Warning: Today, I’m letting you inside my head. Not the filtered, edited and photo-shopped version, either. But the messy, irrational, borderline-psychotic version.
You have no idea how hesitant I am to publish this post…here it goes.
It all started a few weeks ago as I was finishing up a workout. I was short on time, so I had to cut my 60-minute workout DVD down to about 45 minutes. As I was putting away the weights and heading upstairs to shower, I said to myself, “You need to work out longer and harder than you do. That’s not enough time.”
Honestly, that’s such a normal thing for me to say to myself, I am surprised I even noticed. But notice, I did. And it didn’t stop there.
When I went to eat lunch, I heard, “You should be eating less, healthier.”
And when I sat down to write, I heard, “You should be writing more often, better.”
And when I went to do some housework, “You should be more efficient, faster, more organized.”
No matter what I set my hand to do that day, I was not measuring up to some ridiculous and unidentifiable standard I had set up in my head. And I was quick to point it out to myself every single time.
“You can do better. You can do more. You always fall short.”
(Goodness, if I talked to other people the way I talk to myself, I’d have no friends.)
So, the next morning, I took it to God in prayer.
“Lord, I feel like I may have discovered a mental hurdle I need to overcome. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t quite measure up—to something—I don’t know what. I’ve already grown so much in my battle with perfectionism. So, please help me overcome this little hurdle. This negative thinking.”
Just that quickly, I sensed God say, “Yes. You are onto something. Now listen, Sandy. Really listen to that inner voice. Just for a few moments. And write down everything you hear.”
In that silent predawn hour, sitting in my office chair, pen and journal in hand, God turned up the volume in my brain. The voice that was previously little more than background noise—quiet and full of static—became loud and clear. I began to write:
In money, you spend too much, give too little and don’t keep track of your finances.
In parenting, you’re too impatient, too irritable and don’t play with the kids enough.
In marriage, you don’t support Jon’s dreams enough, you aren’t nice enough, and you don’t have sex often enough.(sorry, I warned you I was letting you inside my head.)
Your car is too dirty.
You carpet is filthy.
You haven’t dusted the kids’ rooms in months.
Your desk is messy.
You’re not submitting enough guest posts for publication.
You don’t Tweet enough.
You don’t follow up with your readers enough.
You don’t serve at church enough.
You don’t reach out to your neighbors enough.
Why aren’t you teaching a class right now?
Why aren’t you serving the homeless right now?
Why aren’t you trying to adopt another child?
You never have people over for dinner.
You don’t phone your friends enough.
You don’t phone your Dad enough.
You don’t pray enough (this, literally as I am praying!)…
OH MY GOODNESS!!! This is the voice I hear all the time! This voice tells me I’m falling short in every single area of my life, 24 hours a day. Always. In everything. I could not think of one area of life where I felt adequate or content with my performance. Not one.
Which is why even the mention of adding one more thing to my plate EVER overwhelms me completely. This thing—this voice—it is what keeps me tethered to my house, spinning my wheels, feeling behind, always. No matter when I stop a task, I feel like there is more to do. It sucks the joy out of every idea I have (or anyone has for me) before I can ever implement it. It wakes me up every morning feeling overwhelmed and leaves me exhausted every night, no matter how much or how little I do.
The voice says, “How can you do one more thing when you are already falling short in every area of your life? You can’t even handle what you currently do. If you do one more thing, you will lose your mind.”
I put down my pen and covered my face. “Please, Lord, turn down the voice.” I couldn’t bear to listen to one more way I was failing Him—failing myself—failing everyone.
(I told you it was messy in there.)
Guys, this was HUGE for me. More than just a little “faulty thinking,” God showed me that identifying and silencing this voice was the key to balance and freedom for me.
Not only that, but I know that breaking this habitual “never enough” thinking will alter the legacy I leave my own children.
Like I said…HUGE.
And so began a journey for me to silence a voice that has been whispering in my ear my entire life—probably before I could even speak. It’s so much a part of my normal thinking, I feel like I might need a brain transplant. It’s a lot to overcome. It feels a bit like I’m standing at the base of a giant mountain, looking up. I’m not really sure what all I need to do to scale it.
The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2: 15-16)
After a few weeks of focused work, I’m pleased to report, I’ve made some progress. The mere act of paying attention to how I speak to myself has been eye-opening. In addition to immersing my brain in the Word of God, and also plunging head-first into a Beth Moore Bible study (Breaking Free), I’ve tried to start speaking to myself the way I would speak to a child—kindly, gracefully, gently, encouragingly.
“You need to learn to become your own encourager, your own cheerleader. Every time you do a good job… give yourself a compliment. Every time you choose discipline over indulgence…recognize how much you are helping yourself. Every time you make a mistake…tell yourself you are paying the price for growth and that you will learn to do better next time.” John C. Maxwell, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth
Whether you recognize it or not, you also have a running monologue in your head. For many of you, the inner voice is not problematic, because you have always spoken positively to yourself. If that’s you, go hug your mommy and daddy today—it has a lot to do with them. (Actually, hug your mommy and daddy no matter what–they probably did the best they knew how. I know mine did.) You may not realize it, but that one practice of speaking positively to yourself grants you freedom people like me have never, ever experienced.
(But will very soon!)
(See? I’ve already made some progress!)
For the rest of you, your inner voice may say other things like
You are worthless.
You will never amount to anything.
You will always be alone.
You will always be an addict.
You are a failure at everything you do.
You are not worthy of love.
You deserve every bad thing you get.
Why do you even bother?
You will never be as good as them.
God doesn’t love you.
Does any of that sound familiar to you?
This week, I pray with all my heart that you identify your inner voice and break free from its power over your mind. This is more than a post about finding balance. This is a post about breaking bondage and leaving a godly legacy to those who follow in our footsteps.
Week 6 Focus:
Once I identified my inner monologue, I wasn’t sure where to begin. So, the first thing I did was jot down a few things I know for sure:
1. If a real person was speaking to me this way, I would not stand for it. Not for one second.
2. It’s just a voice. It has no power over me if I don’t let it. I have authority over my thought life.
3. The voice I’m hearing is not God. God never speaks to His people this way.
4. I’ve put my trust in Christ and God’s word and so I will trust in Him to silence the voice and lead me in overcoming it for good.
Can you jot down a few things that YOU know for sure?
Read and meditate upon 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (Amplified Bible)
3 For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons.
We are in a spiritual war. The Enemy attacks our minds because it’s such a powerful way to distract us and make us ineffective. Since the war is spiritual, our weapons are spiritual, too. We can “positive think” our way out of a lot of things—but oftentimes, the Word of God is the only weapon that works against faulty thinking.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,
Faulty thinking is a stronghold on our minds. But the Word of God (our spiritual weapon) can over throw and destroy the strongholds. There is hope for total destruction! (no brain transplant needed)
5 [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God;
Faulty thinking is a lie and we need to treat it that way. How indignant would you be with someone who lied to you day in and day out?
and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One),
Sometimes it takes leading each individual thought away to make it obey. And sometimes the thoughts don’t want to go. There may be a struggle. Don’t worry if this is difficult. Remember…it’s a war. And war is not easy.
Q4U: Tell me about your inner monologue. What kinds of things do you say to yourself, positive or negative?
Freedom From Perfection, Part 1 (there’s a whole series there, if you want to read more)
Identifying and Silencing the Other Voices Part 1, The Enemy (also a series)