Voice inside your head


Last night, I wrote a post for my Japanese blog. This is basically English version of it.

I had a rough few days. Nothing serious, but I was suffering from scarcity, imposter syndrome, and uncertainty. I kept seeing my friends who are successful and telling myself “I’d never be like her.” I was also saying to myself, “Why can’t you do normal work like everybody else?”

I was down, and posted how I was feeling on Facebook, in Japanese. I won’t deny I was feeling sorry for myself and expected some “Aw, poor you.” comments from friends.
But my friends’ comments truly touched me. Some said it’s like you crouch just before you jump – and it’s a sign that I’d achieve great success. Other friend said she’s gone through the stagnant period many times before and it means I’m preparing for a big thing. My dear friend Etsuko, who has always been so supportive said that she admired my honesty. All these comments came from people I love, respect, and admire. I was extremely humbled and encouraged. And I learned a lesson. To be honest. To be seen.

That same night, I saw a video posted on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook page. It was from a talk she did with her best friend and author Rayya Elias in Sydney. It was the best thing I saw that day.

Rayya is an author of Harley loco, a memoir from her days as drug addict. If you don’t have time to watch the entire talk, just make sure you watch Rayya reading her essay at the beginning, titled “A Letter to My Stumbling Block.”(4:20) It’s brilliant. It’s a letter to her voices in her head. It starts like this:

“Dear Head,
You used to be the worst neighborhood for me to hang out in, especially when I was alone. Being there with you was the scarier than walking down avenue D in 1980s by myself. It was scarier than being stalked by a serial killer, or cornered by a rapist. Being you, on my own head, meant I’d do anything to convince myself that I was a fucking reject, not worth the skin that I existed in.”

She also talks about the time when her sister came to rescue her from the tent city and takes her to a hotel. She runs a bath for her, orders room service, but Rayya ends up slipping out while the sister is sleeping, because “You told me that I was too fucked up and didn’t deserve what she was offering”

Eventuallly she got clean, and became a successful writer and musican. But she says her head still had negative voices to her.
“Why is it when I’m invited to events like this, at first I’m really excited, but then fear sets in. Then your dark voice starts to creep in like it did years ago. ‘Do I deserve to be here?'”

This was a good reminder. The negative voices in your head would probably never going to disappear. You know what I think? Here’s my theory. It’s not berating you because you are worthless. It just can’t stop itself, because it’s an asshole.

If you have time you should watch the whole video. Liz and Rayya talk about shame, truth (Another quote I loved from Rayya: “Truth has legs. It always stands.”), and creativety—“If you are not creating anything, you are probably destroying something. Usually yourself.” I love that.

We all have that negative voice in the head. You can’t numb it. You can’t really shut it up. But listening to Rayya’s story, I learned that important thing is to at least question it. Best of all, don’t believe it.

After I posted my “whining” on Facebook, several people commented they admired me being honest about how I felt.
This reminded me the vulnerability paradox by Brené Brown.
The vulnerability paradox: It’s the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I want you to see in me.

I think this problem is more widespread in Japan. I know some people would rather die than to show their vulnerability. I want to do something about that. My dream is to one day talk to all the people in Japan and encourage them to “be seen”. The first step was to write about it. So I did last night.

Baby steps.

PS: I’ve also written about courage and vulnerability here.