world. It’s a hopeless journey, and one that destroys the work, because you will water it down in fear of that outside critic that amplifies your internal one.
The remedy is accurate and positive self talk. Endless amounts of it.
Not delusional affirmations or silly metaphysical pronouncements about the universe. No, merely the reassertion of obvious truths, a mantra that drives away the nonsense the lizard brain is selling as truth.”
When Resistance feeds you lies, replace what it has to say with reality.
For instance, if you’re a writer, remind yourself of where you’ve been published. Of the clients who’ve paid you. Of the training, and research you’ve put in, that prepared you to be able to create good work.
Don’t let your inner mean voice be the only one speaking. Strike back by talking back. Replace the negative, soul-crushing words, with positive truths that breathe life into you.
Truth telling in action:
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, talked about what she has to tell herself to counteract negative thoughts:
“And what I have to sort of keep telling myself when I get really psyched out about that is don’t be afraid. Don’t be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, for just one moment through your efforts, then “Olé!” And if not, do your dance anyhow. And “Olé!” to you, nonetheless.”
What truths, or positive self-talk do you need to give yourself to counteract negativity?
4. Go public
“Ship often. Ship lousy stuff, but ship. Ship constantly.” – Seth Godin
The mean voice in your head doesn’t want you to put your work out there. It wants you to sit cowering on your couch afraid to share your ideas with the world.
So a super effective way to put that voice in its place is to put your work out there for the world to see.
But not just one time. Over and over again.
The more you do it, the more the vicious voice will see you mean business. And if the thought of going public with your work before you feel “it’s ready” makes you want to puke, chew on these words from best-selling author Jeff Goins:
“Time to put your work in front of the people it was intended to impact. This will not be easy. Everything inside of you will want to wait, to procrastinate. But that is exactly what you must not do. We don’t have time for another delay. We are desperate for your art; give it to us, please.”
Even though you benefit from your business, you’ve got an army of customers whose lives will be better by the problems you solve for them. So give them your solution. Don’t leave them waiting.
Shipping in action:
My friend Henneke is the founder of Enchanting Marketing (and an upcoming guest on I am the one!), where she teaches business owners how to create persuasive copy.
She talks of the tricks she’s used to ship both consistently, and on-time:
“To avoid endless umming and ahhing, I’ve enforced strict deadlines and accountability.
A few weeks before I launched the Enchanting Marketing website, for instance, I told everyone on my email list when my website would go live. I worked like crazy to meet my deadline. Because not meeting an agreed deadline seemed even worse than launching a slightly imperfect website.”
What deadlines can you give yourself to push you to ship regularly?
5. Take a daily dose of Primility
“If you want greatness, commit yourself to mastery.” – Jon Morrow
Mastery, is having a command or grasp of a subject. It’s what happens when you’re able to do something well, without having to expend a ton of mental energy on how to do it. Like walking, or driving, or doing basic multiplication.
Remember, the mean voice in your head screams loudly when you dare to do something outside your comfort zone. But the better you get at a task, the more comfortable you get when you do it.
And thus the voice retreats.
Your aim is to not get complacent once you reach a certain level of proficiency. You’ve got to keep pushing to improve your abilities in tasks you need to do to build your business.
On his blog, my friend Jerod Morris refers to this as Primility, the mashup of the words “pride” and “humility.” In finding the balance between these two seemingly opposing forces, you can use it as fuel to continuously improve.
“I embrace pride when I admit that I am good at something. But I balance it with humility by acknowledging areas where I can still improve and get better.
I embrace humility when I admit what I am not good at. But I balance with pride by believing I can turn weaknesses into strengths … and that I’m worth the work it will take.”
Commit to mastering your craft. Focus on getting better at it each day, no matter how good you get.
Primility in action:
Megastar Beyoncé dominates when it comes to selling albums, and selling out shows. Even though she’s at the top of her game, she still works tirelessly to get better with each concert.
Lacey Rose of Forbes noted:
“Beyoncé constantly works and reworks her act, watching every two-hour performance on tour — even after the hundredth appearance — taking notes on how to improve.”
What’s one thing you need to work on mastering for your business?
