Be Kind

We all have a voice in our heads.  I said a voice, not voices – in that case you might have a problem. But most of us have that voice that tells us to do things even when we don’t want to do them.  Necessary things.  Like wake up when the alarm goes off.  Get the kids ready for school and take them there.  Go to work.  Wash the laundry before it becomes your new carpet.  Etc.

This voice is comprised of many voices from our pasts, but most often it is the voice of parents.  After all, when you grow up, there’s no parent there anymore to tell you to do these things, so you have to do it yourself.  The problem comes with the tone of the voice.  Think of your boss.  Your boss wants you to do something.  He can either tell you nicely and be understanding, or he can act like a big jerk and yell at you.  Either one will get the job accomplished.  But one way is much worse than the other.

I have the big jerk in my head.  And yes, it sounds like my parents.  My parents didn’t abuse me physically.  They didn’t neglect me.  They love me.  I know this.  But they are also critical.  I never really know if I will hear approval or disapproval from them.  It’s like a slot machine.  Every tenth time or so, I might get cherries.  I keep pulling the lever, hoping for the cherries.

They mean well.  They want what is best for me, at least what is best for me in their eyes. Where others might see a road bump, they see the road going off of a cliff.  Best be prepared for the worst.  If you miss work, you’ll get fired.  If you buy this expensive item, you’ll be penniless.  If you make the wrong decision, the world could explode. Are you upset, Alice?  Did you remember to take your meds, Alice?  That must be it.

There must be a way to motivate myself without being so cruel.  I do have to go to work, and the longer I’m away from responsibilities like this, the harder it is to go back.  But if I’m sick, what then?  Do I go to work sick?  Am I even really sick?  You know how kids sometimes get those mysterious stomach aches?  My daughter, Thing One, had what is known as “the barking cough of adolescence.”  I had never heard of such a thing.  Basically, she developed a habitual hacking cough because she dreaded school – specifically P.E.  As soon as I heard this, I thought “the barking cough of adolescence” would be an awesome name for a post.  Or possibly a band name.

I am off of work today.  I have a deep cough.  I’m often sick like this because of asthma.  At least I think I have asthma – it depends on the doctor.  But sometimes I question myself.  Am I really sick enough to stay home, or am I faking it?  Is this the barking cough of middle age?  My father went to work while vomiting.  I’m certain the rest of the staff was thankful to him for it.  But he never missed a day!

If I was good enough, I wouldn’t get sick so much.  I’m probably not even sick.  It’s all in my head.  Right?  If I was normal, I wouldn’t miss any days.  I would be a better parent, wife, worker, friend.  Why can’t I do that?  Why can’t I make myself just clean my blooming house?  Why can’t I keep from getting these stupid minor illnesses over and over?  Why can’t I do what I need to do without kicking myself into action, and then continuing to kick again, and again?

Allie Brosh is the writer of the famous blog “Hyperbole and a Half”.  Even if you haven’t read her blog, you’ve probably seen memes of it.  The funny person holding up the broom and shouting “Clean all the things!”  That’s her work.  She has the ability to make you laugh so hard you fall over.  But she also has depression.  She has the mean voice.  And she shows the voice, in pictures, and I find myself saying “No, Allie, don’t be so mean.  You aren’t so bad.  It’s okay!”  I’d do the same thing for any friend.  I’d do the same for my own daughters.  But I have a hard time doing it for myself.

So how do you do it?  How do you motivate yourself to do what needs to be done, while still being kind?

44 responses

    1. Not me. I think you totally suck. 😀

      1. Thanks. That why you ignored my email?

          1. I’m sorry! I don’t check my email that often. When did you send it? I can’t find it.

  1. I wish I knew the answers to that. Obviously I struggle with it every day. (((Hugs))) to you my friend.

  2. ((hugs)) You know I am here for you day or night. I’ll tell that chiding voice what to go do to itself for you.

      1. Idk about all that…but at least I don’t suck.

  3. I have no answer, but I hope someone has one and will post it here :o)

    1. Judah’s response is really good. Check it out.

      1. yes! that was a very good comment. Grace, yes that’s good.

  4. It’s raging fucking hard, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But I do it because there are assholes out there who assume I can’t – and my primary goal in this life is to prove those fuckers wrong.

    1. I’ve said it before, but I LIKE your attitude MM. I like proving jerks wrong too.

  5. I don’t hear any voices within my head, actually, at all. In fact, sometimes I don’t even hear the alarm clock. I just keep what I need to do in my head, and either do it, or procrastinate until I forget what is that thing I was supposed to do. It’s a crappy system, come to think of it. So no, I don’t have a good solution, either.

    1. Ha! My husband has no voice in his head. I think he only hears car noises.

  6. Sometimes things just don’t get done, because what’s the harm in letting the laundry pile up one more day, or letting the dishes sit in the sink over night, or … It isn’t harming me, it isn’t harming the integrity of the house, it isn’t a threat to my child… It can wait. Sometimes.
    Other times, it is the voice of my mom saying “you can’t go outside and play until you get all your homework done.” And then I get all my chores done, clean all the things, before sitting down for a few moments of peace, only to realize the day is gone and I need to head to bed.
    It depends on the day. It depends on my attitude that day. It depends on my sense of guilt or my sense or responsibility or my sense of “you only live once.”

