Have you ever had a friend who is a bit of a downer to be around? Someone who is quick to point out your shortcomings and likes to dwell on the mistakes that you’ve made? Someone you know who thinks that she’s being helpful with all her suggestions, but really just gets on your nerves?
I have someone in my life just like that. I’ve known her for a really long time. My whole life, in fact. I’ve taken to referring to her behind her back as “Little Miss Negativity”.
These are the types of “gems” she likes to drop into our conversations.
- Are you sure you know what you’re doing?
- That might be a risky choice.
- What’s wrong with your hair today?
- I think you’re making a mistake.
- What are other people going to think?
- I think those pants make you look fat.
Now you might say, why on earth have you stayed friends with her? She sounds more like a frenemy than a true friend. Some friendships have an expiry date. Why don’t I just bite the bullet and break up with her?
I wish I could. But I can’t. I can’t cut ties with her because she’s a voice in my brain. She is part of my brain’s design, the most primitive part. For better or worse, in sickness or in health, I’m stuck with her.
Now, when I first started learning the life coaching tools I didn’t even recognize Little Miss Negativity as being separate from me. Her voice in my head just sounded like the truth of my experience. And most of the time, when she spoke up, I would feel inadequate in some way.
At first, I tried to silence her. I would try to think better thoughts on purpose to drown out her voice. That worked sometimes, but it was kind of exhausting.
But then I realized that Little Miss Negativity really loves me and genuinely believes that she has my best interests at heart when she points out to me all the ways that I’m not getting it right and the hidden dangers of every situation. I have to give her credit where credit is due. She is an incredibly important part of me. The part of my brain that has evolved to keep me safe and help me to survive. In fact, her voice in my head is part of the formula for the success of the human race.
She evolved to help me find a warm safe cave in which to hide from the tigers. And she genuinely believes that staying in the cave as much as possible is better. So every time I venture out of the cave, she feels honor bound to nudge me back in.
So I can’t really fault her. She really is my friend, and she really believes she is being helpful. But I know that she’s mistaken most of the time. And now that I can hear her voice and recognize it as my primitive brain doing what primitive brains do, I can take her suggestions under advisement, and choose to go outside the cave anyway.
And here’s what I know, that she gets wrong. Everything that’s worthwhile is outside of the cave. There are no tigers roaming the streets of my city. And I’m not going to create a big life by being afraid to take risks.
So this is what I say to Little Miss Negativity now. “Thanks for sharing your concerns. I really appreciate it, and I’ve heard you. But don’t worry, I’ve got you. It’s going to be OK.”
Please feel free to share with me in the comments how your inner voice of negativity shows up in your life. If you would like some help building your relationship with this voice, I invite you to book a free coaching session where we can all get better acquainted.