It’s time to muzzle the enemy of your dreams
Your goals are too important. And the people you serve are waiting.
They’re waiting for you be great. They’re waiting for you to solve their problem.
But you can’t do that if you’re curled up on the couch, paralyzed from a vicious attack from the voice in your head.
So you’ve got to take a stand. You’ve got to silence that mean voice.
Because the alternative of aborting your dream, in favor of a comfortable, and “safe” existence is beneath you.
Silence that voice that’s desperate to keep you from being great.
And then go be great.
Add Your Awesome Comment
Darren DeMatas says
Very inspiring and encouraging to those trying to do big things. I love this quote,
Rule of thumb: the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.
It will make for a good discussion later this morning
Sonia Thompson says
Hey Darren – thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!
I love that quote too. When I start hearing that mean voice, I know that’s often a sign I’m on the right track!
Jerod Morris says
What a great post Sonia. It is such an honor that you included a section about Primility! I love seeing it out there in the wild, with people applying it in their own unique ways.
Any post that can teach me and inspire simultaneously is one to hold onto and savor. I will with this one!
Sonia Thompson says
Thanks Jerod! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.
I think you already know, I love the concept of Primility, and it’s something I’m working to keep at the forefront of my daily life.
It’s my hope others will start applying it too!
By total coincidence I came across the video of Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk earlier this week. Wow. I loved it.
Let’s turn up and do the work, because that’s the part we can control
Great post about such an important topic, Sonia!
PS Love the picture of you and your parents. Thank you for sharing.
Sonia Thompson says
Henneke – her TED talk is fabulous isn’t it?!
It’s amazing how much energy we put into things that we can’t control. But just focusing on the work I need to do is something that I’m getting better at doing each day.
Thanks again for your comment, and for your example on how to ship!
What a wonderful night! Time does fly. What great information, now if I can only get the voices in my head to cooperate :/
Sonia Thompson says
Hey Joe – time sure does fly! Glad you were able to be there to celebrate, and hope you were able to silence those voices and get some good sleep.
Brian Ruggiero says
Did you write this for directly for me? Ha! Great collection or works and raw revelation on your past, Sonia.
It’s amazing the feeling that you get and how the resistance subsides when you take that action, put something out there, and get an authentic response from your target market.
It doesn’t stay down for long though and crops up in another way. That’s a realization that you must continue to work through and as you say, the great ones out there have learned to do.
Sonia Thompson says
Brian – I did write it for you!
That Resistance is a sneaky little thing isn’t it? But I suppose that the presence of it is a sign we’re on the right track. And now that we know how to handle it – on a regular basis, we’ve got to push past it.
Keep pushing Brian – you’ve got lots of great things ahead waiting for you!
Thanks for stopping by!
Andrew M. Warner says
That inner voice is so detrimental at times. The thing is, it’s always there second guessing us at everything that we do and it’s up to us to silence it. But I think silencing it alone isn’t good enough. We have to learn how to get rid of it totally and no longer be sabotaged by it.
I like tip #3 with start talking. I’ve had that voice in my head at times and I’ll try using that method to silence it. I like what Brian said above “It doesn’t stay down for long though and crops up in another way.”. Which is very true.
I like all the tips you provided, bit what do you think. Do you think it’s better to continue to silence it, or try to get rid of it forever?
Sonia Thompson says
Hey Andrew – thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.
I’m not sure that getting rid of that voice forever is the way to go. Partly because, I’m not sure that voice will ever go away.
What I think is more effective, is knowing what to do when that voice does come, so it doesn’t derail us. Seth Godin gave a great illustration of the principle in his latest book “What to do when it’s your turn (and it’s always your turn)”.
He talked about marathon runners and other people who do well at distance running. He basically said, they are successful, because they know what to do with the tired when it shows up. Because when you’re running – you’re going to get tired. There’s no way to avoid it.
So if you know what to do with the tired, you can keep running until you reach your goal. And the same goes with the mean voices in our heads. If we know what to do with them to shut them up when they arrive, we can keep going to reach our goals.
I’ve been doing that, by following the steps above, and it’s been working.
What do you think?