    1. All good points. I like to look back at pics of my kids and realize how fast time does fly. And then I go play with them in the dollhouse.

      1. We recently did a comparison of pictures … first time in his car seat to a more recent snap in the same pose. It couldn’t possibly be the same kid… too much has changed!

  7. You know I am behind you, Alice. x

  8. Stress weakens our immune systems just as lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and a poor diet do. If the voice in your head was a little kinder to you, maybe it would lessen your stress, and you wouldn’t get sick so much. So tell that voice to behave. Tell it you only want rainbows and unicorns from here on out. (Ah, if only it were that simple, yes?…)

    Sorry to hear you’re in a slump. 😦

    1. Yes, I DO need to stress less, but getting away from the stress is hard. People just won’t go away. I will try to relax more and think of sparkleponies and unicorns and imagine myself in a Lisa Frank picture. Wait – that’s a little scary.

  9. I’m not sure, but I think the only way to silence one voice is to replace it with another. One of the ways I battle the mean voice in my head is to take up another mean voice to talk to the first mean voice. I say things like, “Really? Why don’t you sit down and shut up, already!?”

    My replacement voice then only has to say one word to me: Grace.

    Grace to me means that I am loved even if I never succeed or get better or whatever it is that ‘mean voice’ is shouting at me to do. Grace shuts mean voice up every damn time. 🙂

    Probably the biggest perpetrator of ‘mean voice’ is the opposite of Grace, and that’s our ‘good’ friend, Guilt. We all know that guy oh so well. Guilt is NOT your friend and will get you about as far as our other ‘good’ friend, Fear. Guilt and Fear are BEST friends and staunch enemies of Grace. We somehow have to learn to let Grace speak loudly enough to drown out our voices of Guilt and Fear. It’s hard, as I well know.

    Practically speaking (I know this is getting to be the ‘ridiculously long comment of the year’, but bear with me), sometimes we have to get still enough to hear which voice is screaming at us (and you thought there was only ONE voice in your head … SILLY Alice!). Once we can identify the SOURCE (it’s ALWAYS either Guilt, Fear, or Grace), then we can learn how to shut the first 2 up and listen to the second.

    In the end, if Grace is not motivating you to do the things you are doing, then those things have become your task masters while they suck the life out of you.

    Thanks for making me think hard about this stuff, Alice! Always a pleasure stopping by (I’ll try to make my visit shorter, next time 😉 ).
    -C

    1. Judah, don’t make your visits shorter! This comment had so much meaning for me, truly. I realized when I had to make a decision today that what was bothering me was exactly what you said – Fear and Guilt. So I just made the decision and said “Grace” to myself a few times. It helped. Thank you.

      1. OMG! Seriously?! You just made my day! 🙂 *happydance*

  10. I don’t know how… I have the mean voice too. I keep correcting it. I keep telling it to be kind, to be gentle. But it doesn’t apologize or go away. It is like a military drill sergeant in my head and there is no pity, no love, just big, bad attitude that says ‘get it done now soldier!’ I HATE THE VOICE… 😦

    If you figure out how to make the voice be nice, or how to make it go away please do share…

    1. Several commenters had some good advice. One thing I’ve been working with is the flowchart – you know if I decide this – consequences. If I decide that – consequences. Perhaps I will make a post showing what I mean. Sometimes it makes your worries look kind of silly when put that way.

  11. A lot of things we think need to be done actually only should be done. Try to work the miserable things that should be done into a routine. That’s why our moms had laundry day.

    1. We’ve tried that before, and we fall away from it. Wouldn’t be a bad idea to do it again, though.

  12. I do hear that voice sometimes. Anyway, I have heard that when you are sick, be grateful. It’s your body telling you to slow down and take a rest. 🙂

  13. My inner voice is a complete wuss.

    Inner Voice: “Do you fancy cleaning the house? It’s been 6 months. No? Oh, OK, never mind then, watch some TV.”
    Me: “Cool, thanks.”

    The house remains uncleaned.

    1. Wow, your voice is far out. I think I will go chill on your couch. That pile of laundry makes great cushioning.

      1. No worries, you’ll love my couch. You’ll never want to get up (or won’t be able to get up if that pizza slice I dropped last month glues you down) 🙂

        I’m grossing myself out now 😦

  14. Hugs. I don’t have an answer. That powerful voice is constantly in my head. If the answer comes and proves reliable, I will share STAT.

    1. There were a few answers on here I thought interesting. One – Judah’s – even worked – at least for that one time.

  15. It’s hard! Sometimes I can reframe it, so “take out the trash! it’s overflowing! you’re such a slob!” turns into “you know, it will be easier to throw things out if you don’t have to balance each thing perfectly on the Tower of Trash you’ve got going in the kitchen.” Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I just procrastinate. Sometimes, when I’ve been putting some horrible task off and then finally do it, I realize it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.

    I don’t really have any answers. So, hugs.

    1. It’s good to know that others are going through the same stuff. I mean, not that they are having a hard time, but just that having a hard time is normal, and doesn’t make you a bad person. Thanks for the hugs.

  16. Drowning out those voices is hard work. As Judah says, grace is the way. And love. Treat yourself with love and then the voices of guilt and fear will have no choice but to run away (probably screaming their heads off) because they don’t know how to fight love. And with household chores, see if the family can help out with things like bin emptying and washing.

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