Coffee with the voice of negativity

February 7, 2023

Can you remember the last time you believed in yourself? Can you remember the last time you honestly thought, “I think I could do that. I want to do that. I will do that.” Do you remember it?

Can you remember the last time you did something without total confidence? Can you think of it? Do you remember what that felt like? How big did the fear feel? How real did the possibility of vulnerability fear? Did it stop you?

I once shared with a friend my desire to write a book.

She responded, “You’re a good writer but…a book? You don’t have THAT much value to share.”

I once told a friend, “I would like to lose weight. My doctor said it would be a good idea. I’d like to see my body change and see the muscles I can feel growing.”

She responded, “You’ve tried to lose weight before but you’re so weak around sweets. What makes you think this time will be any different?”

I once shared with a friend, “I need a new job. I can’t do this anymore.”

She responded, “I know work has been really hard, but what makes you think you’re qualified for anything else?”

I once told a friend, “I’d like to be a Mom. Sooner than later.”

She responded, “Haven’t you heard about how frequent miscarriages are? I don’t think you could emotionally recover from that. And if you carried a baby to term, I don’t think you could handle the anxiety that follows.”

If I were reading this email from another author, I would be mad. You might be, too. Those are horrible things to say to another person, particularly when they’re sharing something so personal. If I were you, I’d be thinking, “she needs to get some new friends. Her friends suck. They’re mean.”

That’s true. My friend can be quite harsh. She tends to be mean, critical, fear-inducing, and, frankly, unrelenting. Still, this relationship is one of my oldest friendships. She and I have been through so much together. Everything, really. She’s seen it all, so she knows my greatest fears and weaknesses. She likes to remind me, too.

So what, right? The length of a relationship doesn’t matter if it’s ultimately painful. I agree. And yet, there’s still something keeping me in the friendship.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “what could possibly be keeping Cam stuck in this friendship?”

Well… I am that friend. This is how you might hear me speaking to myself on any given day.

Every single one of those statements you read is the exact words I’ve said to myself. Those are the fears that wander through my mind on a frequent basis. That is the voice of fear, anxiety, and my inner critic. She’s hard to release when I’ve been working on our relationship for 32 years. Well, 31 years and 50 weeks.

Just the other night, as I was watching an episode of New Girl for the millionth time and eating pizza with my lactose intolerant Husband, I had a moment of clarity.

Really, I was observing my thoughts rather than believing in their inherent truth immediately (my therapist would love that sentence).

What if self-doubt is really just believing in my ability to quit more than my ability to succeed? What if I decided to cut the mean bullshit voice and focus on the voice that wants to try?

What if, at the end of your life, you could take a look back at all the paths you had the potential to take but, because you believed in quitting more than trying, you never really lived?

Last Summer, my brother made an entire career change. He moved from city government to be a firefighter/EMT. I admire his tenacity and determination greatly, but a career change is never easy. It takes guts to try.

Two months ago, I moved from a role in higher education to a job in Communications. My job is literally writing and strategizing. Even with two degrees in Communication Studies, I didn’t think I’d be qualified for a new role. Still, I tried. I’m challenged to believe in myself and figure it out every single day. It’s one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made.

A few years ago, a friend of mine entered her very first local Miss America competition in Wisconsin. She lost. Years later, after a relentless pursuit and six competitions, she competed as Miss Minnesota in a nationally televised competition for Miss America. That journey takes guts. That takes moving through the losses and getting back up, over and over again, until you reach that goal.

When I often speak to a group of young women, I’ll ask, “What would you do if your friend spoke to you the way you speak to yourself?”

The question alone puts things in perspective. I would never speak to my friends the way I speak to myself. I’m still learning that I don’t have to listen to that voice even when it sounds like a fact, not an emotion.

Imagine taking yourself out for coffee. You’re sitting across from the voice of disbelief. You’re sharing a vision with that voice; maybe it’s a goal or a dream. You watch the body language of that voice getting anxious as you speak. Then, when they’re able to cut in, they throw previous failures in your face and tell you it probably won’t work and they don’t believe in you.

Are you angry? Are you offended? Are you wondering why you ever shared your vision with that voice? You should be.

Now, imagine sitting down with the voice of belief. The one that asks, “where should we start and how can I help?” Instead of feeling shut down, you’re trying to create a plan and identify step one.

Which voice do you want to listen to? It’s a choice. It takes just as much energy to invest in a voice that keeps you motivated as it does to invest in the one that keeps you in self-doubt.

It matters where you invest your thought. The way to speak to yourself determines everything.  Believe in your ability to succeed… and you will.

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