Tiny Mopey Head-Demons

by Elizabeth on September 26, 2012

Any undertaking can be a little daunting sometimes.

After all, you’re learning all kinds of new things.  And learning new things tends to change  you.  It’s that whole “when you know better, you do better” adage.

Thing is:  it can be a little bit stressful.  (Says the Queen of Understatement.)

This past  year’s been a bit of a learning experience for me.


And any time there’s change, there’s also resistance.  Sometimes from other people, and sometimes, from inside my own head, which may not have been all that comfortable with where things were, but also doesn’t like being in that place of Newness, where changes — even positive ones — are kind of scary.  (If I don’t stay up all night and do stuff until I fall down, will I get it all done?  Will cutting back my work hours mean everything tanks?  If I grow my own food, what happens if I do it wrong and kill my whole family with botulism?) 

I didn’t say it was logical, because fears rarely are.  Just that they’re there.  And that it creates stress.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m stressed out, I start talking to myself horribly.

(I don’t mean, like, sitting on a street corner, babbling about aliens and radar chips embedded in my skull, by the way.  I mean the normal self-talk that we all engage in — the dialogue that goes through our heads directed at ourselves.  Sometimes referred to as the Inner Critic.)

The things that I say to me, I’d never say to another human being.  And since sometimes, I have precisely zero filter and have been known to say some pretty boneheadded things to people, that’s saying something.  We’re talking completely out of proportion commentary, even.  I screw up a link in someone’s newsletter, and the Critic tells me that surely, everyone will know it was my fault (since it was), that I’m a complete screwup trainwreck, and I’ll never work again.  Can’t figure out a poorly-documented plugin?  Of course that means that I’m a completely useless idiot who should go wash dishes for a living, though even that might be too complicated for someone as stupid as I am.  Forget to return a friend’s phone call?  Surely that’s a sign that I’m a self-centered jerk who would be better served by living in a cabin somewhere like a hermit so I can’t hurt anyone ever again.

Then, of course, I become aware of what I’m saying to myself, realize that it’s all self-pitying bullshit, and beat myself up for a while about that, too.

Like I said:  It isn’t rational or logical.  It just is. 

And moreover, almost every person I’ve ever talked to does this exact same thing, to various degrees.  We get stressed out, we get insecure or depressed, and the Critic comes out to play, like having a little mopey demon on our collective shoulders, telling us exactly what we don’t need to hear.

Combatting that little voice can be a huge battle.

It’s hard to know where to even start, since it’s not like a regular battle.  It’s inside your own head, which is dark and kind of squishy, and thoughts are very slippery things.

Chris Brogan (who’s a marketing guy, for those of you who aren’t familiar) wrote a really great post about how he’s facing those inner sh*t-talkers head-on.  His process isn’t quick and easy  (at the very minimum, it’ll take you a good week just to get started, and much more than that to gain momentum with it), but it does combat the irrational voice with a rational correction, like shining a big honkin’ truth-light on the shadowy demon on your shoulder.

His solution’s much better than my own, which has generally been to just endure it and wait passively for rationality and perspective to make a comeback.

So how do you deal with that little critical voice?

In times of stress or overwork, when you’re already on shaky footing, or in those times when you’re doing something new and scary — how do you hold the demons at bay?  I’d love to hear your own strategies for dealing with the screaming mimis and the hypercritical demons.

How do you talk to yourself instead?

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