“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”
― Peggy O’Mara
We all have those nagging voices in the back of our heads.
“The sink splashed me at work and I look like I peed myself! Now I’ll never get a promotion.”
“Get in shape! Preferably one that isn’t round and covered in Cheeto dust!”
“What if I fall and I can’t get up? My cat will eat my face before anyone notices that I missed Karen’s baby shower. Crap, I didn’t get a gift for Karen’s baby shower. I’m a horrible friend that’s going to die single and alone, covered in cat drool. Is 24 too young to get a MedicAlert bracelet? I wonder if they come in pink.”
Well, maybe those aren’t your exact thoughts, but you get the gist. While it’s perfectly natural to have a nagging voice in your head, some of us struggle when that voice stands in the way of our happiness.
It all started when I was a youngster, within a household of undiagnosed disorders. As a child of impoverished immigrants, we didn’t have health insurance to go to therapists, counselors, and psychologists. And honestly had no idea anything was wrong. My normal everyday life was watching my grandmother, Nagymama, stacking and unstacking cans of cat food repeatedly. I only thought this was strange because we never had a cat. I was not allowed to go outside and play with other children and trapped with these people inside a 425-square foot home, without even a door on the bathroom for fear of excess showering or dangerous shaving.
I would listen to Nagymama mutter about life while she surrounded each window with pot lids to make sure no burglars could get inside, to steal all of our un-lidded pots, presumably. Nagymama even strapped me into bed each night, to make sure I didn’t catch a cold, fall out of bed, or associate bedtime with relaxation in any way. During all this, my mother, Anyu, would say terrible things to herself out loud in the mirror while picking at her face, and washing her hands until they bled. Neither of them could leave the house without checking to make sure that the stove was off and the doors were locked. 10, 20, 30 times.
When Nagymama and Anyu weren’t turning on themselves or robbers, as an only child, I was the subject of criticism, inspection, and overprotection. My family meant no harm; they did it all in an effort to protect me. They had no idea that their real-life voices are what turned into the nagging voice in the back of my head.
As a result of this extreme-hover-parenting, I was so severely sheltered that I didn’t fit in with most of the kids at school. I was a target for bullying, anywhere from childish name calling to getting burned with cigarettes on the bus. I collected all of the harsh words and negativity and put it into a sticky ball to add to the growing monster that nagged me. In college, every critique from my teachers, every negative YouTube comment, and the words of my abusive ex-boyfriend became the constant drone that hummed in my head, day and night.
It didn’t matter that I was a straight-A student. No matter how many awards I won, achievements I accomplished, or compliments I received, the voice told me I wasn’t good enough.
The Voice: “You can’t have a professional haircut! Who do you think you are, the Queen of France? That’ll be three Hail Mary’s for asking. Yes, I know, you’re not even Catholic.”
I started to anticipate rejection, even when it wasn’t there, converting every criticism in my lifelong collection into an over-analyzed, false reality.
The Voice: “Sally didn’t invite me to her birthday party. Was it because she didn’t like my brownies? Maybe she liked them too much and is jealous of my brownie-making prowess? Let me over-analyze everything I’ve said to her in the last ten years”
It dawned on me one day that no one in my entire life was ever as mean to me as I was to myself. So I told the voice to go f*ck itself. Really, I did. I imagined the voice in all its grotesque glory, and I imagined myself murdering it. And I wrote it all down here.
I cannot even begin to describe how much this simple visualization has improved the overall quality of my life. Is a visualization exercise a replacement for therapy, prescriptions, support from professionals? Probably not. But at least it doesn’t require a co-pay.
There is still a nagging voice inside of my head, but now, he kind of sounds like Cookie Monster. Now that I imagine my inner monologue as a silly blue puppet with googly eyes, it is not possible for him to control me. Instead of abusing myself, I can laugh at all of the things that pop into my head and go about my otherwise productive life. I’ve transcribed some of Cookie Monster’s conversations with me on www.CisforCrazy.com. Laugh at my pain or feel free to give it a try, in case there is a Cookie Monster (or other fictional character) living inside your head, too.
* * *
Award-winning Stephanie Yuhas is a writer, producer, and professional goofball, with a BFA in animation from The University of the Arts. Her book, American Goulash, a memoir about growing up as a nerdy girl in an old-world Transylvanian family, is published by BookTrope and available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBook, Kindle, and Nook. She runs Cinevore Studios, a production company that specializes in smart comedy.
Stephanie also the founder of Project Twenty1, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that runs the 21-Day Filmmaking Competition and Philadelphia Film & Animation Festival.
If you enjoyed this post, please take a few moments to leave a comment or to share with your friends using the little share buttons below.