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Do you have a voice in your head?   Mine is especially loud during my 2:00 AM bathroom visit.  She’s usually saying, “you suck!”  She asks me lots of questions too.  “Why did you eat that?”  “Why did you say that?”  “Why didn’t you finish that?”

I used to think the “you suck” was in jest.  Maybe, I spilled my coffee, dropped my phone, or forgot to return a text message.  

Years ago, I decided the voice in my head was a mean girl, and that mean girl deserved a name.  She was in my head a lot, so I thought we should at least be on a first name basis.  Her name is Jennifer, with major emphasis on the FER.  She’s a mean girl, right up there with Lindsay Lohan and the ring leader, Rachel McAdams, in the movie Mean Girls.  She remembers everything I’ve ever done, and she makes sure I remember too.   I picked JenniFER because my name is Jenny – really my birth certificate says Jenny – and my entire life I’ve often been called Jennifer as others assume Jenny is a shortened version of Jennifer. 

When she tells me I suck, it’s usually because I did something wrong, I forgot something, or messed up in some way.  She’s not just wagging her finger at me with a face of disgust, there’s a heavy dose of shame in her tone.

She’s telling me I’m bad at what I’m trying to achieve whether it’s a big goal like starting a business or being a good mom by remembering to load money into my child’s lunch account.  She’s telling me I’m not enough or capable of achieving my goals.  If only I could do everything right, everything perfectly, she’d go away, and I’d be happy.  JenniFER wants me to believe that I need to be perfect.  Perfectionism is JenniFER’s main job duty and when I let her down, she feeds me a good helping of guilt, fear, and self-hatred.  

Perfectionism is often considered a good thing.  People who appear to have the perfect life, the perfect job, the perfect kids, are viewed as being able to pay attention to detail, to avoid mistakes, plan and execute without flaw, etc… Paying attention to detail may be a good quality or skill to have, but to feel as if failure or mishaps determines whether you’re a good employee, or mom, or friend, is far from good.  It’s an impossible goal and is frankly a joy sucker.  Not only is guilt, fear, and self-hatred fueled by perfectionism, so is procrastination.  When you fail to finish projects or reach goals, because things aren’t good enough, the attention to detail and other admirable qualities of appearing perfect become detrimental.  JenniFER shows up and tells you you suck! 

In the past, when I felt guilty or fearful, I wanted to get rid of the feeling as quickly as possible.  Some people will power through.  They’ll seek to avoid the feelings by working themselves into a frenzy, continuing to strive for the appearance of perfect.  I’ve tried to do that too.  Others will seek to numb or push down the feelings of guilt and self-hatred.  Numbing can manifest in a lot of ways.  The obvious are emotional eating, drinking alcohol, doing drugs (sometimes all three).  The less obvious, and my go-to place, was scrolling through social media, cleaning closets, or paying bills.  If I felt like I wasn’t good at something or was not getting a project done to my satisfaction, JenniFER gave me permission to avoid it by telling me that other seemingly lovely and necessary things were more important.  I was given permission to procrastinate.  By avoiding what made me uncomfortable and listening to the seed of self-hate JenniFER was planting in my head, I wasn’t learning how to do the thing I wanted to do, I wasn’t creating strategies to help myself become better, and I certainly wasn’t moving towards goals I had.

Pull the thread of this thought…

Intellectually, we all know it’s impossible to be perfect.  We know it.  We even say it.  How could I possibly do everything perfectly?  I don’t know how to do a lot of things!  

If you have a JenniFER in your head, she’s human.  Because we are human too, we cannot annihilate her from our psyche, but we can lesson her impact and achieve things in spite of her.  We can have a different conversation with her.  Mine usually goes something like, “Shut up, we talked about this yesterday.  I made a mistake, but I learned something.  Go to bed.”

Instead of adopting the thoughts that you’re not good enough or incapable when your inner voice shows up, use the following thoughts.  You’ll change the conversation quickly and avoid sliding into procrastination.

  1. Stop comparing yourself – we all move at different paces and have different priorities which often shift daily.  Someone will always be better at something than you and that’s okay.  
  2. Things take longer than you think – embrace Hofstadter’s law which says time estimates for how long anything will take to accomplish always fall short of the actual time required.  Be patient with yourself.
  3. Cut yourself some slack – we allow that inner voice to speak to us in a way we’d never speak to anyone else.  Would you say the same things to your friend if she or he had made a mistake.  NO!  You’d tell them that’s okay.  You made a mistake.  You’ll figure it out.  Give yourself the same grace.
  4. Have a plan – having a plan in the first place is critical to achieving goals.  A goal without a plan is said to be a dream.  Having a realistic plan is the key to success.  Evaluate your plan and make sure it’s

If you’re ready pull the thread of your thoughts and transform your life, click below to schedule a free strategy session with me.

  1. doable…then add Hofstadter’s law!

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