“Not Very Smart” (The Voice, Part 5)

Yesterday, I returned from a week on Maui. I walked on the beach with my mom every morning and we talked about the Voice. We talked about where it comes from and what it says. I told her I learned that my voice likes to say, “That was stupid.” Or “that is stupid.” Or “that’s not smart” or “a dumb thing to do.” Apparently my voice is very concerned with intelligence. She has the same voice, my mom. I wonder if others in my family have it? I wonder if groups of people have the same language in their heads when they feel they have “messed up.”

I came home with more awareness. As you know from these blog posts, the first thing is to learn what it is saying, so you can interrupt it. This is really useful information to me. Now I know that if I hear the word, “stupid,” “dumb,” or “not very smart,” something is happening.

I know several things. I know first that is not me. This is a paramount rule and useful to say to yourself when you hear the voice – that is not me. That voice is a habitual behavior. I am reading a book called “Super Brain,” in which the authors argue the brain does not run the show. Unless you let it. The mind is in charge. When we use it. The brain is the one with a loop that says, “that was dumb.” It’s just a habitual reaction to usually our out of the comfort zone behavior. The mind is the one that can say, “How interesting that my brain wants to say that right now. I must be feeling uncomfortable, or like I just messed up. I must be stretching myself. Yay, me.” The mind has that choice. Don’t let your brain take over. Study the words so you can be ready.

So last night, I am looking for my car keys and I say to my son “where could they be? We’ve been gone for a week.” And I go look in my car for some reason though I don’t know why because that would be a “dumb” place to leave my keys. And yet. And yet my keys are there. Oh yeah. And they are in the ignition. Yes. And in fact, my battery is dead. And in my head is this: “wow that was dumb, what were you thinking?” On and on. And out of my mouth I hear the same words. And then I realize. I stop myself. I don’t want to model this for my children. That small mistakes should be met with such a large degree of self-flagellation and so I keep my mouth shut. But the voice is still there in my head.

I have been working with this for at least five years now. It’s a strong pull for us to treat ourselves this way. I learned something new last night — new places where my voice gets loud. “Stupid mistakes.” I interrupted it. Eventually. I am happy to report that I at least heard it, from the beginning. It ran like a TV on in the background as you are trying to have a conversation with a loved one. And sometimes that is how it is. Be aware. Don’t get sucked in. Pretend you have a remote and you can turn the volume down.  It may still be on, but you do not need to watch the TV.

Share your stories. I would love to hear. It is insidious and the more we talk about it, the more we help each other recognize it and stop listening.

“You’re so mean when you talk to yourself.
You are wrong.”

–Pink, from “F**king Perfect”


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My husband and my staff attended Cami’s Styles of Communication training. The workshop was extraordinary for both my professional and my personal communication. Cami’s Styles of Communication workshop was one of the most fun and effective trainings I’ve ever attended.

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About the Author

Picture of Cami McLaren

Cami McLaren

is the owner of McLaren Coaching. She has been coaching professionals and leaders since early 2008. She runs Transformative Coaching Essentials, a coach training program that produces first rate Professional Coaches and "Coach-Style Leaders." She coaches individually and works with organizations to improve communication, time management, productivity and ultimately bring greater results.

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