Since writing this post three years ago or so, I’ve discovered that the ‘little voice’ I refer to below comes from what I’ve come to call the ‘badbrain’. I will go into more detail later, perhaps in another place, but suffice it to say that, no matter what its motivation, the badbrain is a decidedly not-me portion of my thought process that I am learning to interpret, internalize, combat, and ignore. Hopefully this post will help someone with a similar affliction deal with their own ‘little voice’!
I’ve been trying to puzzle out where, exactly, the ‘little voice’ comes from. You know the one I mean. When we work, when we strain ourselves, when we step outside our comfort zones or make time for something significant, that’s when you hear it. It isn’t intrusive and it isn’t even all that whiny, but it’s always trying to discourage us.
The discouragement isn’t always malicious. At times, it can sound downright helpful. It will remind us of upcoming appointments that will keep us from reaching our projected end point. It will point out how much this set of joints is aching or how deep the burning sensation in our chest is going. It brings up mental images and passages from other works that play in the same fields we do and are already successful where we are still struggling. In the end, though, the message boils down to putting what we’re doing aside, stopping before we hurt ourselves… quitting.
It is, of course, a pack of lies.
Yes, there are only so many hours in the day. Yes, there are limits to what our bodies can do. But those limits only remain as long as they are not pushed. The hours in our day are not fixed; we can move things around to carve out the time we need to do what we want. It really is a case of mind over matter, of responding to the ‘little voice’ saying “Thanks, but no thanks, I got this.”
I’m still not entirely sure why we lie to ourselves in this way. We try to talk ourselves into not giving our all, not striving for our goals. We succeed in not straining ourselves, and in doing so, we set ourselves up for failure. Why any rational, sane human being would willingly do this is a mystery to me.
The best I can come up with (being a total amateur at this sort of thing) is that it’s a defense mechanism. The body and our perception of time and exterior influences generate reactions, and at times these reactions happen more quickly than our minds can fully process them. Think about it; I’m sure many a time you’ve looked back on yesterday and said, “Oh, I actually would have had time to do X if I had held off on doing Y.” We opt for the comfort and ease rather than delaying our satisfaction in order to move closer towards achieving a goal.
It’s the same sort of reaction that tries to get us to back off from physical exertion. If you’re ‘feeling the burn’ and trying to push yourself towards a goal – five more minutes, five more pounds, reaching the end of the block at a jogging pace rather than a walking one – your body will try and tell you that it’s more trouble than it’s worth. That it’s time to ratchet back a bit. Take a break. Go easier on yourself.
Since it’s inside your head, it isn’t impolite to tell that voice to fuck directly off.
Unless you’re in real danger of hurting yourself, unless you’re taking time away from truly important things like family or you’re in jeopardy if missing a deadline that could cost you a lucrative job, kick that little voice’s ass. Test your limits, to see if you can break them. Carve out the time you need, in bloody chunks if you have to. The envelope is there to be pushed – push the hell out of it.
It’s easier said than done, I know. But when you’re in the moment, when you’re on the cusp of achieving something or reaching a goal, and you start to feel that little voice tickling your mental ear, that’s when you engage your mind and simply say, “No. I will not lie to myself. I will get this done. I can rest after it’s over.”
And no matter what the cost is, you’ll feel better in the long run.