You know that voice in your head that hates everything you do?

This idea is so stupid.

Why are you wasting your time? Just give it a rest.

No one gives a damn about this garbage.

I hate that guy. I hate the way he talks to me. I hate the way he affects everything I try to make or do. I hate that he is always there, always nagging, always loud, always getting in the way of exercising the creative juju that helps me feel like a whole person.

But, you know what the worst part of that voice is? That voice is me. One hundred percent, inextricably me.

I wish I could blame his negativity on some external influence, but that would be dishonest. That jerk telling me how much I suck is me.

The voice is something I’ve always struggled with, especially when my job was more creative. I would stress and stress while working on a cut, wrestling with that voice the whole time. They’re going to hate this. This sequence doesn’t make sense. I am a fraud. This is horrible. I will never work again.

The voice was a constant companion back then, like an overly sensitive smoke alarm placed directly above your oven door that goes off at the slightest provocation. He would smell my lack of confidence, sensing that I was about to put my core in front of the jury and he would start screaming, screaming, screaming. Relentless.

Eventually, fear of failure would drown him out and I would push through the noise to get things done. That was the cycle. Project starts -> stress stress stress -> down to the wire -> recognition that I had just enough time to get the thing done -> execution. Far from the best way to work, but I managed to squeak by. I never excelled, never enjoyed the process, but always enjoyed the creative flow-state that resulted when the voice drove me to the precipice of fear. Then I could work.

Pretty frustrating. No use dwelling on what could have been had I unlearned this bad habit decades ago, though. You can’t change the past, only the decisions you make today.

Now, he’s a less common visitor since my work is, overall, much less creative than it once was. Now, I have numbers and math to back up the decisions I make and, as long as those make sense, there’s less uncertainty, less of my self on the line. The voice no longer has such frequent opportunities to make himself known.

But when he does?

It feels like he’s making up for lost time. He shouts about everything tiny choice I’m considering. The din is nearly impossible to cut through. I can feel it in my chest and in my head and in the jelly of my eyes. Without the fear to drown him out, I have no escape. The voice grinds until I cast that day’s creative idea away and give in to easier pleasures. Then reprieve.

Reprieve, however, is short lived. My mind is never quiet and during that easier pleasure I recognize the pattern of emotional self-abuse and get angry. Angry at myself for letting the voice win again. Frustrated for another night of giving in to an unearned reward. Depressed that this is just how it will always and forever be.

Luckily, that pattern, too, is just another bad habit. The only real way to do away with the voice is to unlearn his language. So, here I am, struggling through this post to try and shut him up.