Since we’ve talked about Sponge Mode, it’s safe to say there’s a lot of material for reflecting during this process.
Journals full of pages of stream-of-consciousness, notes from calls, homework, all of it.
A few weeks ago, I found the article, “How Women Undermine Themselves With Words” and entered the rabbit hole that is Tara Mohr. I read through that post and lost my shit. Then I read another post by Tara, linked in the post about how we undermine ourselves, called “Why Women Criticize Each Other, Plus Ways to Play Bigger” – THEN I clicked through the link to her book, Playing Big. Instant buy.
In the book, Tara enlightens readers with the concept of your Inner Critic (and so much more, but we’re talking about Inner Critics today). That voice inside your head that tells you to take a step back. To not speak up, not publish that post, not talk to that person you want to talk to, or otherwise play small. There are journaling exercises throughout all of the chapters, but starting with the Inner Critic really gave me a new perspective.
Without getting too far into it (I highly recommend the book), the idea is to think about the voices that tell you “no” or “you can’t” or “maybe you should wait.” Then give them a personality. Where are they from? What do they do? Is it a male or female? Why are they trying to keep you from going for whatever you’re going for?
When I thought about this, I had two voices immediately. One female, one male. Taking a few pages from my journal that I’m keeping for “notes from books I’m reading” – I’d like to share a bit about the voices who have kept the best, most fully expressed version of myself locked in a little closet.
The female is a mid-to-high powered corporate type. Workin’ toward that corner office. She’s also a new mom. She wants to keep me in the boat, navigating the waters of office politics. I need to stay in the boat because the boat is the safe way to do things. The water is scary. She’s trying to look out for me, suggesting that I speak when spoken to, since entry-level peeps like me shouldn’t be speaking unless spoken to. Know your role. Keep a low profile. She sees my light, but that shit better be kept under control, I need to establish a reputation, a proper one, and maintain it, damnit. She struggles with her own light. She wants to be a “get shit done” type of high-powered CEO, like those who came before her. But she feels a tug toward taking more time to be a mom. Her expectations of herself – for me – are higher than the skyscraper she works in. It’s a constant battle between hustling to get that promotion (and the hours and travel that comes with it), and spending time with her family. She projects these fears about her career on me. I need to be vanilla. No sprinkles allowed. Lay low, work hard, do as your told, color inside the lines.
The male is an authoritative figure. He’s the sole provider for his family, and he is chasing the American dream of wealth, fancy cars, and all of the THINGS. He’s good at what he does, but it’s not what he really wants to be doing. He’d rather be doing something creative, or outdoorsy, or something that is not a corner office and a suit and tie. He tries to keep me from making “risky” decisions. His whole life has been made making the safe decisions, and he’s doing well for himself and his family, so I should do the same. When I want to pursue something that is a step back on the financial side (instead of going UP UP UP), he pipes up. He wants to make sure I have a steady paycheck, can contribute to my household, and hold my own. When I come to a fork in the road and the two paths are conventional or way outside of the box, he mocks my choices for going outside of the box, when really, he’s punishing himself for taking the “safe” route. “You better not do that, you’re throwing away a perfectly good career.” Safe is predictable and predictable is reliable. Stick with that route.
With these two personalities in mind – people with faces, names, a certain style in how they dress, and a whole life story themselves – the next step is what helps seal the deal on getting clarity on the fucked up stories I’ve been telling myself.
Hear the voice. Say “Hey (name of voice), I appreciate you looking out for me, but I’ve got this covered.”
Let it go.
Get my own voice back. The shiny one. Proceed with enthusiasm.