Critical Inner Voices. We all have them, some of us more than others. Almost every day of my life I have had to tell mine to shut the hell up so I could get anything done. A lot of the time they have kept me paralyzed. As soon as I started down a creative path, my CIVs would tell me why I shouldn't. They'd go on and on about why it wasn't practical, and why whatever it was I was attempting was the WORST. IDEA. EVER.
CIVs have been a strong part of my life ever since I can remember. I can't think of a time when they weren't there. Through everything I've ever done, those little voices have been whispering in my ear telling me that whatever I was doing was not living up to... anything. I remember them in school telling me my work wasn't really very good. I remember them during dance recitals telling me I looked fat in my costumes. I remember them at orchestra concerts telling me I was going to play a wrong note. I remember them in art classes telling me that what I had created wasn't as good as the person next to me. I remember them in acting classes telling me that I looked to young, or too old, or that I was too timid, or that I'd never really be able to remember all of those lines anyway. I remember them after I graduated college telling me I was a horrible waitress and that I was a horrible actress and that I really shouldn't pursue creative things because rent was due and it just wasn't practical anyway. I remember them telling me I shouldn't teach music, or dance because I could never be a REAL musician or a REAL dancer. I remember them before my wedding asking how someone could really love me that much. I remember them when I was pregnant questioning my potential to be a good mom. They have been a constant presence ever since I became a mom. They've been telling me every step of the way that I am not nurturing enough, not giving enough, not smart enough, not a good cook, not a good wife. Not, not, not. I have no idea where the CIVs came from. Maybe I was born with them. Maybe they came from reading COSMO. Maybe they are a product of how girls are raised and women are viewed in a male dominated society. I really have no idea. I can't seem to recall a time without them. Throughout it all, as the CIVs whispered constantly in my ear, I convinced myself and others, with self-deprecating remarks and jokes at my own expense, that that was just who I was: someone who wasn't really very good at anything.
Then I turned 40. Turning 40, contrary to popular belief, is not a time of depression and lost youth. On the contrary – turning 40 is a time of reflection and when you fully gain perspective of your life. You finally realize that not only are you running out of time, but that you have already wasted a bunch of it so you'd better hurry the hell up if there is something you want to accomplish. By the time you turn 40, you've lost enough people and seen enough things that you really begin to place proper value on time. I am at a point where I've realized that all of this time, the only person telling me not to do things has always been me (well, except for the waitress part, people did tell me pretty directly not to do that). No one else was stopping me from pursuing the things I wanted to do. I had chosen not to do things because of tiny, negative voices whispering constantly in my ear. When I look back now at my younger, prettier, thinner, less confident self, it makes me a little sad. I'd like to go back and tell myself to take a few more risks, enjoy the ride and to not judge everything, especially myself, so harshly.
The day I turned 40 I gathered my courage and I told my CIVs to stick it. I had been in talks with them for a long time, begging them to please let up and let me live my life, but somehow that 40 year bench mark gave me the courage to send them packing. Here I am now on the other side, forging a different path. I am a little wiser, a little older, a little rounder and with more scars and wrinkles, but I have done my best to silence the negative voices and move myself and them to a new place.
And it's awesome.
There are plenty of people out there in the world to critique whatever I choose to do now, but I am no longer one of them.
So things are generally pretty quiet now. Sometimes I feel a little lonely without my CIVs. They had been such a huge part of my life. They held my hand through all of my important milestones and sometimes it feels a little strange and empty to be in this new place all alone. I've lost touch with my CIVs and I don't know where they are at these days. I do wish them well and I hope they have found a more productive path. I really hope they have not latched on to some other poor young girl's ear. If they have, I hope that young girl can give them the brush-off long before I ever did. I hope that my CIVs are living a nice, quiet retirement somewhere warm with lots of alcoholic drinks with little umbrellas in them. I imagine they are grousing about their arthritis and the loud neighbor next door. Every now and then they still throw me for a loop when they try to swing by for a surprise visit, but now I just quietly choose not to answer the door.
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