She’s baaack! The truth is she’s been back for a little while now. That pesky, negative, horrible voice of self-criticism and doubt that likes to appear out of nowhere. In an attempt to swallow me down her negative pit of despair, she blasts me with comments about my career, my parenting, my body, everything. She’s been hovering around my head again, buzzing around like those pesky Petaluma houseflies. I sometimes wonder if she’ll ever leave my side.
It is a self-critical voice of judgment that I’m talking about. You might have heard it once or twice before. Her/His voice can sound like a whiney, jerkier version of ourselves, a past mentor, our mother, anyone really. This critical voice plagues many of the moms I know but she particularly likes to feed on the tired mom. Since I’ve just started back in the working world, she’s been standing on my shoulder like those little cartoon devils.
In addition to questioning my ability to amount to anything as a Realtor, and pointing out my need for eye cream, she’s been throwing me some curveballs about my parenting. Olivia has been struggling with reading. She loves books and has loved them since she was a baby. I couldn’t believe that I had this kid who just loved to take books to bed with her. She’d have so many stacks of books in her bed that we installed a bookshelf rail at the top of her bunk bed because we were worried that one day a book would fall off the top bunk and bop her younger sister in the head.
So it has come to somewhat of a surprise to me that Olivia is a bit behind some of her classmates on the reading spectrum. The thing is that I believe this kid knows how to read; she just doesn’t want to risk not knowing every word on the page and therefore doesn’t want to try for fear of messing up. I’ve talked to many parents of first-born kids, who have said that she has classic “first-born-kid perfectionism”. As a first-born child, I can totally relate.
I never wanted to try to do something new for fear of not being able to do it right the first time. I wanted to be the best right from the start. So I held back and didn’t do a lot of things that I wanted to try. As a result, I am an adult with a laundry list of things I would like to learn because I was too afraid to try when I was younger.
The critical voice has had me feeling guilty about Olivia’s reading struggle. It has suggested to me that it is my fault because I have too many kids and I can’t give her the attention she needs to learn how to read properly. But I read with her almost daily and I encourage her to be brave and to try even though she may feel like she wants to give up. “It’s your fault that she can’t read,” says that cruel, cruel voice.
After four babies and lots of skin stretching, the voice has been turning up the criticism in the bathroom. As I approached my birthday this weekend, she felt it important to point out my chest, the wrinkle across my forehead, and Georgia’s personal favorite: my flappy arms. Most days aren’t spent in front of a mirror and I really like myself 90% of the time, but I’d like to blame her for prompting me to try a new eyelash serum in the hopes of growing longer, fuller lashes. That experiment resulted in burning, itchy, and bloodshot eyes for about five days. Since I was not trying to look like I had a drug problem, I was left with that pesky voice telling me that I suck and I will never have luscious lashes.
Last night I had a dream, and in it I didn’t like the way someone was treating me. She had a gaggle of people with her who also weren’t treating me nicely. I ended up kicking the crap out of one of those people in self-defense. The funny part is that the woman in my dream is one of the nicest ladies I have ever met and I haven’t talked to or seen her in a long time. I believe that this dream was a metaphor for what I am now going to do with that negative voice that has been showing up.
For my birthday this year, as a gift to myself, I have decided not to listen to that evil little voice anymore. She doesn’t deserve the space in my head and quite frankly she helps me make no advances in my life whatsoever. She has never ever helped me.
And then, in two weeks, I’m going to learn how to dance.