She's a nasty one, my inner voice. She squats inside my sub-conscious and nags. I picture her as a heavy-set Jewish/Italian/Eastern European mother-type, Aqua-Net keeps her helmet hair frozen in place. She has long, red fingernails and she chain smokes, a bottle of Scotch on the end table beside her. Her voice is deep and scratchy and she sits in a haze of smoke on an old, dirty, "Harvest Gold" La-Z-Boy. She has a thick New York accent and she's not very nice.
"You're only a stay-at-home mutha? What a lazy girl! Look at this lazy girl! She stays at home! WHY AREN'T YOU WORKING?!?"
"You're gonna clean the toilets like that?!? Who cleans toilets like that?! NOT ME!"
"REALLY?!?! That shirt? You gotta be kiddin' me. IN PUBLIC?!? Change. NOW!"
"You can't write this manual. What a joke. They hired a fake. YOU'RE A FAKE! You're not a writer. GIVE UP!"
"I can't believe it. You misspelled 'judging'! You left out the 'g'! AND OVER 200 PEOPLE HAVE SEEN THIS!!! And you call yourself a writer?!?"
This bitch nags and hassles and ridicules me every day. And I let her.
She's been living in my head ever since I can remember. Her appearance has changed over the years. She used to be a blonde, perky, beautiful, snotty cheerleader. When I suffered through fertility treatments, she was a pregnant, hippie, Earth-mother type who could have children with no effort. Now? She's a nasty, old woman.
And she's the reason I don't take criticism well. I have been accused in the past of taking constructive criticism very poorly and I admit that I HATE it when I make a mistake and I DESPISE it when someone corrects me or tries to offer advice or help. Probably because my inner bitch has been advising me and criticizing me and hassling me for almost my entire life. When someone tries to offer me advice, I don't want to hear it, because I've already been hearing it, for months, and in the most negative way possible. When I hear the criticism externally, I expect it to be the worst, to be offered to me in the same way I give it to myself, and why are you telling me I'm wrong when this bitch has already been screaming at me? Can't you see I'm suffering?
I'm trying. I'm really trying to understand that all of you can't see or hear this awful woman, the inner me, who is so very critical. And I'm learning that you just want to help me see and correct any mistakes I make, because you care.
In addition to this daily censure making me feel inadequate, it also makes me feel like a failure and a fraud. When I hear that my father-in-law is proud to have me be part of the family company's team (as a tech writer) and that he feels I'll do a great job, the quiet, meek inner me shakes her head and thinks, "He doesn't know. I'm a fake. I just muddle through and barely squeak by. I'm a fraud." When someone commends me on a job well done? I don't believe it. And it makes me feel uncomfortable. I've heard this is actually a psychological condition known as Imposter Syndrome. Believe me, when I say, I've got Imposter Syndrome in spades.
I'm telling you all of this because when you compliment me and I shake my head and mumble excuses, you'll understand. And if you offer help or constructive criticism and I snap at you, you'll understand. That inner bitch, who never allows me a second's rest, makes me feel less than worthy of anything.
Maybe, someday, I'll find the duct tape and shut her the hell up.