Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The voice in my head

That voice we all have in our heads (you know you have one -- if you don't you are either over-medicated or need to be medicated) has been speaking loudly and clearly to me this week and I've made a horrible discovery about it. It's my mother's voice and she isn't saying nice things, not that she ever really did but you'd think after 38 years away from her with essentially no real contact I'd have learned to shut her up -- or at least drown her out.

One of my spring grad course professors wrote me a lovely e-mail this week. She had graded the paper I'd written for scheduling and teaching basic life skills students and she was very pleased with it. This is the paper that I had struggled so much to complete and felt very inadequate about but the upshot was that the professor thought I'd gone above and beyond on the assignment and graded the work with a very satisfying A. She also suggested that I might like to publish in some educational journals and she and my adviser had agreed to help me get started if I was so inclined.

Instead of being really proud of myself, the voice in head suddenly chimed right in:

"You know she's just being kind because you whined about the course. You know you don't have the follow-through to really write. Look how long it took you to get just two papers finished. YOU had to take an extension in those courses. Nobody else did. Everybody else could do their job AND take the coursework AND write their papers. But NOT you! Nobody would be interested in anything you have to write about. And you don't have any original ideas anyway."

On and on the voice went, reminding me that I just wasn't "quite up to par, smart enough, organized enough, or hard working enough."

And then it hit me. The voice was my mother. It was her actual voice. I could picture the words coming right out of her mouth, just like they did all through my teen and young adult years.

For the last 38 years Hubby has tried his best to obliterate that voice. He's been supportive and my cheering squad and my champion. And every single time, he'd tell me that I COULD accomplish something, that voice was there telling me I really didn't have the "right stuff." I have effectively drowned out every single compliment I've ever received with that voice and reduced them to little piles of sh*t because the voice always told me that nobody really knew that I wasn't accomplished enough or smart enough or productive enough. It's gotten so bad that I'd actually prefer not get any compliments because I'm quite, quite sure I really don't deserve them. Hubby has pretty much given up trying to over-ride the voice, because I've always found ways to shoot him down.

Now my mother wasn't (isn't) all bad. She was very competitive though, and I have been able to see for some time that when she "knocked me down" she did it partly because she didn't want me to be "better" than her. But she also didn't want me to be too "proud" or believe that I could accomplish things beyond my grasp and thus get hurt. And she only had 27 years to work her wiles on me, while Hubby has been trying for 38 years to break down those early years of indoctrination. It was me that wouldn't let any other voice in my head.

This week I finally realized whose voice has continued disparaging me all these years. You'd think if I had any really sense of self, I'd have realized it way before this. I've always believed that one of my greatest talents is that I can cope -- whatever comes my way, I can figure out (eventually) how to deal with it. Yet I've never stilled that voice in my head -- and I'm not at all sure that recognizing now whose voice has been running me down all these years makes any difference at all. Because you know, I'm not strong enough to silence it. I'm not bright enough to figure ways to overcome. I'm just not good enough.


Donna said...

Many of us have this same problem to some degree or other. I can relate, although my mother didn't intentionally demean me. But any time I swerved from "her" way of doing things (especially regarding religion), she certainly let me know I was in the wrong, because there was only ONE way.

Margaret said...

If you are strong and you are getting kudos, then your mother was WRONG. She didn't break you; other people have a more objective and impartial view, so pay attention to them! The problem voice now is not your mom--it's that you have internalized that message and now it's YOUR voice tearing yourself down. You don't deserve that from yourself, my friend!!

Anonymous said...

Margaret is absolutely right -- and far more eloquent than I.

Love, Debby